3 Jul 2014

Palestinians, Israelis and an eye for an eye: why it never stops

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith The Lord.”
Romans 12;19

It’s not often that I’m moved to quote the New Testament but it seems appropriate here in the Holy Land where no-one takes any notice of it. Here many think that vengeance is not God’s but theirs to exact. This is an Old Testament sort of place where they prefer “an eye for an eye”.

Here’s the story so far. On Tuesday, the bodies of three Jewish yeshiva students – 19-year old Eyal Yifrach, and 16-year olds Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar – were found near Hebron. They had been kidnapped and murdered, allegedly by two Palestinian men, who remain on the run. The suspects are associated with Hamas, but were not believed to be acting on orders from the leadership. Israeli forces have destroyed their family homes as punishment for the killings.

When the bodies were found, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu talked of vengeance against Hamas, as well as bringing the murderers to justice.

Clashes In East Jerusalem As Palestinian Teenager Reported Murdered


Yesterday, just after the dawn prayer, a 16-year old Palestinian boy, Mohammed abu Khadeir, was bundled into a van driven by unknown men just outside his local mosque in Palestinian east Jersualem. His burnt body was later found in a forest in the Jewish western part of the city. The Israeli police suspect this was what they call a “nationalist issue”, in other words a crime of revenge by extremist Israelis.

Visiting Mohammed’s family yesterday I was struck by how the different generations responded. His mother, Suha, sitting with other older women in the family, distraught by grief, immediately focused on revenge.

“For three people, they turned the world upside down. But nobody cares about my son,” she said. “They destroyed their houses in Hebron and damaged the city just because of those three Israelis. I want to avenge my son, to do the same and demolish the houses of those who killed him.”

But his cousin, 19-year old Thawra, a nursing student in a pale pink headscarf, said: “If you want to keep avenging your people you’re never going to stop.”

I’m sure there are many young Israelis who think like her, but a Facebook page titled  “The People of Israel Demand Vengeance!” featuring young people holding up signs threatening violence against Arabs, has garnered more than 32,000 ‘likes’. Police, who are investigating, seem to have taken it down.

According to the Times of Israel, a post uploaded by the group’s administrators on Wednesday stated: “Many have been asking if vengeance means killing innocent people. No… The goal of this group is to avenge the blood of those kidnapped, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, of blessed memory. To catch the terrorists who kidnapped and killed them, and exact vengeance.”

Yesterday, I watched as Palestinian youths, angry about the death of Mohammed Abu Khadeir, threw rocks at Israeli police who responded with baton rounds. I felt as if I was in a time warp, back in the early 2000s covering the Second Intifada.

By the end of the day I was in despair – the rest of the world may move on, but here nothing changes. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict doesn’t have the same international import as it used to have, because other forces are shaping the Middle East. We have learned that they can carry on killing and counter-killing without it affecting the rest of us too much. But they keep going whether we report it or not.

The “cycle of revenge” is a cliche used by lazy journalists. I know that there is much more to it than that, and I am especially well aware of the persistent suffering of Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza. But it’s not journalists who perpetuate the language of revenge, it’s Palestinians and Israelis, and that’s one major reason nothing ever seems to change around here.

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23 reader comments

  1. John says:

    What seems even more tragic in this cycle is that the power is so heavily weighted to one side over the other. Israel (and, by extension, the countries that back Israel) seem to to value Palestinian and Arab lives as significantly less important – so it’s not really valid to discuss in terms of ‘an eye for an eye’ – more like ‘five eyes for an eye’.

    1. Peadar MacGhabhain says:

      Correct John
      And as a comparison , since the year 2000, 3 Palestinian children on average have been murdered on a weekly basis by the Israeli Zionists.

      Why does Channel 4, and the rest of the British and World Media not give an historical background to this conflict, conflict is the wrong word, this is, and has been , naked aggression by Israel, since 1948

      Is channel 4 gagged or bought over, like the rest of the world media.?

      International coverage of this criminal aggression by Israel, is so one sided , it is appalling, the causality of truth orchestrated by the Media, with the blessing of Israel.

      1. P Peterson says:

        “naked aggression by Israel, since 1948”

        1948, when Israel was attacked by Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq?. 1967 it was Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and in 1973 it was Egypt and Syria.

        Let me guess – it’s all Zionist propaganda. You’ve been told so by Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada and Ian Pappe and Uncle Naom.

        Can you understand that although Arabs might be brownish, cuddly and wear interesting clothes they SOMETIMES can be a teeny bit violent?

  2. Leo Welch says:

    Lynsey Hilsum has always presented fair and informative stories from around the world. I would have liked Lynsey to go more in depth and look at the reasons for the conflict. Under the ‘Law of return’ Jewish people have the right to return to Israel/Palestine, even though they may have left 100’s of years ago. The same Law does not apply to Palestinians. Since the year 2000, almost 1500 Palestinian children have died at the hands of the IDF. The Jewish historian Illan Pappe has called the Israeli Govt a Nazi Party with apartheid policies. I hope Channel 4 will continue to remain unbiased and balanced unlike the Pro Israeli BBC.

