All the U.S. national news headlines speak of yesterday’s heinous synagogue terror attack by Palestinians in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof (largely populated by Haredi Jews). The assault resulted in five Israeli dead with the two Palestinians attackers killed as well. U.S. news programs have also focused on the American citizenship of three of the victims, bringing it closer to home.
Ironically, Har Nof means roughly (“lovely view”) and is the Hebraized name for the village of Deir Yassin, where the Irgun murdered 100 Palestinians as part of the pre-war (1948) violence that eventually led to the Nakba. It’s also a bit of black humor that after the War of Independence, Deir Yassin became the site of an Israeli mental asylum, the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center. It’s horrible to think that this single place could be the site of two such tragedies.
Jerry Haber offered this eloquent perspective on Har Nof:
I refuse to be affected by scenes of blood distributed by partisans from Har Nor or from Gaza. I refuse to play moral one-upmanship on behalf of my tribe or any tribe. In Cast Lead, I told people to stop forwarding me pictures of Palestinian babies who were blown to bits, the purpose of which was to harden my heart against the Other. The scenes of praying Jews lying in their blood remind me of the Jewish terrorist Barukh Goldstein and not Kristalnacht. But I pray to God that He gives me the strength to be unaffected, except by what I know to be right. This is not hardening my heart. This is stiffening my resolve not to be swayed by tribalist emotions. And, frankly, after seeing this go on for decades, it becomes easier.
In the next few days, after the IDF and the settlers will have taken their vengeance, under the Orwellian cover of “deterrence”, life will go on. The settlers who commit price-tag attacks will be condemned for a day, then understood, then arrested, maybe, convicted maybe, and pardoned, probably. The soldiers and police will do whatever they want with impunity, B’tselem cameras or not. Land will be expropriated, freedoms eliminated, the matrix of control and, most of all, the routine will continue until the next time, when Jews die, and the clueless Israelis hold everybody and everything but themselves responsible.
The families of the terrorists will have their houses blown up, and God’s name, and the memory of the Jews who were murdered today, will once again be desecrated
In this post, I want to focus on an earlier killing that has dropped out of the headlines. Two days ago, a Palestinian bus driver, Yusuf Al-Ramuni, was hung on his Egged bus. Israeli police immediately pronounced the death a suicide, before any forensic investigation.
An autopsy was performed by an Israeli pathologist. The victim’s family also named their own Palestinian pathologist to join the procedure. Within hours of the autopsy, Israeli media trumpeted the confirmation from the Israeli coroner confirming the verdict of suicide. They erronenously claimed that the Palestinian medical expert concurred with the Israeli opinion. Based on my own experience in such matters, everything seemed way too pat. When it appears Israel is overexerting to fit circumstances to a preconceived set of “facts,” you know something is askance.
I wanted to find out what the family’s medical expert said before wading into the subject. Last night, VICE linked to the Palestinian media version (similar report here), which stated categorically that the man was murdered by unknown “criminal others.” The following offers excerpted translations of this report (Arabic):
…According to the results of the initial autopsy he [the victim] was murdered by ‘strangulation by hanging’ and did not commit suicide…
The expert [pathologist] explained that … the autopsy showed postmortem lividity on the back, not on the lower extremities, indicating that the victim was not hanging for long.
In other words, in a standard case of suicide by hanging the blood would flow downward and pool in the legs and feet. In this case, the blood pooled in his back, indicating that he died while lying on the ground. He would later have been strung up in the bus in the condition in which he was found.
The account continues:
He [the pathologist] said samples of body fluids were taken to be tested in the laboratory to determine the presence or absence of narcotic substances… and pointed out that it devolves to the possibility that the martyr has been sprayed by someone with drugs, and at the same time another person may have tied a wire around his neck from behind and cut off oxygen from his brain…
There was no dislocation of the first neck vertebrae, which is usually found in cases of suicide by hanging.
He said that the crime lies in the context of “organized crime” in which criminals are working to hide any evidence… and added that the laboratory tests need a long time, which exceeds three months.
Again, I do not know how Al-Ramuni died. But neither do the Israeli police. And the fact that they rushed to declare him a suicide before having any scientific or medical basis for doing so–along with the Palestinian pathologist’s finding–offer a strong basis for suspecting murder.
Not to mention that suicide is exceedingly rare in Palestinian society and suicide by hanging even rarer. I think the Israeli version of events stinks.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter what really happened because Palestinains are so cynical and mistrustful of past Israeli bad behavior that they wouldn’t believe Israeli authorities even if they provided video of Al-Ramuni hanging himself. There is a deep credibility crisis, which no one seems to acknowledge. Why is it that Palestinians always have to prove their trustworthiness, while Israelis always assume that they are self-evidently so? That’s certainly not the way Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world see things.
Further, in the media rush to cover the horrific attack on the Har Nof synagogue, let’s not forget that this incident preceded it. Terror always has a context. Do not forget that no matter how heinous an event, something equally heinous preceded and incited it.
While the world justifiably gasps at an attack on a Jewish house of worship, let’s remember that Palestinians see their own mosques and cemeteries torched and desecrated by settler price taggers. They see hundreds of heavily armed Israeli Police defiling the sacred precinct of Haram Al Sharif. Does anyone believe that a Muslim is not as horrified by this encroachment as a Jew is by an assault on praying Jews?
It takes two, and Palestinian rage derives from Israeli provocation. Certainly, the settlers who murder Palestinians believe the converse. So why not credit Palestinian rage as much as Israeli?
I was bemused yesterday by John Kerry’s demand that Mahmoud Abbas express contrition for the Har Nof attack (which the PA leader dutifully did). Why should a measure of the worthiness of a Palestinian leader be based on how obeisant he is to Israeli pain or rage, when no Israeli leader (except perhaps Reuven Rivlin) expresses anything but rote lines of insincere, rehearsed regret at similar Palestinian suffering?
Examine once again Bibi’s response to the Kafr Kana police murder. He dispensed with rote regret altogether. He launched into barely controlled rage at Palestinian protests against this cold-blooded murder and warned they would be “dealt with” severely if they didn’t learn to behave themselves.
Bibi doesn’t mind the current level of civil unrest. It plays into his hand for upcoming elections, and this is literally all he cares about. Israelis flock to the strong man, even if he’s utterly unable to stifle Palestinian terror. The problem will be that Bibi will win an election, but have no more idea how to quell the rebellion after the election than he does now.
I wrote the title of this post deliberately, conveying a literal and figurative meaning. Law does not rule in Jerusalem. Bibi does not rule. Not even the security state rules. The wild-eyed, vengeful god of Terror does. Woe betide such a hellish zone of fire.
Those who murmur about a Third Intifada should admit that it’s already here. But unlike the earlier Intifadas, this one is a mutual affair in which Jewish terror (whether official and State-sponsored or vigilante-based) responds to Palestinian terror (or vice versa). This is a far more dangerous phenomenon than anything that preceded it. My fear is that the State, when it runs out of options, will resort to naked terror, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Think of Kent State in a U.S. context or Tiananmen Square in a Chinese context.
Like Casey Jones of the American folk-myth, we are on a train careening down a mountain grade after losing our brakes. Furiously blowing the whistle to warn bystanders to get out of the way won’t help. We are headed for disaster and no one will be spared. It’s only a matter of time before it happens.