Berkeley, CA – All weekend, as I attempted to submerge myself in the Network of Spiritual Progressives at Tikkun Magazine’s 25th Anniversary, the murder of the Fogel family was laying heavily on my mind. The shocking initial news reports, followed by the high turn out (20,000 people) to the Jerusalem funeral and then the incredibly disappointing “emergency” decision of the Israeli government to approve 500 more homes in settlements, all left me nauseous – to say the least.
But it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, when a facebook contact posted a Google Album of the murdered family on my wall that I started to write this entry. These images, while graphic and incredibly disturbing, will come to represent thousands of words people will write, say and think about this tragedy and the tragedies that are following.
That being said, it is the caption that my friend used when posting the link that inspired my response. He said:
X has hesitated, but decided to share the link exposing the corps of the Israeli family slaughtered by a terrorist this weekend. These are very disturbing images of what Israel’s enemies are capable of.
Firstly, these are the photographs of a family that was murdered this weekend. They are human beings, who were murdered by another human being — being a victim or murderer is a human experience that goes beyond national identity.
Calling this family an “Israeli family” and the person who murdered them a “terrorist” only furthers the type of violence that resulted in this murder. Arguing that these images are “of what Israel’s enemies are capable of” colludes an already dangerous, violent narrative of “us” vs. “them” with nationalism.
I understand, that in moments like these — where we are shocked into disgust and anger — that we feel the need to bunker up, to know who is “us” and who is “them”. In fact, I think that’s a part of human nature. But this part of our human nature does not serve our needs as human beings. Distinguishing between the “victim” and the “murderer” will not help us end the cycle of violence that inspired this act.
In the future, we will probably come to know the Fogel family more — we will see pictures and videos of their children and their family. We will hear from their neighbors, friends and maybe even their remaining children. Surely, official representatives of both the Israeli and Palestinian nations will use their names to make political statements and hopefully to try and call for an end to this violent cycle that we are trapped in.
But one voice that I think is most important for us to hear, a voice that will probably be silenced, is the voice of the murderer and his / her family. What led this person to commit such a terrible crime? What message were they trying to send to the majority of Palestinians and Israelis who are working to end this cycle of violence? And most importantly, but surely difficult to ask is how is this murderer a victim?
Both the Fogel family and the murderer were highly dedicated to their national causes. The Fogels felt so strongly about their either national or religious convictions that they became a part of the settler movement — a movement that’s central values deny others their basic human rights and are far from the values of most Israelis. The murderer felt so strongly that the situation in which he / she was living in was so unjust that he / she had to take justice into their own hands and break one of the most central commandments G-d gave to all people — something most Palestinians would never dream of doing.
So on this eve, of yet another tragedy in our Holyland, may we find the courage to move beyond “us” and “them,” may we come together now and in the future against murder — Israeli and Palestinian alike — and never forget, to look beyond the binary.