Bad acts against Palestinians in the U.S.

October 16, 2023 • 9:15 am

I want to make it clear that I deplore violence (I was a conscientious objector, sanctioning state violence only in the case of a “just war”, which Vietnam wasn’t). And I don’t favor personal violence unless it’s necessary for self-defense or to defend others against unwarranted attacks. (I was in a fight only once in my life, when a group of thugs in my high school called me a “dirty Jew”.) I see the Israeli attack as a just war—a war of self-defense, but of course there will be unjust incidents, as there are even in just wars (e.g., WWII, when there were several incidents in which American or Soviet soldiers shot P.O.W.s).

Sadly, we’ve had an incident of individual violence here in Chicago: the murder of a 6-year-old boy and wounding of his mother, apparently stabbed solely because they were Muslim.

The authorities in suburban Chicago accused a man of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old boy on Saturday and seriously wounding the boy’s mother because they were Muslim, an attack that officials tied to the violence in Israel and Gaza.

The killing in Illinois alarmed Muslim leaders, who called on American politicians and journalists to more fully reflect the humanity of Palestinian people as they address the conflict overseas.

“This was directly connected to dehumanizing of Palestinians,” said Abdelnasser Rashid, a Democratic Illinois state representative who is Palestinian American.

Investigators in Will County, Ill., southwest of Chicago, described a gory scene. They said a 71-year-old landlord turned on the boy and his mother, who were his tenants, at their home in Plainfield Township on Saturday morning, stabbing them repeatedly with a serrated knife that had a seven-inch blade.

The boy, identified as Wadea Al-Fayoume by a family member and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was stabbed 26 times and pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the sheriff’s office. The boy’s mother, 32, was in serious condition with more than a dozen stab wounds, officials said. Officials said she ran into a bathroom and continued fighting off the attacker as she dialed 911. Relatives said the family is Palestinian American.

They have a suspect, 71-year-old Joseph M. Czuba, and so far the evidence for a hate crime is this:

According to CAIR’s [Council on American-Islamic Relations] account of the text messages, the landlord knocked on the family’s door, and when the mother opened it he tried to choke her and attacked her with a knife, yelling, “You Muslims must die!”

Attacks on peaceful civilians like this are immoral and reprehensible, and what we see here is a mirror of what Hamas did: killing people because of their faith alone.  Here’s a photo of Adea Al-Fayoume from the NYT, a boy who will never get to grow up:

And while I’m condemning religiously motivated attacks, here’s one that’s not as serious but still unwarranted and reprehensible. Click to read:

This one’s especially bad because although it’s a Palestinian restaurant run by Palestinians, they welcomed Jews and Palestinians, who ate together amicably.

“I appreciate people coming here to eat good food and find peace,” said Ms. Masoud, who welcomes all.

Esther Smith, who is Jewish, stopped in for a quick bite this week with her husband. “It’s kind of ironic that we chose this place,” said Ms. Smith, 47. “It’s a good reminder that we really have to separate the politics from the people.”

But the war in Israel is testing the ties that bind Bay Ridge, and setting aside decades of complex and painful politics is not so simple. At Ayat, a mural overlooking the room shows Palestinian children imprisoned underneath the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem, guarded by Israeli soldiers.

After the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Ayat was suddenly flooded with dozens of one-star reviews online.

. . . Since Ayat opened, with its Palestinian flags and mural, the couple has been accused of antisemitism and of spreading hate and called terrorists on Instagram and other social media. They lost a few Jewish friends, who knew Ms. Masoud was Palestinian but became uncomfortable with their restaurant.

. . . After Ayat started racking up bad reviews, Mr. Elenani reported them and managed to get most of them taken down. Some reviews urged people to stay away from a Palestinian business. It did not work: There has been no drop-off in customers.

In the end, no damage done to the Masouds.  Good food is good food, and the owners seem fine.  Punishing them because they’re Palestinian is equivalent, in my view, to harassing Republicans dining in restaurants with their families, simply because they’re Republicans.

I’m not trying to say that “both sides are equal” in the war, of course (they’re not: Israel is far more morally justified), nor that comity will solve big political problems, for it won’t, at least in this war.  But neither will I let Americans get away with demonizing peaceful Palestinians because of factors that the Palestinians can’t control: their religion and national origin. Yes, Palestinian civilians will die in the coming ground assault, but they will not be deliberate targets, and that is surely not morally equivalent to the deliberate murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume.

