General Antisemitism

A letter to Jim Bollan by Dennis MacEoin about the Itamar victims


This is cross posted by Denis MacEoin, and represents a response to West Dunbartonshire Council Member Jim Bollan’s comments about the Itamar massacre.

Dear Mr Bollan,

I’m sure you will not mind if I write a few words to you. After this introduction, you will find the text of a letter I sent in April to Tamar Fogel, the twelve-year-old daughter of Udi and Ruth (Ruti) Fogel and the sister of Yoav (11), Elad (4), and Hadas (5 months), all of whom were cruelly done to death in March in their home in the Jewish settlement of I’timar, having done no harm to a living soul, having committed no crime, having made a life for themselves and their children built upon their personal faith and their public duty. I am an atheist, probably like yourself. I am not a Jew, again like yourself. I am a former teacher of Arabic and Islamic Studies,a traveller in the Middle East, the author of books and articles about Islam and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I care about that conflict and I am sure I know much more about it then do you.

You and I stand at distant ends of the political spectrum, but this message is not primarily about politics. It is, in its core, about a five-month-old baby, a little girl barely conscious of life, who was slaughtered in her cradle by two teenaged boys from a nearby Arab village; and it is about a little girl, twelve-year-old Tamar, who came home one night and stepped on a scene that might well have sent her insane: blood on the walls and floors, her parents stabbed, her brothers and baby sister covered in blood, unmoving while her youngest brother Yishai pathetically stood trying to wake his father from sleep. She ran screaming from the house. However long she lives, she will never forget that scene. Which of us could ever expunge such a thing from our memory?

In his first appearance in court, Amjad Awad, one of the two murderers said ‘I don’t regret what I did, and would do it again. I’m proud of what I did and I’ll accept any punishment I get, even death, because I did it all for Palestine’. In the annals of ordinary murder, there are few killers who will make such a statement. Only heroes, men and women who kill to protect the defenceless will dare utter words like those. But Amjad Awad is not a hero. A killer of little children cannot, however noble his cause, be a hero or admirable or decent or courageous or brave or valiant. A child killer is the lowest form of humanity there can be. That Awad boasts of his deeds signifies his utter lack of morality, as does his pathetic excuse, that he did this ‘for Palestine’.

In a short e-mail you sent on the 5th of June, you seem to back Awad’s miserable excuse. You say ‘Violence breeds violence’. What violence had the Fogels done to the residents of Awad’s village? How had Hadas Fogel harmed any of them? What violence had young Tamar committed, what violence would she ever have committed, since her religion utterly abhors such wrongful use of violence? You say Awadf may have seen Palestinian children ‘slaughtered’ by the IDF. When has there ever been a slaughter of Palestinian children by the IDF? Has any Palestinian child died in that deliberate, knowing fashion practised on the Fogels by Amjad Awad and his friend? Every death of every Palestinian child is regretted in and outside Israel. Some – a tiny number – of those deaths have been the result of deliberate actions on the part of one IDF soldier or another. That is against Israeli rules of war and punishable. Some die when terrorist groups like Hamas kill them and place the blame on the IDF. The majority die when Palestinians engage in hostile operations against Israeli civilians. In such cases, the IDF have a legal duty to defend their own people, and inevitably enemy combatants are killed, and equally inevitably Palestinian civilians, including children, are shot or die as suicide bombers.

But the Fogel murders did not take place in the course of conflict. The victims were at home asleep. I don’t care how Awad felt about Palestine: he and his accomplice had spent days looking for weapons. They went to I’timar in cold blood. They selected the Fogel home at random. They carried out the killings maliciously, and they did so because they were the products of a society that preaches death on television, on radio, in sermons, in newspapers, in the suqs, in children’s summer camps, in school textbooks, in political speeches. Death and hatred. Hatred of Israelis expressed as hatred of Jews. A religious hatred of Jews and a racist hatred of Jews. You won’t hear hatred promoted like that in Israel.

