Every decent Israeli should read Omar al-Abed’s last testament. The real betrayal is not to read his last words. The real betrayal is to think that metal detectors and targeted killings, more detentions and home demolitions, torture and disinheritance could prevent the numerous attacks that are yet to come. The real betrayal is to bury your head in the sand.
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Without denying the horror of his terrible deed, every Israeli must pay attention to Abed’s words and draw the unavoidable conclusions. The entire West Bank, and the Gaza Strip too, of course, will turn into Omar al-Abed, there’s no telling when. Anyone who thinks it could be otherwise should look to history. This is what occupation and resistance to it look like: massive, pointless bloodshed.
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“These are my last words,” wrote the young man from the West Bank village of Kobar before setting out to kill settlers in the adjacent settlement of Halamish. “I am young, not yet 20. I had many dreams and aspirations, but what kind of life is this, with our women and youths murdered without justification?”
What could we have told Abed? That their women and youths were not being murdered without justification? Abed lived in a beautiful village, in a reality that could not be uglier. His neighbor Nael Barghouti, for example, who was released from an Israeli prison after serving 33 years for murdering a bus driver, was returned to prison — in an act of terrible arbitrariness — ostensibly for violating the terms of his parole. Another neighbor, naturally, is Marwan Barghouti, who in a more just and less stupid world would have long been free ago to lead his nation.
Abed set out to kill settlers because “they desecrate the Al-Aqsa mosque and we sleep,” because “it’s a disgrace that we sit by idly.” As Israeli Border Police officers conducted a sickening search for corpses in the morgue of East Jerusalem’s Makassed Hospital, Abed planned his bloody deed. As his peers in Jerusalem tried to rescue the bleeding body of their friend, lest Israel abduct it, as is its wont, he was unable to remain silent. “You who have weapons that are rusting, that you take out only for weddings and celebrations, are you not ashamed of yourselves? Why won’t you declare war in the name of God? They have closed Al-Aqsa and your weapons are still.”
The words sound almost biblical. Similar ones have been written in the course of every struggle for liberation, including our own, of course. They are accompanied by religious terms, because the writer believes in God. In other struggles, too, such as ours, religion was harnessed to in the service of the nation. What would you have told Abed had you met him before he set out to sow death, other than “Thou shalt not kill”? That he should yield and surrender? That justice is not on his side, but on that of the occupation? That he has a hope of living a normal life? What could an Israeli say to a desperate young Palestinian who indeed has no future, no opportunity for change, no hopeful scenario, a man whose life is one long humiliation? What would you have told him?
Despair runs deep in the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip it is even worse. This should keep every Israeli awake at night, since their state bears most of the responsibility for this situation. But if the moral responsibility for the Palestinians’ despair is not enough to prevent Israelis from sleeping, then the fact that this despair augurs ill for them as well should be sufficient. Abed had nothing to lose, and the person with nothing to lose is the most dangerous of enemies. Not even Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan can stop him.
The Israeli army raided Kobar on Saturday, imposing a closure and arresting one of Abed’s brothers, everything proceeding as usual. Soldiers conducted an “engineering survey” of the family’s home. The defense minister and the army chief of staff were given a “security survey.” The new Labor Party Chairman, Avi Gabbay, called for a condemnation, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid termed Abed a “base terrorist” and Labor’s Tzipi Livni said “we are united in our grief.” No one dared ask why Omar al-Abed, a 20-year-old with dreams and aspirations, bought a knife and set out to kill.