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The shameful silence on the West Bank massacre

Three British women were slaughtered by a terrorist, and the British elites look the other way.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics UK World

So that’s it, is it? A British mother and her two young daughters are murdered by a terrorist in the most awful fashion imaginable, and we’re just going to move on? Three British citizens are shot to death at point-blank range on account of their identity, their beliefs, and it’s fading from our collective memory already? The Foreign Office did express ‘sadness’ over this massacre of half a family, which is something, I suppose. Though if you and your mother were murdered overseas for being the ‘wrong’ kind of people, wouldn’t you hope for something more than sadness from the government? Anger, perhaps?

This is the grim story of the murder of Lucy Dee and her daughters Maia and Rina in the West Bank. The Dees are originally from the UK. The father of the family – Leo Dee – was a rabbi in Hendon in north London and later Radlett in Hertfordshire, parts of Britain with large Jewish populations. The family made aliyah to Israel in 2014 and were living in Efrat, a settlement in the West Bank. On Friday, as they drove to Tiberias in northern Israel for Passover, mum Lucy’s car was ambushed by a Palestinian gunman. He shot at the vehicle, causing it to crash. Then he walked to the wreckage with his Kalashnikov and sprayed bullets inside. Maia and Rina were hit by 20 bullets. They were 20 and 15 years old. Lucy survived, in a comatose state. ‘How will I explain to Lucy what has happened to our two precious gifts?’, Rabbi Dee wept at the funeral of his daughters. The next day, Lucy died.

Where is Britain’s anger over this slaughter of three women who were British citizens? Actually, two women and a minor. A British-born child – 15-year-old Rina – was shot, executioner-style, for the crime of being a Jewish person in the West Bank and there is only deathly silence from Britain’s moral clerisy. Our opinion-forming elites expressed more sympathy for Shamima Begum, 15 when she fled Britain to join the Islamist death cult of ISIS, than they have for Rina Dee, 15, when she was cut down for her family’s offence of migrating from the UK to a peaceful Jewish community in the West Bank.

Officialdom’s initial comments on the murders were extraordinarily passive. ‘We are saddened to hear about the deaths of two British-Israeli citizens and the serious injuries sustained by a third individual’, said the Foreign Office. Deaths? The women did not just expire, of natural causes or something. These weren’t deaths, they were killings. Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, said the lack of ‘outrage’ in the FO’s statement was strange and disturbing. According to the UK government, ‘The sisters merely “died” and a third person was somehow injured’, he said. The murders were decontextualised, de-moralised in fact – turned from wickedness consciously inflicted on three civilians into a mere regretful demise.

The passive voice could be heard in the media, too. ‘Daughters of British rabbi die in West Bank drive-by shooting’, was The Sunday Times headline. This elevation of the act of dying over the act of killing, of the passing away of the victims over the murderous intent of the killer, speaks to an urge to drain the incident of its true horror. To render it sorrowful rather than political; a tragedy rather than terrorism. The BBC’s first report on the attack swiftly stated that ‘the shooting took place hours after Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip’. As if these things are morally linked. As if the fact that Israel and Palestinian elements remain in a state of low-level war explains the massacre of three unarmed women. I trust the BBC still believes in the Geneva Conventions? They stipulate that in times of war no violence may be visited on individuals who are ‘taking no active part in the hostilities’.

Then there’s the broader chilling silence over these killings (not ‘deaths’). You’ll search fruitlessly for any blacked-out squares on social media for the Dees. Indeed, those who have tried to drum up some online solidarity with the murdered women have been mercilessly ridiculed. The Israel Defense Forces posted a tweet asking that ‘everyone share a picture of the Israeli flag’ in memory of the Dees. The responses were a cesspit. People posted images of the Israeli flag in flames, the flag being trampled on, the flag as toilet paper. There were laughing emojis and yawning emojis. One tweeter suggested the Dee parents should have been referred to Prevent. They’re the real terrorists, you see.

