In the Deaths of 3 Israeli Teens, Likud Policies are also Implicated

By Juan Cole

The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli squatter youth whose parents usurped Palestinian land has produced a paroxysm of hatred and calls for reprisals in Israel. Whoever is responsible for it, the killing of the youth was a horrid and inexcusable crime, and the heart of any parent goes out to the bereaved families.

It should be noted that during the Israeli dragnet in the West Bank, some 9 Palestinians, some youth or children, have also been killed, and hundreds arbitrarily arrested. The heart of any parent also goes out to those bereaved families.

SABC: “UN concerned about Palestinian arrests”

But assuming that Palestinians were the culprits, the social and political structures fostered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party form an essential context here. Social scientists always contextualize, an anathema to propagandists and the more glib of the journalists, who confuse it with excusing things. To put things in context is not to justify anything, it is to seek and understanding of human actions beyond the simple demonization of the Other.

The Likud has a policy of keeping the Palestinians stateless. Stateless people lack the right to have rights, in the phrase of Hannah Arendt and the US Chief Justice Warren Burger. They have no state to back their rights, therefore they have no real title to their property, no rights over their land, water or air, nor really even control of their own bodies. In some ways their situation is analogous to that of slaves.

Since the stateless lack a state, they also lack law and order. What most struck me from my last visit to a Palestinian refugee camp was how much of a frontier situation it was. There are no police. Everyone has to fend for themselves. And it is easy for predatory gangs to form.

That is, statelessness produces small violent groups such as Islamic Jihad and perhaps the Palestinian branch of the so-called “Islamic State” of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It produces them because in the absence of formal state structures, such groups thrive in the interstices of society. And it produces them because statelessness and the consequent deprivation of basic human rights produces potent grievances.

If the Likud really wants an end to such incidents, then it should negotiate in good faith to bring about the kind of Palestinian state that could actually police Palestinian lives. Instead, Mr. Netanyahu, despite public denials, wants to make a Palestinian state forever impossible, because he sees it as a danger to his brand of Iron Wall Zionism, which is aggressive and expansionist and Jewish-supremacist. Netanyahu did everything he could to torpedo Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process. One side-effect of statelessness is lawlessness. Netanyahu is actively choosing it.

Likewise, the Likud Party (and its coalition partners, some more barracuda-like than even the Likud itself) is dedicated to a vast project of stealing Palestinian land and resources on the West Bank. They are building beehives of colonies, which are solely Jewish and racist in character, excluding the native Palestinians from dwellings built on their own territory. The intended end game here of people like Avigdor Lieberman is likely that once a majority of the population in the West Bank is Israeli, an incident like the one that just took place will be used as a pretext to simply chase all the Palestinians out to Jordan or Egypt and then lock them out of their own country– i.e. a repeat of what was done in 1948.

It should be fairly obvious that if you take adolescents into the middle of the Palestinian West Bank and steal Palestinian land and build houses on it and shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their crops nearby and bulldoze down their homes or dig tube wells so deep as to cause the Palestinian wells to run dry– if you engage in this settler-colonial enterprise, then you are exposing those adolescents you drag with you into it to danger.

It is still wrong. Violence in anything other than direct self-defense is always wrong, and innocent non-combatant life must never be taken. A resistance movement is legitimate, but its quarrel must be with soldiers.

In the way of politics, the killing will be used by the Israeli Right wing to demonize all Palestinians and to justify collective punishment of innocents among them, and as a pretext to take further property and rights away from them. Mr. Netanyahu seems to think he can use the murders as a basis for a campaign to destroy the Hamas Party-Militia in Gaza altogether. But Hamas is a side effect of Israeli brutalization of Palestinians in Gaza, who live under an economic siege, and if it were destroyed, something worse would take its place. Intolerable situations produce resistance, and resistance movements are often fanatical. Of course, the Israeli crackdown actions will produce a backlash from Palestinians in turn. The Likud, with its Ku Klux Klan kind of ideology, thrives on such a backlash– just as the Klan liked to see defiant African-Americans in the days of Jim Crow so as to make it easier to stage a lynching.

The Likudniks, whether in Israel or in the US, seem blithely unaware that they are operating in the same world as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He didn’t expect suddenly to lose a third of the territory he controlled. While the surprises awaiting the Likudniks aren’t exactly like those that confronted al-Maliki, that there will be unpleasant surprises is fairly predictable. Grasping, indictive and petty policy always produces tragedies for those who pursue it.


