Before he was found dead early Saturday morning, the disappearance of an eight-year-old boy from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina was snowballing into a political football that threatened the tenuous calm between Jews and Arabs in the capital.
Qais Abu Ramila’s body was discovered in a reservoir of rainwater Saturday after long hours of search efforts after he was last seen at 4 p.m. Friday heading to a local market to buy pita. The boy apparently slipped into and drowned in the pool, full from the heavy rains last week, according to police.
Residents of Beit Hanina, including MK Ahmad Tibi, joined search teams in the area throughout the night.
Relatives of Abu Ramila claimed to have security footage showing the boy entering a car Friday afternoon, raising suspicions that he had been kidnapped.
With the 2014 abduction and murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists still fresh in the minds of many residents, the family issued a statement saying: “We demand the police check security footage [from the streets]. If it turns out he was kidnapped by settlers it would set the entire neighborhood on fire,” The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported.
The boy’s father later clarified that the video didn’t contain footage of his son, but some residents marched toward the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Neveh Ya’acov. Rock throwing ensued when police prevented them from entering the neighborhood and 12 demonstrators were lightly injured and three arrested.
Adding fuel to the fire, Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi re-tweeted a tweet from an account named “Real Seif Bitar” that accused “Israeli settlers” of kidnapping and executing Abu Ramila and also accused IDF soldiers of assaulting search teams. Ashrawi added to her tweet “the heart just shatters, the pain is unbearable, no words.”
US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib then re-tweeted Ashrawi and included all the allegations.
Ashrawi later apologized for her tweet. “My apologizes for re-tweeting something that’s not fully verified. It seems that the news of his being kidnapped is not certain.” Tlaib, the Democratic representative from Michigan, also retweeted and the tweet was thereafter deleted but she did not apologize for spreading the false information.
The tweets led to an outpouring of incitement against Israel and responses of blood libel against Israel.
Israeli-Jewish Congress executive director Arsen Ostrovsky wrote “seriously Rashida Tlaib?... This was a tragic case of a child who went missing and fell into a pool of rainwater. Have you no shame in reposting these lies?”
On Saturday, video clips showed first responders wading through the waist-deep pond carrying Abu Ramila’s lifeless body, bringing the drama to its tragic conclusion.
At Abu Ramila’s funeral Saturday, the family and residents of Beit Hanina criticized the Jerusalem Municipality for neglecting the reservoir and not building a fence around it.
“It’s not a reservoir, it’s death trap,” said one family member.
Despite the best efforts by some who would have liked to have propelled the tragedy into another incendiary chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this time there was just a young boy whose life ended way too soon and a shattered family left to mourn.
Despite the best efforts to turn the tragedy into another chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this time there was just a young boy whose life ended way too soon and a shattered family left to mourn.