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?