Why is Muhammad Abu al-Hawa dead?

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Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was a 42-year-old father of eight when he died last Wednesday night. As Israeli Jews were beginning our Pessah Seders and retelling the story of our exodus from Egypt and our rebirth as a free nation, Abu al-Hawa was being tortured by Fatah terrorists. As we ate our Seder meal, he was shot seven times. As we called out "Next year in Jerusalem," Abu al-Hawa's body and car were torched.


Abu al-Hawa was tortured and murdered because he stood accused of committing what the Palestinians consider a capital crime. Eight young children were orphaned last Wednesday night because their father allegedly sold an apartment building in Israel's capital city to Jews. The building in question is located in Jerusalem's A-Tur neighborhood, just above the Temple Mount on the Mount of Olives.


Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was buried in a makeshift cemetery on the road between Jerusalem where he lived, and Jericho where he was murdered. His body was buried there because the Palestinian Authority's mufti in Jerusalem, Ikremah Sabri, has barred all Muslims accused of selling land to Jews from being buried in a Muslim cemetery.


When the PA was established in 1994, the first "legal" step its chairman Yasser Arafat and its justice minister Freih Abu Medein took was to declare null and void all laws that had been in force until that date. After plunging Palestinian society into legal chaos, Arafat and Medein reinstated one law. That law was a Jordanian law which Israel had revoked in 1967. It made selling land to Jews a capital offense.

SINCE 1994, dozens of Arab Israelis and PA residents have been murdered on suspicion of selling land to Jews. Abu al-Hawa's murder – like those that preceded it – tells us several important things about Palestinian society. It tells us that like the PA today, any successor Palestinian state will be a racist, apartheid state where laws will be promulgated based solely on race and religious origin. Jews will be denied all basic human rights and Arabs who peacefully coexist with Jews will be accused of treason and made targets for murder.


On Saturday night Sheikh Raed Salah, the former mayor of Umm el-Fahm and the head of the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement, spoke to an audience of some 30,000 Israeli Arabs in Kafr Kana. There he placed Abu al-Hawa's murder in the context of the Arab-Islamic strategy for conquering Jerusalem. His address, which was broadcast live by al-Jazeera, was devoted to calling for the expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem. He called on his Arab brethren to "save Jerusalem from the hands of the Jews," promising that "Jerusalem will soon be the capital of the world Islamic nation, and it will be governed by a caliphate."


Salah's speech placed him in the company of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Sunni cleric who acts as a religious authority for both Hamas and al-Qaida. Speaking in Sanaa, Yemen, last December, Qaradawi, who chairs the Al-Quds Foundation, referred to the goal of Islamizing Jerusalem by ending coexistence with Israel as "a civilian jihad that should go side by side with armed resistance."


Today, there is no figure of authority in the Arab and Islamic world in general and in the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority particularly who would have stood up for Abu al-Hawa. For today's Arab and Islamic leaders, murders like Abu al-Hawa's serve an "educational" goal of terrorizing Palestinians into ending any ongoing relationships they may have with Israelis.


Neither Abu al-Hawa nor countless other victims before him had an opportunity to answer the charges leveled against them. According to Palestinians and to Jews involved in purchasing lands from Palestinians, in the majority of cases, the Arabs murdered for the "crime" of selling land to Jews never sold land to Jews. At most they were "guilty" of having ties of friendship or commerce with Israelis. The fact that merely having relations with Jews can expose an Arab to allegations of collaboration is enough to convince most Palestinians that they shouldn't have anything to do with Israel or Israelis. So by murdering people like Abu al-Hawa, the Palestinian leadership ensures that Palestinians will be too afraid of being killed to risk peaceful coexistence with Israel.


YET WHILE once marked as a land seller Abu al-Hawa could expect no protection from the Palestinian leadership, as a resident of Jerusalem he had a legal right to expect Israeli authorities to protect him.


Indeed, it was the responsibility of the Israel Police to protect him. Disturbingly, not only did the police not protect him, they may well have made it impossible for him to escape death.


Last month the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered the police to evict squatters from the building formerly owned by Abu al-Hawa who had moved in during the previous weeks. Sources intimately involved with the story allege that rather than carry out the eviction order as quietly as possible in order to minimize local Arab attention to what was already shaping up to be a difficult and dangerous situation for Abu al-Hawa, the police leaked the court-ordered operation to Israel's TV Channel 10.


Last Sunday and Monday nights, Channel 10 led its primetime news broadcasts with footage from the police operation at A-Tur. The footage showed riot police ejecting the squatters and their personal effects from the apartment building. Reporter Assaf Zohar portrayed the Arab squatters as innocent victims and the Jews who bought the building legally, guarded the building legally and moved into the building legally as arrogant bullies and greedy, wealthy fanatics.


Abu al-Hawa described Jews approaching him with a suitcase filled with cash offering to buy his apartment. He vociferously claimed that he refused their pushy offers because he would never sell to Jews. Zohar made no mention of the fact that the PA conducts extrajudicial murders of those accused of selling land to Jews.


IT WAS hard to imagine Al-Jazeera portraying Jews in a worse light than Israel's Channel 10. The fact that the building in question is located in Israel's capital city across the street from the Temple Mount apparently made absolutely no impression on Zohar.


After the Channel 10 "expose," the level of incitement against Abu al-Hawa went up several decibels in A-Tur and in the PA. Sources in the neighborhood argue that if he had been harassed by the PA before the Channel 10 broadcast, Abu al-Hawa's life was immediately imperiled in the broadcast's aftermath.


The fact that the police allowed and allegedly facilitated Channel 10's coverage of the evictions together with the decidedly anti-Israel slant of the Channel 10 story says two very disturbing things about the state of Israel's elites today. In the case of the police, it says that the one body responsible for safeguarding Abu al-Hawa's life operated in contradiction to its basic mission.


If the police had wished, they could have made it clear to neighborhood residents and PA interlopers that it was in their best interests to leave Abu al-Hawa and his family alone. Yet rather than do so, they apparently facilitated the Channel 10 coverage which made killing Abu al-Hawa a matter of honor for his murderers eager to prove their mettle as defenders of Palestinian pride and Islamic solidarity against the Jews.


For its part, Channel 10's unsettlingly biased story was noteworthy not merely because it made Abu al-Hawa an irresistible target. It was noteworthy for what it said about how Israel's elites view official Palestinian anti-Semitism. By leading their primetime news broadcast night after night with a seven minute segment that portrayed Jews moving into a building in Jerusalem as wealthy, exploitative trespassers, Channel 10 showed that its editors, producers and re
porters accept the anti-Semitic basis of Palestinian claims against Israel.


That is, these representatives of the Israeli elite classes believe that the goal of establishing a Palestinian state justifies nullifying the right of Jews to own land in areas that the Palestinians claim are theirs.


There is little doubt that the combined capabilities of the police, the IDF and the Shin Bet could easily render it all but impossible for Palestinians to carry out their "law" dictating the murder of those who sell land to Jews. They could also make it clear to the Palestinians and the Israeli Arab leadership that they have no choice other than to abide by Israeli law in Israel's capital. That is, Israel has the physical and intelligence capacity to win this war for the maintenance of survival of the Jewish state against its domestic foes rather handily.


Unfortunately, for Israel to win this war, it first needs to accept that it has a right to fight it. And when our elites adopt the racist Palestinian narrative of the war and present it to the Israeli public as an objective truth, accepting that Israel has a right to fight this war becomes a Herculean effort.


Abu al-Hawa's torture and murder is the result not only of the barbarism that reigns supreme in Palestinian society. It is also result of the fact that supporters of that barbarism reign supreme in Israeli society.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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