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26 Responses

  1. Another excellent piece Mr. Cole. Only one correction. The Zionist ethnic cleansing began in 1947, clearing out half the Palestinian population and half the villages and cities before the first shot of the Israeli War of Independence.

    Ilan Pappé
    link to

  2. Clash of Fundamentalists: Israel 9 – 3 Hamas

    The killing of 3 Israelis is already being used by the American media to justify Israeli offense. In Google news headlines, it’s all about the Israeli victims, no mention of 9 killed, settlements, lawlessness, and bloodshed that’s about to follow.

    Israel is bombing Gaza because it is politically convenient vs bombing (US-backed) Abbas’ West Bank. The collective punishment will play into the hands of criminals who killed the 3 teenagers. They want an irrational response by Israel during this month. Unfortunately, the Pals who have nothing to do with the kidnappings will be the victims of Israeli terrorism.

  3. While everybody condemns the murder of the three Israeli teenagers and sympathizes with the bereaved parents, it must be stated that they are the victims of a conflict that has gone on for far too long and involves the brutal occupation of Palestinian lands and the denial of their rights. Many crimes are perpetrated by Israeli forces almost on a daily basis that often go unreported. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian peace campaigner and advocate of non-violence, said in an interview on BBC radio this morning that two Palestinian children had been killed by Israeli forces the day before the three Israeli teenagers, and that since the kidnapping of the Israeli teenagers Israeli forces have demolished the houses of two suspects, without providing any proof of their involvement, and have raided the houses and arrested more than 400 Palestinians, including some prisoners who had been released as part of a deal with the Palestinian Authority, and have killed 11 people in the course of those arrests. Israeli forces have also attacked Gaza and are warning of much worse to come.

    What Israel is seeking is not justice but vengeance and collective punishment, and the ultimate aim is to further weaken the Palestinian Authority, break its unity with Hamas and put an end forever to any hope of a meaningful peace with the Palestinians. Danny Danon, the Deputy Defense Minister has hinted at what Israel has in mind: “This tragic ending must also be the ending of Hamas! The nation is strong and ready to absorb [attacks] for the sake of a mortal blow against Hamas. … [W]e have to destroy the homes of Hamas activists, wipe out their arsenals everywhere, and stop the flow of money that directly or indirectly keeps terror alive… make the entire Palestinian leadership pay a heavy price.”

    While the world should demand justice for the death of three innocent Israeli teenagers, it should also demand justice for a large number of Palestinians including two children who have already been killed as the result of Israel’s collective punishment, and should demand an end to the occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in keeping with international law.

  4. Sam Deedes

    If Likud wants an end to such incidents, it should negotiate to bring about a Palestinian state that could police Palestinian lives

  5. Instead of trying to negotiate for the release of the 3 boys, Israel went on a rampage, killing and imprisoning(kidnapping) Palestinian boys. I don’t think there could have been any other outcome frankly.

  6. Why is there no discussion of one of the worst criminal elements here; the Israeli parents?

    What other criminals bring their children along as they commit their crimes. Do bank robbers bring their children as they ply their trade? Do organized crime hitmen have a “bring your children to work day”? Why do settlers get a pass on that aspect of their crimes?

  7. “Grasping, indictive and petty policy always produces tragedies for those who pursue it.”

    It would be nice if the world worked like that, but unfortunately it isn’t fair. Often it only produce tragedies for the victims of the policy. USA is a good example of how ethnic cleansing and genocide can work with only minimal repercussions for the aggressors.

  8. Does Israel even have a future?

    Israelis might want to think seriously about a few things . . .

    – There is ALWAYS a bigger bully with a bigger hammer.

    – EVERY military that has ever existed eventually has suffered massive, humiliating DEFEAT and the IDF will NOT be the exception. Eventually the IDF will be defeated, then what will be left of Israel. Anyone that thinks the IDF is invincible is just flat out delusional.

    – The world is awash in weapons equal to or better than anything Israel has or will have.

    – Thousands of inexpensive, reasonably accurate missiles trump a single very, very expensive aircraft.

    – There are no “magic” weapons.that only Israel has. As Friedman has correctly noted, the world is very flat when it comes to technology, knowledge and weapons based on technology.