I challenge you to read my letter to Tamar, which has been co-signed by hundreds of people. Just take it at face value. But here’s the hard bit. I would like you to go to I’timar with me to meet Tamar. I want you to repeat what you said in your e-mail to her and her remaining family. I want you to look that little girl in the eyes and explain to her why the slaughter of her family was justified. Why Amjad Awad and his friend were right in their own eyes to do what they did, that as Amjad stabbed little Hadas to her untimely death thoughts of Palestine and the rightness of hate and the morality of murderous death paraded through his mind. I am serious about a visit to Tamar. I can arrange it, and I can probably obtain funding for your trip and accommodation. Perhaps other members of your Council would like to come to see you persuade them that you are a man of conviction, that you are willing to put your money (as it were) where your mouth is. Because, if in the end you show that you do not have the courage of your convictions, that you are the man of straw I believe you to be, then they at least have the right to know how hollow your convictions really are.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin

Here’s MacEoin’s original open letter to Tamar Fogel:

Dear Tamar,

We have never met, nor are we likely to. I am not a Jew nor an Israeli, though for many years I have defended both Jews and Israelis from the physical and political attacks that are made on them. I live in England, though I’m Irish. The Irish used to be great enemies of the English, who did bad things to us, but who gave us their language, something in which we excel. But many years ago, long before you were born, the enmity between the Irish and the English faded. We are not the same people, but we no longer hate each other, and the English Queen will soon make her first visit to Ireland, in a gesture that the past is past, that we are now allies, not enemies.

The most important thing for you is to be sure that the only guilty parties were the terrorists who carried out the slaughter. And I need not tell you that these were not the first Palestinian terrorists to take out their hate, their resentment, and their jealousy on helpless Jews living on Jewish land.

I have watched you in two videos, the first time when Binyamin Netanyahu came to visit you and your grandparents, and I still remember the force with which you challenged him, such an important man and such a young girl. And after that your tears. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now that the dead are at peace, and your two living brothers may grow up with less dark memories, but that you above all are old enough and aware enough to carry the most terrible memories through the rest of your life. But I also saw a second video in which you spoke to a reporter from Israeli National Television, and here your tears gave way to a most articulate, awesomely mature, and moving assertion of your right to live in Samaria. I wish every Palestinian could watch that video with an Arabic voice-over. Perhaps there and then they might see that their fight against Israel is worthless, that you will never surrender, that you will not let yourselves be led to the slaughter as happened all those years ago. Rabbi Chaim Potok once wrote that there are no more gentle Jews. He did not mean that Jews are no longer kind or good, but that they now know how to fight back. Kol Hakavod for every word you spoke.

You will grow up among strong people, and you will finally marry and have children of your own. That may seem far off to you, but to someone much older like myself, it will happen in no time at all. When that happens, and when your two brothers find wives and have children, there will soon be more Fogels than before. They cannot substitute for the dead, but they can stand up and speak for them down the long years to come. Your life, however much you may wish it otherwise, will be overshadowed by the terrible event that has fallen on you. You will ask questions and you may find answers. After the Shoah, many rabbis tackled the question of hester panim, asking why HaShem had seemed to turn his face away from his people. I am not a Jew, and I cannot provide easy answers to those questions. You must seek your own answers from your rabbis and in your scriptures. One answer may be found in a short sound recording that was made in Belsen shortly after its liberation by British forces. It was made by the BBC and contains at the end description of a Shabbat service held by a British rabbi, at the end of which the survivors stand and sing HaTikva. They are weak, they are out of tune, some of them will still die: but they are singing in open defiance of the very great Nazi evil that had overwhelmed them and their families. Three years after that, the state of Israel was established.

I’m writing, first because I’m a writer and that’s how I express my feelings best. But also because I want to convey just how many people’s thoughts are with you. You have your grandparents and aunts or uncles, and after that you have your small and concerned community of I’timar, but beyond that you have a world of people, Jews and non-Jews, who stand with you in your grief. We feel helpless, not knowing what we can or should do to help, yet longing to do so. How many people can say they truly love the murderers who came to your house that night? Some may hand out candies and dance in the streets, but how meaningful is that? They love themselves and their own dreams of glory, but who can truly love men of blood, people who kill infants in their cradles?

For you the greatest problem of the next few years may be this: you are still a child and you deserve to be reading funny books and watching films and playing games and going to your youth club; but many will treat you as an adult before you are entirely ready for adult responsibilities. You do seem older than your years, but you should not be rushed into adulthood. I am sure your grandparents and others will understand this and will do their best to protect you from those who want to take your childhood away from you.

