Land of Fire

No one thinks about what is meant by the 'price tag' concept - as if the settlers were on a shopping spree.

"Snob, when's the last time you visited the territories?" an affable photographer asked me. I replied that I had visited the territories far too often. In my defense I will say that all my past visits there were work-related and that only my last visit, a few months ago, was voluntary: to watch Danny Verete's film "The Human Turbine," which was screened in a tent camp erected by Palestinians who had been expelled from Susiya, south of Hebron.

During that visit I also grasped that by trying with all my might to ignore the existence of those representing the forces of evil, I was unintentionally also ignoring the distress which we Jews are causing the Palestinians by the very fact of our settlement there. As such, we are unaware of everyday events like the violence that is inflicted on villagers, the uprooting of trees, the overturning of booths in the market, stone throwing at Palestinian children as they are bused to school, and the whole potpourri of goodies cooked up by the ultra-creative settler brain for consumption by the indigenous inhabitants of these territories.

Avi Ofer

When was the last time you heard a settler leader, of whatever political or spiritual identity - or even just a regular settler - condemn the violence perpetrated by settlers?

This might not be the most pleasant time to write these things, because of the terrorist attack in the settlement of Itamar. On the other hand, everyone knows - certainly every settler and also many non-settlers - that we are now in for a series of revenge acts by the settlers against Arabs who had nothing to do with the attack. Because there, in the settlements, the Code of Hammurabi has been reinstated, although it's possible that Hammurabi himself was less severe in his views than the settlers. Instead of the code, someone, in a flash of inspiration, came up with the term "price tag," as though the settlers go on a shopping spree after every terrorist attack, and not on a very different kind of spree.

Danny Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, knows exactly what this means. But when asked after the Itamar attack if he knew of acts of vengeance being planned by the settlers, he replied that he knew of none, but that he did know about certain acts of violence, and vehemently condemns them. Apparently anything that angers the settlers, even a little, generates reactions in the form of spitting (more common among women ), uprooting (activity open to both sexes ), running people over, fisticuffs, shooting and arson (mainly for men ). The victims of these actions are always or almost always Arabs. I do not intend to hint here, however, that domestic violence is nonexistent in settlements.

On one occasion I went with photographer Miki Kratsman to the settlement of Tapuah, which at the time was known for its particularly violent inhabitants, among them the son of Meir Kahane. We were kicked out and shots were fired in the air as we left. In Ofra I was threatened by a boy who was 15 at most, who brandished an Uzi at me when he learned I was from a leftist newspaper.

Another time, a firebomb was thrown into the stairwell of the Jerusalem apartment building in which I was living, but that was because I had criticized the pogrom by residents of the Katamonim neighborhood against Beit Safafa, following the murder of two Jewish youths whose killers did not come from that town. All this, because without prior consultation with me, I was born a Jew - on both sides of my family.

In any case, the term "price tag" is used by the media so routinely these days that no one stops to ask what's behind this creative concept. In addition to "blood revenge" (which is something we condemn strongly when it refers to a quarrel between Arabs - but, on second thought, why should we care if they kill one another? ), this term means the calculated organization of a pogrom. Yes, a pogrom, like the ones systematically inflicted upon Jews before they had their own country - where later, they could carry out their own pogroms in Silwan or Bil'in or some other town square. After which pogroms, as Haim Nahman Bialik wrote, the sun shone and the slaughterer slaughtered, and only the heavens could beg us for mercy. But the heavens never beg for mercy for Palestinian children, and what emerges after casting about for a god is the path to the next terror attack. (Apologies to Bialik for the lynching of his poetry here. ) Maybe, heaven forbid, even like the attack in Itamar.

What was done in Itamar is a horror beyond words, and what we are doing routinely to the Palestinians is also a horror. They do not have a "price tag" to implement against us, without our immediately dispatching our glorious air force, the wings of whose planes vibrate only slightly when they bomb whole neighborhoods in a not particularly surgical way. Nor do they have a judicial system to protect them.

When was the first or last time you heard about a Palestinian who attacked a Jew being sent for psychiatric observation by the court? That doesn't happen, because in the eyes of the judicial system of the only democracy in the Middle East, the fact that you are a Palestinian means you have no soul that can be observed.

And in what other properly run country on earth could it happen that four young Jews (two of them settlers ) grab a young Arab who is walking innocently with a friend in a Jerusalem city square and slaughter him with a razor - after which the compassionate local prosecutor decides to place only one of the attackers on trial, and only for manslaughter? Even though this was a case of cold-blooded murder in which all four took part, even if only one of them did the slaughtering. The person they murdered looked threatening to them because he was holding a spoon in his hand. That's threatening? Or is it simply that every Palestinian as such is now considered threatening and is therefore vulnerable to murder - excuse me, manslaughter - perpetrated in supposed self-defense?

No one has any doubt that the murderer or murderers in Itamar will be subjected to the full rigor of the law, their families and homes will be destroyed and a "price tag" will be added to the collective punishment we are implementing in the territories. But revenge for the blood of a young Palestinian? We should not be surprised if in the end vengeance of that kind assumes a virulent form, devised by Satan himself.