    – The non-Jewish humans living west of the Jordan River are NOT going to “magically” disappear on night. Whenever anyone suggest this, I ask the simple question “where will they go?” Israel has no ability to get other nations to take millions of poor human refugees that Israel does not want. Jordan and Egypt will simply close their borders and refuse the people, no matter how much Israel screams. Then the UN will agree with Jordan and Egypt. And when the US objects (because it is a puppet of Israel), Jordan, Egypt and the rest of the world should simply tell the US to take the refugees if they care so much. The REALITY is the non-Jews living west of the Jordan River are NOT going anywhere.

    Basically I see Israel making all the classic empire builder/invader mistakes that almost ALWAYS leads to the demise of the invader. Why they think this will turn out different this time, I can not figure out, since basic human behavior has not changed for thousands of years. This is why Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” still applies today.

    • “……..(e)ventually the IDF will be defeated.”

      Israel has sustained defeat previously.

      Anyone who believes that the Israeli Defense Forces is invulnerable should read the Winograd Commission report which concluded that Israel did not win the Second Lebanon War in 2006 – and Hassan Nasrallah congratulated Israel on having the openness to issue such a self-critical document.

      An estimated 50-100 Hezbollah militiamen repulsed 5,000 IDF elite Golani and Givati Brigade infantrymen at Bint Jubayl with Israel enduring 30 dead and wounded in the first hour of the invasion. In the Litani Offensive, the IDF outnumbered Hezbollah by at least 3-1 but still failed in their objectives.

      The publication of the excoriating Winograd Commission report resulted in the resignations of the Israeli defense minister, the IDF chief of staff and several other top generals.

      There have been eight years of relative peace on the Israel-Lebanon border since the end of that conflict in which 165 Israelis perished and two million of its citizens in northern Israel hid in bomb shelters for a month due to deficiencies in Israeli air defenses against military-grade Katyushas. Previously, the IDF leadership had declared the occupation of south Lebanon a military necessity.

      When the Palestinians – particularly those in Gaza – achieve a paramilitary capability against Israel that would deter an invasion – as Hezbollah has in Lebanon – then Israeli aggression will cease. A good example of a deterrent to Israel in Gaza is the reported acquisition of surface-to-air missiles by Hamas that recently almost shot down an Israeli helicopter; these missiles were likely acquired by Gazan elements of Hamas as a result of the civil unrest in Libya. Previous objections of violations of Gazan airspace were ignored by the IDF but now the Israeli Air Force restricts certain of its flights over Gazan airspace.

    • >There is ALWAYS a bigger bully with a bigger hammer.

      In the region turkey is stronger, but do you really think turkey is going to fight some war to actually end israels existence? This for turkey would cost a very high price.

      >- EVERY military that has ever existed eventually has suffered massive, humiliating DEFEAT and the IDF will NOT be the exception. Eventually the IDF will be defeated, then what will be left of Israel.

      This happened at the end of the lebanon war, israel didnt cease to exist.

      >Thousands of inexpensive, reasonably accurate missiles trump a single very, very expensive aircraft.

      So far in current conflicts ground forces by themselves have been unable to disable the airforce of their opponents without the use of an airforce themselves.

      Syrians for example have had great difficulty coping with assads air force.

  9. I also agree that the response to the 3 teenagers being abducted is what ultimately cost them their lives. The murderous, collective punishment by the Israeli leadership is nothing more that an act of brutality. Israel’s citizens must be living in some parallel, fantasy universe. In this universe they believe that aren’t guilty of having done anything to the Palestinians. They are one of the most deluded group of people who I have ever witnessed. They say all we want is peace. Even though you have stolen my land and the land of my ancestors. Built thier society over the top of the graves of my ancestors. Murdered the Palestinian citizens, young, old, women. Murdered all of them in the name of the Jewish state. But yet they have done nothing wrong, committed no crime. All they want to do is live in peace. What a fraud and a farce. As long as Israel’s leaders and its citizenry keep pretending they are the chosen people of God who can murder and steal from others with impunity and no accountability, they will never experience any peace-ever.

  10. The world is outraged by the murder of the three Israeli teenagers – from President Obama to Pope Francis to the UN Secretary General.

    In the meantime, while the Israeli Operation Whatever was going on, 10 Palestinians, mostly young people were murdered by the Israeli troops, two of them, on camera for the world to see, shot through the heart while doing nothing more than just walking across the street.