Enough of the advice! Everyone likes to give advice. You don’t have to listen to any of it, and advice isn’t really the reason I’ve written. You are in my thoughts and in the thoughts of millions of other people because the murder of your family has gone so deeply into so many people’s hearts. The list of atrocities carried out on Jews, not just in Israel but beyond, is very long. As a result, it’s easy to let them all blur together into one mass. But every so often one death or a group of deaths stands out and demands special attention. One day there will be a memorial to the sacrifice your family made. People from far away may come to visit it. Photographs of it will appear in the press. But the true memorial will be you, an ordinary girl, with a torn heart and a wounded soul, going to school, going to shul, making friends, baking bread, sewing, cooking, reading, blushing when a certain young man comes to speak to you, going to Kever Yosef to marry him, giving birth to your first child. I just mean to say that no-one expects from you heroic deeds, no-one wants you to have to shoulder resistance to all the evils you know better than most. It is your ordinary deeds, the day-to-day living of an ordinary life that are for the creators of horror the most painful thing of all, that Jews will continue to live on land sanctified by Jewish blood. At the end of that recording made in Belsen, someone calls out ‘Am Yisrael Chai’. By living, the killers only bring eternal disgrace on themselves, their families, and everyone who shelters them. By living, you make clear to everyone that the People of Israel live, that their light will not be snuffed out, and that when your enemies have gone to dust and seen a darkness beyond measure engulf them, the light of the Jews will illuminate the nations. Grow and be happy and tell us what you see on your journey.

21 replies »

  1. The letter to Bollan is great, but the letter to Tamar is quite simply extraordinary. Thank you for posting it.

    By the way, you’ve added an extra E to Denis MacEoin’s name!

  2. Every word of both letters is pure righteousness , truth , clarity and dignity. They are pearls wasted on a swine .
    Let these words be seered into the minds and souls of every Jew hater

  3. This Bollan guy has never got so much attention in his life and he’s probably enjoying being at the centre of so much attention.

  4. Wonderful letters from a highly intelligent, thoughtful and ethical man whose understanding of the issues has been gleaned from experience and academic study – as opposed to the newspapers and the TV.

    .Were they sent directly to Cllr. Bollan?

    Let’s see if the Councillor has it in him to find the courage to acknowledge Dr MacEeion’s gesture. He – and his colleagues – have now been presented with a marvellous opportunity to demonstrate the famous ‘strengthening of resolve’ mentioned by Cllr. McColl.

    The Councillor’s reply an subsequent actions will be enlightening,. His failure to do so will be likewise.

  5. I believe these letters to be essential reading to as wide an audience as possible . Can they be cross posted at sites such as harrys place . I would dare to suggest cif but fear they would be soiled by the hate mongers.
    I realize the sensitive and personal nature of these letters to the fogel family and perhaps wider distribution should only be with their permission

  6. A deeply moving letter from Denis MacEeoin. Of course Bollan won’t take up the invitation to visit Tamar. He is a vicious bitter man without a shred of human warmth, writing filth from the comfort of his office. An encounter with reality would probably give him a heart attack – if he had a heart.

  7. I very much doubt Bollan will reply. He seems unable to reason, and can’t string a sentence together unless it comprises slogans here’s heard elsewhere.

  8. Bollan did reply quite quickly and predictably. I’ll paste it in here. I am writing a response to this, but I’m taking my time. Then I will do more.

    ‘A kind thought to write to Tamar. I have seen many videos of innocent Palestinian children murdered by the IDF with bullet holes in their chest, in their heads, with legs blown of, with arms blown of, blinded with tear gas, terrified with high velocity rifles pointed in their faces on the way to school or to pick olives in the valley. I stand by every word I said in my email to the Zionist who contacted me. I have seen videos of settlers learning 5 year old children how to use hand guns and automatic weapons. You are a writer. There is an Irish writer going on the Irish boat as part of the peace flotilla to break the siege of Gaza where Israel inflicts collective punishment on 1,5m innocent Palestinians. That writer is going to show Solidarity with an oppressed people, the Palestinians. There will be no peace for Israel…without justice for the Palestinians. Unless we speak out…nothing will change.’

