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From tragedy to useful propaganda

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Israeli manhuntby Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem

The Israeli occupation army and paramilitary Jewish settlers continue to terrorise Palestinians all over the West Bank following the brutal killing earlier this week of five members of a settler family at a Jewish colony near the Northern West Bank town of Nablus.

The victims, who included young children, were stabbed to death by two unidentified assailants who fled after committing the crime. The Israelis say they are sure that the perpetrators are Palestinian "terrorists".

Meanwhile, some rumours indicated that the killer -- or killers -- might have been a foreign worker, committing the crime for non-political motives. A number of other possibilities were mentioned, but there has been no concrete evidence corroborating any of these hypotheses.

Lack of evidence has not stopped hundreds of young Palestinian men being rounded up as settler vigilantes have roamed Palestinian villages, stoning houses, vandalising property and threatening to kill Palestinians to avenge the incident.

On Monday, dozens of armed settlers stormed the village of Awarta, vandalising property and shouting "Death to the Arabs!" At one point, the settlers tried to set a Palestinian home ablaze while occupants were inside.

"The settler thugs are carrying out real terror against us. I call on the world to intervene to stop this terror," said Um Ragheb Ubeidat, a local resident of the village.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the incident in the strongest terms, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas calling the murder "inhuman, despicable and immoral". "A human being is not capable of something like that. Scenes like these cause any person with humanity to cry and hurt."

Abbas proposed the formation of a joint committee with the Israeli authorities to investigate the incident, in the hope of apprehending the perpetrators.

Israel and the PA have strong security coordination, mainly against Palestinians who actively resist the Israeli occupation.

However, Israel, which has killed hundreds, if not thousands of Palestinians, including children, knowingly and therefore deliberately, was in no mood to let the matter calm down. Instead, Israeli officials and media were busy trying to reap the maximum propaganda dividend from the tragic incident.

"I hear [Abbas] condemn the murder in Itamar this morning," Netanyahu told members of his Likud faction in the Knesset. "His words hold great importance in my eyes. But it is more important that he says these things on Palestinian radio, not just Israeli."

Other Israeli leaders called for stiffer punitive measures against Palestinians, including stealing more Arab land and building more Jewish settlements.

Indeed, a few hours after the incident, the Israeli cabinet met for an emergency session and decided to build 500 more settler units all over the West Bank. Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yeshai suggested that a thousand settler units be constructed for every Jew killed by the Palestinians. He ignored Palestinians killed by Israelis -- soldiers and settlers alike.

Moreover, Netanyahu told settlers during a visit to the Itamar settlement following the incident that the proper response to such incidents in which Israelis are killed is the construction of more settlements. "They kill, we build."

The Israeli cabinet's decision to placate the settlers reflects the heavy clout of settlers within the Israeli government and parliament.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the tragic killing of the settler family, especially the children, is being used to corner and accuse the Palestinian cause. This is why there has been widespread consternation among the general Palestinian public over the incident.

One Palestinian teacher at a Hebron school opined: "The scene of butchered children certainly doesn't enhance the image of our struggle against the Israeli occupation, which aims to extirpate us from our ancestral homeland. This is wrong, wrong, wrong."

Netanyahu is already telling European and American diplomats who are pressing Israel to be more forthcoming with regards to the peace process that "we are not in a mood to discuss chronic political issues as we are burying our children who were butchered by the Arabs."

The tragedy of Itamar aside, since when was Israel in the mood to discuss anything fundamental with the Palestinians, and most especially its 44-year-old occupation of Palestinian land?


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