    According to the website, Ifamericansknew,org, which coordinates its figures with other human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Israel has killed 1,523 children over the last 14 years, since Oct of 2000. That amounts to roughly 108 children per year, or roughly one Palestinian child killed every three days.

    Murder an Israeli Jew and world leaders go berserk. Murder a hundred Palestinian children, and they do not even bother to shrug.

  11. “It should be fairly obvious that if you take adolescents into the middle of the Palestinian West Bank and steal Palestinian land and build houses on it and shoot at Palestinians trying to harvest their crops nearby and bulldoze down their homes or dig tube wells so deep as to cause the Palestinian wells to run dry– if you engage in this settler-colonial enterprise, then you are exposing those adolescents you drag with you into it to danger.”

    I guess the question is, when will Israel turn the illegally occupied West Bank over to it’s rightful occupants?

  12. We rarely hear about Palestinian deaths at hands of Israel from US media. But majority of Americans and even many US Jews are increasingly against Likud policies of Jewish supremacy and oppression, complicating our historical unconditional support of Israel. The more outrageous Netanyahu acts the more he alienates the world. 3 kids killed is horrible, but the death count is still mostly Palestinians. Excellent piece, wish it was in the NYT.

  13. When the kidnappings happened, I noticed at least some of the settlers were Americans. As an American who lived and worked in Israel, these are the worst racists I ever met. Those kidnapped are from settlements in Hebron. Hebron is where American Dr. Goldstein murdered dozens of Palestinians. He and Kahane are buried under a 10-foot tall monument. This monument is actually illegal under Israeli law, but, yeah, Netanyahu is on it I am sure. I am not saying these settlers “deserved” to die, but their own rabbis incite murder and violence. All I can say is you have to live there and meet these people. I wrote a letter to Obama before his visit and asked him to visit Hebron and, like Reagan, tell the Israelis to “tear this monument down” as a first step towards peace. I’m still waiting for a reply.

  14. horrendous photographs today posted on Mondoweiss ( of the Israeli army’s total destruction of the homes of the “kidnapping suspects.” Not even convicted yet but punishment meted out. The comments here are correct, I could not bear to listen to what NPR said about it.

  15. All comments here are well thought out—interesting. Below is a link to an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor, which details the overwhelmingly lopsided coverage, and the especial sympathy for the 3 Israeli teens. These teens are literally wrapped in the Israeli flags, and vigils, wailing and eulogies are held all over the world. Sad and tragic.
    Yet, the 10 or more (most or all innocent) Palestinians ruthlessly killed in the aftermath—their blood, their hearts, their lives, the feelings of their beloved—count for so little.
    All of these deaths are tragic and heart-rending. Will the warrior hearts of humans ever notice this?

    link to

  16. I was wondering if the children of Israeli settlers usually take rides from Palestinians when they are hitchhiking, Just curious.

  17. The deliberate kidnapping and premeditated murder of 3 Israeli teenagers is described as the “killing of three Israeli squatter youth”. The power of words.

  18. love the line that if Israeli crushes Hamas something more dangerous will develop. So true. I see hamas an al quida just as you do professor cole, as symptoms of a larger problem. And we address political symptoms just like we do health symptoms, instead of looking at the root cause ( bad diet, no exercise, a ton of stress) we turn to pharmaceutical companies to buy a pill that will mask the symptoms. Yet the root illness will find another way to pop up, in a stronger way. If you dont heal the root cause, the symptoms will get louder and louder.

    Just give these guys there own country already. How the US could not support this when it was brought to the UN was beyond me. The only logical argument is that israel wont be safe, but could the be any more unsafe than they are now?

    • How true. Bibi et al have called for revenge and others scream “price tag.”
      “Revenge over the blood of a small child is not the devil’s work, and neither is revenge for the blood of a teenager or young man – who was on his way to meet his parents – and whom was never seen again,” he added. “Hamas is responsible. Hamas will pay.” —Bibi Netanyahu.
      The vengeance, including collective punishments, are also cold blooded wastes of humanity.
      The cycle of violence works this way. This is how Western leaders act as adult leaders. Remember after 9-11, America (quoting Tom Friedman) said “suck on this.”

      It is all ugly. The blood is on the world’s hands, as the world accepts Israel’s inhumanity, including war crimes, toward Palestinians.
      When will we ask our leaders to stop acting like Shakespearean monsters?

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