    Thanks
    Jim Bollan
    Leven Ward
    Mob 07803668766
    Home 01389 756397
    james.bollan@west-dunbarton.gov.uk

    • People like this have closed minds. Denis’s extraordinary letters have made no impact, because the man is simply not capable of understanding or empathising with what was written. He instantly rebuts every argument with those of his own – humanity doesn’t really come into it because he can’t or won’t acknowledge that each side has a point – only his.

    • Denis, excellent as always and pitched at exactly the right level.

      Bollan’s reply is sadly predictable isn’t it? It’s full of all the usual buzz words. He is entrenched behind his original argument (ie that the Fogel family, being Israeli, Jewish and living on the West Bank “had it coming”, although he didn’t put it quite like that) and no reasoned argument such as yours will budge him from that.

      He seems not to be able to apprehend why people should want to present the other side of the argument, not to rubbish him but respectfully as you did.

      In short, he’s an ignorant fool

  9. Can someone remind me why we’re spending so much time giving this impotent little bigot the attention he so craves? I’m not saying there isn’t a good reason to expose him. I know there is fear that his action will cause a domino effect. Though it didn’t (really) in Dundee today.

    We know there are racists across the world. Why are we spending so much time on this one? (Note, these are genuine questions. There might be very good reasons. I want to know what they are.)

  10. “You are a writer. There is an Irish writer going on the Irish boat as part of the peace flotilla to break the siege of Gaza where Israel inflicts collective punishment on 1,5m innocent Palestinians”

    JHow very William Wallace of the writer. He’s probably been influenced by Mel Gibson shouting ‘Freedom’ before the axe descends.

    Anyway, I thought Jim lived in Scotland? I’m beginning to wonder if he inhabits a planet on a galaxy far, far away where the term ’cause and effect’ has another meaning.

    Innocent people tend not to bombard their neighbours with thousands of rockets, Jim.
    Innocent people want nothing more than peace in order to end their ‘siege’.
    Innocent people tend not to express explicitly their desire to unite a whole region of the earth in order to murder the inhabitants of a small state within its boundaries.

    Innocent people do not need our own Foreign Office to warn Brits not to even think of visiting Gaza due to the inter-militant strife and the risk of kidnap. Interestingly, our FO doesn’t seem to have similar concerns about Brits being being kidnapped, tortured or hanged by Israelis.

    Oh, and innocent people would allow the Red Cross in to see Gilad Shalit.

    Here’s a thought – a revolutionary one, I admit – how about the leaders of the Palestinian people seek life and peace for once, instead of death and destruction?

    If this is the sort of ‘data’ that the councillors of WDC are using in order to decide a vote then there is something very seriously amiss.

    I hope the opposition are making good use of this.

  11. Oy va Goy

    I see your point. I can only tell you what lies behind my rationale for continuing to contribute to articles about WDC.

    This man is a local councillor who makes decisions on behalf of the people of West Dunbartonshire. Bollan and other councillors took a vote based on nothing more than the information they could glean from the TV and the newspapers. Might have been Reuters…might have been the Jerusalem Post, but it might equally have been the Daily Star. No local politician should vote about any issue whatsoever without adequate information and subsequent debate and questioning.. And, as I’ve said before, of all the people who should know how the Press can be biased then it is politicians at every level. If the vote was taken based on media coverage, Jim Bollan’s blatantly prejudiced views and the other councillors’ wish to give him ‘support’ for his views (like a council is a support group!), and if that is typical of how the decision-making process works in WDC, then their electorate have a right to know it. They can make their own decisions via the ballot box come the next election.

    They also have a right to know that they have councillors who, when challenged because of an unpopular decision, say that because they’ve been upset they’re simply going to ‘strengthen their resolve’. I believe police action due to so-called ‘threats’ (no proof offered) was mentioned on one blog. Which council do they think they’re manning? The Borough of Damascus? The whole point of them being in this job is to listen to the people and act on their behalf.

    The committee who took this vote haven’t just made the town of Dunbarton the focus of media attention – the entire people of Scotland have been being discussed from here to San Francisco and beyond. That’s really, really unfair.

    The professional thing to do would be to hear the public outcry and hold a review. The council should invite representatives able to put forward the Israeli perspective and then re-consider their vote. It may not change – but they will have shown their ability to listen to the people. Which is why they were elected in the first place.