By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org
Palestinian terrorist attacks that result in only a few casualties vanish quickly from the headlines. The victims are hospitalized, the politicians issue condemnations, the Palestinian Authority praises the attacker, and then the episode is quickly forgotten. It’s rare that anybody is still paying attention weeks later, when the attacker appears in court.
That’s a shame, because sometimes what comes out during the legal process can be very revealing. Consider the attack on May 2, when a Palestinian terrorist named Muhannad Muhtaseb stabbed an elderly Jewish man in the Old City of Jerusalem. The attacker somehow managed to elude police for many hours, and then was found close to the scene of the attack, late that night.
It had been a mystery how Muhtaseb had managed to hide right nearby for so long. But now we know the answer: Three Arabs who reside in that neighborhood last week were indicted for sheltering the terrorist.
The prosecution’s charge sheet explains what happened. Immediately after attempting to murder the elderly Jews, Muhtaseb “enlisted the help” of an Arab man standing nearby. The helper was not involved in the attack. He did not know the stabber beforehand. He was a complete stranger. It appears the only thing he had in common with the terrorist was that they are both Arabs—and that was sufficient for the stranger to decide he should assist the would-be murderer. The stranger “led Muhtaseb into a hard-to-find compound” nearby that was “concealed from security cameras.” (There are many such cameras in the dense urban streets of the Old City.)
He was not the only bystander to make the immoral choice to help the killer instead of the victim. Apparently he telephoned some acquaintances, and in short order, “two other accomplices arrived.” One of them “harbored the attacker in his nearby home, and allowed him to wipe the blood from his body and change into a different pair of clothes.” The other accomplice “kept watch near the compound and, when he saw [police] officers in the area, rushed to tell Muhtaseb to flee.” Two of the three helpers then took Muhtaseb “to another home nearby.”
These three accomplices obviously understood that what they were doing was illegal. If caught—as they soon were—they would go to jail. Yet they were willing to risk their own freedom to help someone who had just brutally stabbed an innocent old man. In fact, they were helping him precisely because the old man he had stabbed was a Jew.
We Americans naturally find such behavior surprising. Imagine if you happened to be walking down a street in, say, Chicago, and you saw a man with a knife stab somebody and then start to run away. Would your response be to take him to your house and hide him from the police? Would you enlist your friends to provide additional assistance? And how likely would it be that there would be multiple homes in the immediate vicinity where the homeowners were so sympathetic to the stabber that you could bring him there?
I have been troubled by the response of Arab bystanders in a number of recent Palestinian attacks. On May 11, two elderly Jewish women were stabbed and wounded by two terrorists as the women and three friends were strolling along the popular Haas Promenade in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. One of the friends, Marina Fuchs, age 86, told Israel’s Channel 10 what happened when they asked some Arab laborers for help: “We walked and next to the bathrooms stood Arabs who were cleaning there. We asked them to call an ambulance. They wouldn’t agree to do so, and acted as if they were talking on the phone.”
Imagine the scene. Two elderly women lying on the ground, bleeding profusely. Three other elderly women begging for help. And the Arab workers refused to even call an ambulance.
Last October, 21 year-old Aharon Banita Bennett was stabbed to death on Hagai Street, in the Old City of Jerusalem. His wife and 2-year-old son were wounded by the attackers. Rabbi Nehemia Lavi witnessed the attack from the window of his home, and rushed outside to intervene. He, too, was stabbed to death. Israel’s Channel 2 reported that an Arab-run health clinic adjacent to the scene of the attack “was open at the time of the attack and medical staff was present inside,” yet “the Arab medical team did not go out to provide treatment to the wounded.”
Bennett’s wife said that as she attempted to flee the terrorists, Arab storekeepers “mocked and laughed” at her, instead of helping her.
It is often pointed out that only a small minority of Palestinian Arabs personally engage in violence against Jews. That is obviously true. But I wonder about the much larger number of Palestinians who respond to terrorism against Jews by sheltering the killers, or laughing at the victims, or refusing to call an ambulance. And I wonder about the Palestinian society that fosters the environment and culture of hatred which inspires such despicable behavior.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
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