Such moral depravity has been widespread. Under the BBC’s tweet about Maia and Rina’s funeral, one respondent said they ‘shouldn’t be there in the first place’. ‘Not a smart idea to go settle [in] occupied land’, laughed another. ‘Occupiers dead’, said one. The cruelty of it all is unsettling. Then we had the response of Cage, the advocacy group that works with communities affected by the ‘war on terror’. Its Twitter thread branded Rabbi Dee a ‘coloniser’ and said he and his family enjoyed ‘an apartheid lifestyle’. ‘[W]oe unto them for following the racist ideology of Zionism through to its conclusion…’, Cage said. And so is the slaying of three civilians depicted as an anti-colonial act, by an organisation that’s very often cheered by the woke left.

That Z-word captures why there has been so little solidarity with these murdered British citizens. It’s because they were members of the most reviled identity group of all, the identity it is so fashionable to loathe in the 21st century. They were Zionists. They believe in the ideal of a Jewish homeland, even to the extent of thinking Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) should be re-incorporated into Israel. Hence they ventured to Efrat, a settlement of 11,000 people established in the Judean mountains in 1983. In the hierarchy of identity fashioned by the new elites, in which we’re all divided according to our privilege (ie, our wickedness) or our oppression (ie, our goodness), Jews are very far down, and active Zionists are at the very bottom. As every right-thinking member of polite society knows, Zionism is a racist ideology and anyone who subscribes to it is ripe for boycotting, banning and demonisation. Sympathy for the Dees? Not a chance.

The Western elites’ ‘othering’ of Israeli settlers has been one of the most feverish moral crusades of modern times. Of course, everyone should be free to raise political objections to the settlements in the West Bank, just as everyone should be free to criticise the actions of the State of Israel. But the anti-settler outlook of Western academics and activists goes way beyond political critique and crosses the line into neocolonial contempt. As the Israeli observer Avinoam Sharon put it a few years ago, the Israeli settler has become the ‘archetypical Other’. And of course, ‘Otherness is the darling of people who hate’. Western observers sometimes sound like Victorian-era explorers of the ‘Heart of Darkness’ in their commentary about Jewish settlers. They’re ‘the most abnormal people’, we’re told. They are uniquely cruel – they throw ‘shit and piss and used sanitary towels’ at Palestinians, claims Brian Eno. These odd people are a threat to ‘world peace’ itself, says a Palestinian official. ‘Throughout history, Jews have played the role of Other’, wrote Sharon – now it’s Jewish settlers.

This is where we can see the inverted colonialism of anti-Israel sentiment. Virtuous Westerners posture against what they see as Israel’s colonial crimes, in particular the colonial crime of settlerism, and yet they exhibit a distinctly imperious disdain for the supposedly inferior peoples of Israel and especially of the Israeli settlements. They call on the Great Powers to purge the West Bank of its settlements, like latter-day Balfours assuming authority over faraway people’s lives. Being anti-settler is a core part of their political and moral being. They ostentatiously avoid settler products. They noisily demand the liquidation of these evil entities. This is something far more intimate than political positioning. These people define their very virtue in contrast to the vice of the settlements. Their goodness is directly inverse to the belief system of those abnormal people who throw shit at Palestinians. And we wonder why there was so little sympathy for the Dees. ‘Occupiers dead’, the end.

The British silence on the massacre of these three British citizens is a new nadir in moral cowardice. The problem is that the faces of the murdered mother and her young, aspirational daughters pose too much of a threat to the self-aggrandising moral narrative of the anti-Israel set. These women dangerously call into question the hyper-racial depiction of Zionists as a wicked, abnormal people, and reveal that, in truth, some of them look and sound a lot like us. This must not stand. Too much moral capital has been invested in othering these people. And so Britain’s chattering class looks the other way – anywhere but into the eyes of the three women murdered for being Jews.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Times of Israel / Dee family.

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Topics Politics UK World

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