Writing in Cold Blood About Itamar

We went yesterday to Itamar, the West Bank settlement where Udi and Ruth Fogel, and their children–Yoav, age 11, Elad, age 4, and Hadas, their 3-month-old daughter–were murdered. A detail that wasn’t widely reported, or reported anywhere that I’ve seen, is that their newborn baby was decapitated.

I shot a lot of video and have several hours of interviews on tape. When I got back last night, after a long day and a long drive, I wrote about it in haste. Owing to the famous Ricochet log-in malfunction, what I wrote disappeared when I tried to post it. 

I was frustrated by that last night, but now that I’ve had some sleep, I’m glad it disappeared. Writing about something like that when exhausted isn’t the right way to do it.

Judith correctly observed that an event like this inspired Truman Capote to write a book, and while I don’t think I have that in me, what I saw certainly does warrant writing with some thought, after stepping back at least carefully to listen again to what everyone told me. I’m going to wait to write about this until I get back to Istanbul, when I have some time. 

One very quick point I’ll make is that this was clearly not a family above all of “settlers”–some alien species that exists primarily as a political bargaining point–but of human beings. In the home next door to the one that was invaded, kids’ clothing was hanging on the line next to a child’s bicycle. You simply cannot look at that and think, “This story is above all about land and politics.” This story is above all about murder. They were children and they were murdered. Two more children were orphaned. The children were targeted deliberately. This was a premeditated murder–not a crime of passion or self-defense–and it was a psychotically savage crime. Anyone who in any way tries to rationalize or minimize this or to suggest that this is a fitting punishment for anything needs to go out and look at a three-month-old baby and ask himself what it would take to climb over a fence, climb in a window, and cut off that child’s head. If that act seems an “understandable” reaction to a political grievance to him, I don’t think we can have much of a conversation. But I don’t think it will, on reflection, seem that way to most people. 

I did ask people there, “Why would you raise your children in a place like this?” The answer was not one that would satisfy me, if I were a parent. I don’t want to do the answer an injustice, but the outline of the answer was–basically–”Things like this aren’t the whole story. Look at the lovely organic grapes we grow here. It’s truly such a nice place to raise kids. It’s so meaningful to us to be in a place so central to Jewish history.” I have what they said exactly on video and I’ll post more of it next week. For now, here’s one voice. This is Leah.

  

  1. Mike Visser

    Claire, you are a gifted writer and if you don’t have an entire book in you, perhaps an expose in City Journal or even Commentary.  This event needs to be analyzed, especially by someone such as yourself steeped in the region’s history and committed to journalistic integrity.  Too often here in the States, barbarities such as this occur and then become shuffled in the mental Rolodex of Mid-East turmoil, resurfacing as another one of “those things that happened that one time.”  This story needs to be told. 

  2. Cas Balicki

    Claire, it’s long past time to call this act for what it is, and that is evil. 

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in the Brothers Karamazov, demonstrated both the horror of a salvation based on the slaughter of innocents and our utter lack of understanding of the meaning of salvation when he asked if an innocent child might be justly sacrificed to cure all world’s ills. The only holy and just answer, the only answer God would accept is no. The innocent must never be sacrificed no matter how pure the aim. This because to sacrifice the innocent in the hope of achieving some greater glory is to blaspheme against God. The only evil answer is to sacrifice the innocent. It leaves one to ask what heaven is worth the decapitation of a baby? And, it leaves one to question the very nature and existence of God. This is not an easy thing to do as if we are to imagine a justice that properly avenges this crime we must also look to God to deliver it. This is the eternal paradox: A God that would allow this can’t exist, yet He must exist to judge the wicked. 

  3. Charles Mark

    Brief review of Irish media coverage before going to work shows focus on permits for settlement building and possibility of settler retribution.

  4. George Savage
    C

    They were children and they were murdered. Two more children were orphaned. The children were targeted deliberately. This was a premeditated murder–not a crime of passion or self-defense–and it was a psychotically savage crime. Anyone who in any way tries to rationalize or minimize this or to suggest that this is a fitting punishment for anything needs to go out and look at a three-month-old baby and ask himself what it would take to climb over a fence, climb in a window, and cut off that child’s head.

    I have nothing to add to Claire’s analysis, which crystallizes the real issue with her usual clarity.   I can only say prayers for those murdered, and those left behind.

  5. Dave Carter
    C
    Cas Balicki: …

     It leaves one to ask what heaven is worth the decapitation of a baby?

    That, I submit, is the crux of it.  And who would want admission to, and be content to reside in, a heaven constructed on a mountain of such innocents?  

  6. Margaret Ball
    Dave Carter

      And who would want admission to, and be content to reside in, a heaven constructed on a mountain of such innocents?  

    Presumably the Gazans, who handed out candy to celebrate this heroic deed.

    Claire, maybe you can’t stand to deal with this at book length, but please do write an article when you get back.

  7. Bill Walsh

    God rest their souls. The rest is silence.

  8. Instugator

    Yes, Capote wrote a book.  One of the themes in the book was that one of the murderers was more sensitive and guilt ridden than the other. To write the book, Capote had to empathize with the killers.

    Honestly, Claire, I would not want you to stain your soul with empathy for these.

    What I do not understand is why Israel doesn’t declare an end to the peace process and leave things as status quo. Walk away from the indeterminable-endless-intifada table and call it even. Respond with overwhelming force each time they are subject to rocket attacks.

    The current President is the most anti-Israeli president ever and even he couldn’t cut off aid if he wanted to. Israel has nothing more to lose.

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