Opinion

I Have a Serious Problem With Leftists Who Are Okay With the Murder of Settlers

I have a serious problem when a leftist sees a pregnant woman and her unborn child as explicitly legitimate targets

The funeral of the baby who was delivered following the shooting, December 12, 2018
Emil Salman

Automatic fire directed at civilians. That's how this week began and this Hanukkah ended.

Bullets struck seven people waiting at a bus stop. One of them was a woman who was seven months pregnant. The woman was wounded in the lower abdomen. She was rushed to a hospital, where she underwent a caesarian section. Her condition has since stabilized. On Wednesday, after days in critical condition, her newborn was pronounced dead.

Morally, humanly, it should not matter one iota that the civilians who were shot and wounded were settlers.

Kenneth Roth, for a quarter century the executive director of Human Rights Watch – so often the target of rightwing Zionist demonization for defending the rights of Palestinians - should not have needed to write the following in condemnation of the Sunday drive-by attack near the West Bank settlement of Ofra:

A woman is loaded into an ambulance after the shooting near Ofra, West Bank, December 9, 2018.
Emil Salman

"Israeli settlers are NOT military targets," Roth wrote.

"Even though the settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law, that does not make it legitimate to target its civilian residents."

But the response to Roth's tweet made it very clear that he'd needed to write every word.

"You bring this violence on yourselves," Simon Hernandez of Westford, Mass., replied to Roth. "Don't blame the oppressed when they fight back at you taking their lands and their homes, all while killing their children and families. You deserve every bit of violence you bring on yourselves."

Another respondent, who did not use his name, wrote, "Settler-terrorists are always legitimate military targets, and the fascist-terror state of israhell has no right to exist."

As someone who very much supports the rights of Palestinians to a state of their own, as someone who condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing assaults by settlers on the lives and property of Palestinians, as someone who believes that the settlement movement has ruined Israel and poisoned its future, as someone who believes that the Israeli military wrongfully injures and kills Palestinian civilians with terrible frequency, let me make this as clear as I can:

I have a serious problem with leftists who are okay with the murder of settlers.

I have a serious problem with the idea that murderous terrorism against civilians can be redefined and repackaged and understood and even supported under the heading of "self-defense."

I have a serious problem when a leftist sees a pregnant woman and her unborn child as explicitly legitimate targets. As in:

"Most Israeli settlers are armed, and even those who don't personally carry guns operate under the protection of occupation soldiers. They are legitimate targets. No one forced them to participate in ethnic cleansing of the West Bank."

Or:

"If you squat on my lawn and refuse to leave, you have it coming!"

I have a serious problem when – in part because of the failures of the left here in Israel to counter the march of the settlement movement – the targets of Palestinian terror attacks include unarmed non-combatants, non-fanatics, tireless seekers of a just solution, and children. Children, who never asked to be born in the West Bank, who took no part in the decisions to seize and settle Palestinian-owned land. Children who may already be the third or even fourth generation in a settlement, and who may well, in their late teens and twenties, themselves seek a just solution, and/or join many of their fellow settlement-raised kids in leaving the West Bank when they're old enough to take the step.

Let me put it another way:

Israeli soldiers are not protecting Israel when they kill unarmed Palestinians.

We have a name for instances in which Israelis and their supporters abroad excuse the killing of small Palestinian infants and children by saying "At least they won't grow up to be terrorists and kill us."

It's called racism, in one of its ugliest forms.

It is exactly that form of racism which perpetuates and fuels lethal, wrongful, unending slaughter.

When leftists here and abroad support terrorist attacks on civilians as a form of legitimate resistance, they are dehumanizing all Israelis in exactly the same racist context.

Professor Marc Lamont Hill recognized the destructive power of language when, in the wake of the UN speech that sparked CNN to fire him as an analyst – a wrongheaded, cowardly, hypocritical firing in my view – he elucidated a section of the speech in which he'd stated:

"If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate for and promote non-violence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing."

Following the firing, Hill issued a statement clarifying his words, and utterly rejecting contentions by pro-Israel critics who had unfairly denounced his speech as endorsing Hamas.

“I support Palestinian freedom. I support Palestinian self-determination. I am deeply critical of Israeli policy and practice,” Hill wrote. “I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things.”  

I applaud Professor Hill for making this clear.

I have no problem with leftists who wholeheartedly support the cause of Palestine.

But I have a serious problem with leftists whose support of Palestine extends to terrorist attacks on civilians. Just as I have a serious problem with Israelis who excuse away and legitimize the killings of Palestinian non-combatants.

They are my enemy.