Op-Ed Columns

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 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.

Claire Berlinski, Ed.

Claire Berlinski, Ed., earned her doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, and has lived and worked in Britain, Thailand, Laos, France and now Turkey as a journalist, academic, and freelance writer.

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