    1. P Peterson says:

      “The Jewish historian Illan Pappe has called the Israeli Govt a Nazi Party with apartheid policies ”

      Thank heaven we’ve got Jews like Pappe eh? We can like the person (we’re not anti-Semitic!) and lap up his views that seem to fit in with our own.

      We used to like another good Jew (non-Zionist) Normal Finkelstein but he disappointed us by disassociating himself from the BDS movement, describing it as a cult.

  3. Peter buck says:

    If you must lead a report on this Hilsum Then Please get your facts right it has been confirmed this was NOT an Israeli revenge but an ARAB honour killing , are you a friend of Andy Coulson ? Such venomous incompetent reporting from one who’s mental capacity has not and probably will not fully develop!!!

  4. Hilda Nixon says:

    It’s true “an eye for an eye does not solve anything”. Outsiders interfering does not solve anything either. There is a way and it’s called “dialogue”. If Northern Ireland could find peace then Israel and Palestine can also.

  5. Rob says:

    You say Israel / Palestine is “an Old Testament sort of place”.

    But the “New Testament” verse you include at the top of your article (from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome) is a direct quote from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:35).

    Paul always used the Old Testament scriptures to justify his arguments. Many of the early Christians were Jews who had recognised Jesus as the Messiah they had long been promised, and would have instantly recognised these references.

    So when Paul he urges Christians to to avoid revenge it’s a plea that could equally apply to Jews, both then and today.

    It’s not the Testaments that are different – but their interpretation.

  6. Andrew says:

    Lindsey, a thought provoking blog. Ten or fifteen years ago I would have been following developments in Palestine much more closely. But as the decades roll by it becomes harder to avoid the temptation to shrug, turn away and as my father might have said, ‘leave them to get on with it’. Do you see any possibility that today’s very different situation (whole Middle East highly volatile, global disinterest in Palestine) could somehow be more positive for the Israeli/Palestinian situation than the previous order (stable but shady regimes all around, heavy US engagement, etc)?

  7. Dominic says:

    The weak can not make peace and Israel the strong isn’t interested in peace, as it would have to stop stealing Palestinian land. Nothing will change until the world turns against Israel and forces them to make peace.

  8. adil says:

    I think I recall a recent tweet in which you said nothing has changed. Could you also say those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it? I remember many years ago seeing a documentary (I now fail to remember which group it was about, but it doesn’t matter) where a mother who had lost her son wished for revenge against those that carried out the injustice.

    The Israelis and Palestinians are both smart people with a long history and culture. Surely these murders should be considered as being carried out by a group of gangsters who should be tried and prosecuted rather than demolishing their homes or launching attacks against innocent people. I know it’s very easy to say when one is thousands of miles from the troubles, but if the people can work together to overcome the agitators on both sides perhaps something great could be achieved?

  9. Muhsin Darr says:

    Israel will continue to get away with murder, people can only do their best to help the Palestinians, writing letters to your MP, protesting outside the Israeli Embassy, donating money to aid conveys etc. Israel’s army has been killing innocent Palestinian children for years, we all know this, however, its just not reported by most biased news channels who are heavily influenced by pro Israeli owners. Until America and the UK, who have blatantly supported Israel’s disgraceful ethnic cleansing of an Arab population, stand up and take action against Israel, you can only see more fighting and devastation. Jews, Arabs and Christians lived in peace and harmony in Jerusalem for many years until the European Jewish refugees were sent over by Britain to carry out a holocaust on another nations people. Double standards and hypocrisy at it’s best, well done the UK and US. Well done to Channel 4 for being the only non biased news channel out there.

  10. GC says:

    ‘An eye for an eye’ & revenge killings are not an admirable or brave acts- inviting your enemy to talk, with aims of peace is. Bit of a cliche statement but fear is the enemy, fear of equality??

  11. Anonymous says:

    “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”

  12. rippon says:

    You do yourself a disservice by suggesting that your despair stems from your inability to see a solution to this ‘cycle’.
    I say that because you yourself have clearly shown the solution through your astute observation of the crucial realities. The solution includes your clear implication that Israel should stop controlling Gaza in the style of an open-air prison. And though you didn’t mention it in this instance, you’re also clearly aware that the solution also includes: Israel must terminate its brutal military occupation of Palestinian land, in contempt of international law and numerous UN resolutions.
    The solution is clear; it’s just that hardly anyone of any influence, e.g. Tony Blair, C4 correspondents, dares confront Israel for various reasons (e.g. protecting their careers and/or lucrative incomes).

