Murders of settlers are attacks on all Jews
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Murders of settlers are attacks on all Jews

In the wake of the murders of five members of the Fogel family – father Udi, 36, mother Ruth, 35, sons Yoav, 11, and Elad, 4, and their 3-month-old sister Hadas – last month, some have begun to write about the horrific and calculated killings as part of a cycle of violence.

In its March 24 editorial, “Israel-Palestine: Tit-for-tat?” The Los Angeles Times editorial board notes that the answer as to which is worse, “building new houses in west bank settlements” or “stabbing children to death” is obvious. (Should we be grateful for that recognition?) The piece goes on to assert that “no matter how abhorrent the murders are, it serves no purpose to aggravate the provocation that led to them in the first place. How will building more houses for Israelis in the midst of the west bank, in settlements that are almost universally acknowledged to violate international law, do anything other than keep the crisis going?”

This week, Moshe Goldsmith, the mayor of Itamar, the town where the Fogels were murdered, and his wife, Leah Goldsmith, came to speak in Englewood. Leah Goldsmith told The Standard, “I am proud to be a settler and to use the term.” (See page 20.)

Palestinian leaders and others contend that the settlements, built on land Israel captured in a defensive war in 1967, are illegal. Even if one accepts that arguably flawed premise, how is living or building on a certain piece of land a provocation to murder, including the murder of children?

We have not been universally supportive of settlements, mostly because we worry about the safety of their residents and of Israeli troops who must protect them, but the L.A. Times and Leah Goldsmith have gotten us thinking. If the halutzim had allowed themselves to be demonized as provocateurs for their desire to buy and cultivate mostly uninhabited land in their historic homeland and had run away in fear, those few Jews who remained would probably have been massacred as in Hebron in 1929. At any rate, there might be no Israelis – or Israel.

While we would welcome a peaceful Palestinian state alongside Israel, perhaps it is worth considering that there is an answer to the L.A. Times’ question, and it may not be what its editorial page writers suspect. There is a difference between capitulating to bullying – of which terrorism is an extreme example – and granting a concession to a neighbor in a nonviolent disagreement for the sake of keeping the peace. Perhaps in signaling clearly to their enemies that Israelis will not retreat under attack and terrorism will not pay, Israelis, including the oft-demonized settlers, will actually hasten the day when Israel and its neighbors can achieve a genuine peace.

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