Jewish Journal

A responsibility to look [GRAPHIC IMAGES]

by Rob Eshman

March 15, 2011 | 4:05 pm

[WARNING: The images in this article are extremely graphic and may be disturbing.]

You won’t want to look at the photos of the Fogel family, but you have to. You have to force yourself to look.

The father lies in bed holding his infant daughter, 3-month-old Hadas. They clutch each other, bathed in blood.

The 4-year-old Elad lies on his back, surrounded by dark sprays of his own blood, his flesh serrated with knife wounds. A bright cartoon blanket and his kippah lie beside him, crumbled and caked with more blood.

Yoav, 11, is splayed on his back against his green bedspread, his right foot touching the floor. A deep gash runs across his throat, and blood soaks his bed.

Palestinian terrorists entered the Fogel home on Friday, March 11 in the West Bank settlement of Itamar and stabbed to death the father, Udi, 36, his wife, Ruth, 35, and three of their five children. Two children — Roi, 8, and 2-year-old Yishai — escaped. Tamar, 12, came home from a Shabbat evening out to discover the carnage.

You have to look, because if you don’t, you will never fully grasp the dark, savage and inhuman depths of this conflict.

These tortured bodies, these blood-drenched sheets — this is where the 100-year-old struggle between the Palestinians and the Jews inevitably leads. The senseless slaughter of innocents. The cries of mourners. The calls for more blood, more land, more revenge.

But, come voices from the other side, what about our dead? What about our children who have been blown into bits by Israeli bombs, the hundreds of innocents killed in Lebanon, the 40 killed by cluster bombs exploded in the years since the war ended? Don’t you have to look at them as well?

Yes, you do.

The Fogel children were killed deliberately, the Palestinian children “collaterally,” but they all have names, they all had futures, they all were innocent. So you have to look, and understand — this is where it leads.

And then we have to ask: Is it inevitable?

Judging by the news following the massacre, it certainly looks that way. Hamas and Islamist groups called the slaughter a “heroic” act of resistance. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad condemned the violence. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called it despicable and immoral. But Palestinian culture still fetishizes terrorists and traffics in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement.

Meanwhile, in Israel on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved 500 housing units in the West Bank settlements. 

“Both Netanyahu and Abbas had an opportunity to calm the waters and use the incident as an opening to return to the peace table, but, as usual, neither appeared interested,” wrote former AIPAC legislative director Douglas Bloomfield.

“It seemed as though everyone wanted to exploit the tragedy for his or her own purposes.”

Act in ways to make future unspeakable tragedies inevitable, and they become so.

Look at the photos: The Fogel family. The Palestinian father weeping over the bodies of his three children following an Israeli bomb. That’s what Google is for: to help us see the future. The direction in which we are heading, inevitably.

If you believe only the Palestinians are to blame, Google “Palestinian children Israeli bombs.” If you think the Israelis are nothing but blood-lusting land grabbers, Google “Israeli victims Palestinian terror.” Hit the tab for “Images.”

That’s the future. That’s one future.

The going metaphor in punditry circles is that what Palestinians and Israelis need is a divorce. A clean split, a division of land that will let them go about their lives in peace, far away from one another.

But the reality is, what these two people need to understand is this: They are married.  They live side by side, as close as Encino to Tarzana. They never will be fully separate, or be able to be fully separate. If their hands can’t reach one another, their missiles can, easily. 

That’s why this forever war is so tragic: No matter how cruel they behave toward one another at night, they still have to wake up beside each other in the morning. They don’t need a peace treaty; they need a ketubah, a marriage contract. Nobody is going anywhere. This couple will have to work it out, or kill each other and their children too.

Two years ago this month I had breakfast with Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Gazan physician working in Israeli hospitals whose three daughters were killed by an errant Israeli artillery shell.

Long before his daughters’ deaths, he had made the campaign for respect and equality between Israelis and Palestinians his life’s work.

I believed then — and still believe — that his insights hold the key to making the marriage between Israelis and Palestinians work.

“My daughters who were lost, I can’t return them,” he said. “But think of the survivors. … Even if I got revenge on all the Israelis, do you think my daughters are going to come back? … Each human life is invaluable, is so easy to destroy.”

The Palestinians may one day learn that by slaughtering Israelis they are destroying themselves. The Israelis may one day learn that there is no such thing as a Palestinian-free future. Both sides have to decide how tragic they want that future to be. They have to take a long, hard look.

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