  13. Rada says:

    Somehow, Lindsay Hilsum managed to write this article without referring to over 60 years of dispossession and occupation of the Palestinians or the fact the resisting the occupation is legitimate for the Palestinians just as it was legitimate for the British during the WWII. Overall, inspite of some good info being given, this article is a sad attempt to equalize the responsibilities of an aggressor and the victim, which is an established practice of the UK mainstream media, when it comes to Palestine.

  14. Alan says:

    You said it…..Lazy journalism

  15. sally FitzHarris says:

    Such a weak blog post from such a highly intelligent journalist is a good example of the problem.

    Media and politicians alike are too frightened to tell it as it is.

    Context, Lindsey. It is not the cycle of revenge which is unending, it is the Occupation. If the international community insisted that Israel abide by international law and imposed economic sanctions until she did so, I think you would see a difference.

    And it is hardly an eye for an eye. Do the maths. How many Palestinian children have been killed/ injured taken from their beds for a brutal interrogation?

    I challenge you to do a piece on Attah al Sabbah. Or Fadel al Odwan. When did a twelve year old Israeli child have an exploding bullet through his spine or an eleven year old have his testicles shot off?

  16. sally Fitzharris says:

    Lindsey, it is not the cycle of revenge which is unending, it is the Occupation.

    And it is hardly an ‘eye for an eye’. Do the Maths.

    What makes anyone who is interested in human rights and international law despair is the fact that neither media nor politicians have the courage to tell it as it is. Your blog encourages the reader to believe there is an equivalence of suffering on both sides. Wrong.

  17. John Fitzpatrick says:

    Israel is a war criminal and you all know it. This eye for an eye lie is being perpetuated by British main stream journalism including Channel 4. Thousands of innocent Palestinian children are being murdered and this is the best you can do? Can we have the truth please, an in depth report to the real problems in Palestine, after all we do live in a Democracy don’t we?

    1. Peadar MacGhabhain says:

      Tell me one country in the so called free loving democratic west, THAT IS TRULY FREE AND DEMOCRATIC,People dont count anymore.

      It’s the massive corporations, financial institutions,family elites WHO RULE, and who control the media


      Times have past since the days of Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said,Howard Zinn,Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and others, Some are gone, many are still alive , but you wont see their print in any of the MAIN STREAM GOVERNED MEDIA.

      That is reserved for FASCISTS

  18. Peadar MacGhabhain says:

    Could it be true , surely not, Israel are such good friends ? they are ?

    How The Public Was Manipulated Into Believing The Israeli Teens Were Alive

    By Noam Sheizaf

    July 04, 2014 “ICH” – “972Mag” – – Details under gag order could have suggested early on that the abducted teens were murdered. The government-led campaign calling for their release helped the legitimacy of Israel’s military operation in the West Bank. Local and even international media played along.

    The following issue is not the heart of the kidnapping affair, the Israeli military operation or its aftermath — but it does carry an important lesson, especially for journalists. The bottom line is this: the Israeli public has been manipulated.

    Details of the ’100′ call (the local equivalent of 911) and what investigators discovered in the car used for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens earlier this month were well known by security service heads, top ministers — and even journalists — early on in the affair; but not by the public because it was all placed and kept under a tightly held gag order. The blood found in the car, the sound of gun shots in the emergency call, evidence of live ammunition and the fact that there hasn’t been a single instance of two or more people being held hostage in the West Bank in decades – all that led to a single logical assumption: the teens were no longer alive. Yet at the same time, the Israeli public was told the teens were being held by Hamas, and a public campaign calling for their return was launched.

    The result was the shock most Israelis felt once the bodies were discovered – terrible disappointment that could be avoided only by those with knowledge of the details under gag order.

    Every other day or so, senior officers briefed the media and reiterated that the army’s working assumption is the abducted teens were still alive, sometimes adding that there is no evidence which suggests otherwise. This was a deception. On one of those days, Finance Minister Yair Lapid went on live television and said the 100 call is “impossible to decipher.” That was a deception too. And here is the most absurd part: while those sources were feeding the public with misconceptions, they added warnings against “spreading rumors on social media.” Well, I have news for you: the next tragic event will see many more such rumors because the public will take for granted that there are secrets which shed light on the events – as if we don’t have enough conspiracy theories here as it is.

    I am not saying the call itself should have been made public or that the army should have operated under the assumption that the teens were dead. The effort to find them needed to be conducted with the same urgency as if they were alive. Yet there is a great difference between a “working assumption” and a “logical conclusion”; that line was deliberately and recklessly crossed.

  19. afzal dasu says:

    Israel are bullies. But one day the tables will turn. Then the world will watch them burn. So it has been said an so it will happen. The Palestinian people are very lucky all their suffering in this world will help their plight in the afterlife. The isralites will sadly burn.

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