As for the restaurant, if a Palestinian is going to serve me good food at a reasonable price, I’ll certainly eat there. Remember this scene in Seinfeld about the Palestinian chicken joint?

12 thoughts on “Bad acts against Palestinians in the U.S.

  1. Human beings tend everyday and in every place toward black and white. So sad for these stories. And sadness here – or in your reporting – in no way améliorâtes the deep sadness about the killings in Israel.

  2. I fully appreciate that this is the wrong time to bring this up… However, to some degree Israel and the US encouraged Hamas to take hostages. In the fairly recent past, Israel has traded 1000 prisoners for one Israeli (Gilad Shalit). The US has paid $ billions to get prisoners back. I would blame all of this on Netanyahu. However, the 1000:1 prisoner trade was (apparently) supported across Israeli society.

    Will Israel (and the US) trade hostages for prisoners / money this time around? Who knows. Hamas will probably try. If Hamas does not use hostages for trading, then Hamas will use them as human shields. Will this work? Who knows.

  3. Arab food is overrated. My wife went to Jordan and Egypt and brought back plenty. Not nearly as good as Asian food. My opinion of course. Let me say (based on her reports) that Jordan and Egypt are quite impressive. But not for the food.

    1. I agree, Jordan is impressive. I went there a long while ago to assess some work on the old Kings (Hussein) favourite aeroplane, a venerable DeHavilland Dove. It was said that he owed his life to this aeroplane and his co pilot and it was beautifully kept , often flown and well maintained. The event is described below.
      I met His Majesty and was treated exceptionally well even to a private visit to the Rock city Petra and the people I also met were wonderful and welcoming. Of course Royalty may have had an input but nevertheless I will never forget Jordan and the experience.
      Another time and place but still dangerous then.
      King Hussein died in February 1999 and his copilot not that long after.

      JAC: I have cut the long obituary as it’s not relevant to this thread. If you have a link you can post it below, but all of this has nothing to do with the topic of the post.

  4. I was saddened when I read about this. There’s no excuse. How can a six-year-old child and his mother in Chicago possibly be held responsible for events thousands of miles away. Reprehensible.

  5. Two points about the tragic murder of the 6-year-old boy: I think it should be made clear that this was not perpetrated by a Jewish man; many will naturally assume so. Secondly, it’s not at all straightforward that the guy killed him, as you put it “because of their faith alone”. He was very obviously mentally deranged. Aside from his obviously deranged appearance in the booking photo, there’s these details from another article on the story (source:

    In the 45-minute hearing, prosecutors explained how Czuba became increasingly concerned about his safety while listening to media about the Israel-Hamas war before violently attacking his Muslim tenants.

    Czuba’s wife told detectives that he “believed he was in danger and she [his tenant, Shahin] was going to call Palestinian friends to come and harm them,” Michael Fitzgerald, a Will County assistant state’s attorney, said during a detention hearing Monday. Prosecutors and his assistant public defender did not provide any evidence backing up Czuba’s concerns.

    Czuba’s wife told detectives that he had taken out $1,000 from his bank because he believed “the grid” would go down, Fitzgerald said. He was worried about the “national day of jihad” on Oct. 13 and, even though nothing happened then, told his wife that he believed something would happen the following day, without specifying what, Fitzgerald said.

  6. I don’t have a dog in this fight. It’s just a tragic situation, and I can’t see a good way out. And I do think that Netanyahu has behaved shamefully over the years, without in any way wishing to sanction the murderous behaviour of Hamas. But this from the late GEM Anscombe has shaped my thinking. Murder of civilians, by whatever side, is never acceptable.

    1. Prof. Anscombe’s carefully developed argument against President Truman receiving his honorary degree from Oxford was specifically and solely over his decision to use the atomic bombs against Japan, an act she characterized as murder in war. She takes pains to show that the killing of civilians in war is not itself murder, except when it is, and the exception was why she was objecting to Truman’s being honoured.

      I’m not clear about the point you are trying to make. No one is using nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction or unusually gruesome effects in Gaza.

      1. Hey Leslie, I’m never entirely clear what point I’m trying to make myself. But Prof Anscombe’s point, as I understand it, was not just about weapons of mass destruction per se, but more this: “For men to choose to kill the innocent as a means to an end is always murder, and murder is one of the worst human actions.” Hamas were certainly guilty of murder, but I also think people like Ariel Sharon have been guilty of that too.

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