Snap Judgment: An inconvenient and untimely death

There is a connection between what happened in the North and a murder that took place on August 10.

calevbendavid88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Like Rachel Corrie, Angelo Frammartino was an idealistic young foreign political activist who came to Israel to work on behalf of the Palestinians. And, like her, he met a violent end here. In contrast to Corrie, though, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza three years ago, it is unlikely that there will be any songs written, plays performed or documentary movies made about the 24-year-old Frammartino. But maybe there should be - because his murder in Jerusalem this week also has significance beyond the immediate circumstances of his death. Frammartino arrived here in early August as part of a group of volunteers sent by the Italian branch of the European non-governmental organization ARCI (Active Citizenship Network) to help organize a summer camp for Arab children in the Burj Al Luk Luk community center in Jerusalem's Old City. On August 10, while walking near the Old City's Herod's Gate in the early evening with some of his colleagues, he was stabbed in the back by what witnesses say was a young Arab assailant, who then fled the scene. No money was taken, and police are acting on the assumption that this was a terror attack similar to many over the years in Jerusalem in which Israelis or foreigners have been randomly selected as a target. Friends of the victim speak of him in glowing terms. "He was a golden guy. For him it was normal to be generous, to make sacrifices for others. He dealt with politics, but he wasn't an extremist. He was just a pacifist, the poor guy," said one. "He saw only the positive aspects of life; his motto was 'Let's make love with non-violence,'" said another. BUT IF Frammartino himself had no truck with violence, he expressed what in retrospect may have been a far too generous understanding of the violence of others. In a letter written to an Italian newspaper a few months ago, he wrote: "We must recognize that a situation with no violence is a luxury in many parts of the world, but we are not seeking to prevent legitimate self-defense operations. I would never dream of condemning the resistance, the blood of the Vietnamese, the blood of nations under colonial occupation, or the blood of Palestinian youths from the first intifada." Apparently, though, he gave little thought to whether this violence could touch him personally. "They assured us that this was a peaceful area; or, in any event, that there were no risks," a family member told the press - which sounds like a remarkably naive assessment given the current tensions in the region. Perhaps that faulty assumption was not so surprising, since even after Frammartino's murder ARCI rushed to post a statement on its Web site, declaring: "We do not believe that this act can be interpreted as a terrorist act, or a manifestation of ethnic hatred. We do believe that it can be interpreted as a worrying symptom of the ever-worsening socioeconomic crisis in the marginalized areas of East Jerusalem." Those two interpretations are of course not mutually exclusive; in fact, they best help make sense of this senseless act when viewed in conjuncture. But it appears to be inconvenient for ARCI to acknowledge even the possibility that terror and ethnic hatred played any role in Frammartino's murder, despite the fact that Islamic extremist elements in Palestinian and Arab society are investing an enormous amount of effort in inculcating just those values in their young people. FRAMMARTINO'S death was as untimely as it was inconvenient. Occurring as it did during some of the fiercest fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbullah in Lebanon, it got virtually no coverage in the international media outside of the Israeli and Italian press. This is in striking contrast to the widespread publicity given such previous attacks against tourists in Jerusalem. Yet Frammartino's fate, ignored as it was by the press, is not entirely unrelated to those of the hundreds more in the north who were killed or wounded in the same period. For much of the outside world has also had comparable difficulty in correctly interpreting Israel's battle against Hizbullah, even though there is a direct connection between the widespread violence that has torn apart much of Israel and Lebanon in the past month and the single, self-contained act of murder that took place in Jerusalem on August 10. Angelo Frammartino, whatever his political views, came to Israel in a selfless act of charity to help Palestinian children, and he should be hailed for that. But perhaps he - and certainly those who sent him here - were reluctant to acknowledge that there are other forces at play in this region that go far beyond whatever legitimate grievances the Palestinians and other Arabs have against the Jewish state. This is the blind, unjust and indiscriminate hatred and resentment that promotes and feeds terror acts and illegitimate expressions of force against Israel and Israelis, the twisted ideology of extremist radical political movements, of corrupt and cynical dictatorial Arab governments, and especially of fundamentalist Islamic groups opposed not only to any true expressions of coexistence with Israel, but equally to any real acceptance of genuine values of freedom, equality and democracy. This is the baleful influence of Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and especially Iran, who view any manifestation of "resistance" against Israel and the West as understandable, excusable and legitimate, be it unprovoked strikes against Israeli soldiers, or even random attacks against Western tourists as they walk the streets of Jerusalem. FOR TRUE peace to come to this corner of the world, it will first take a clear recognition by the international community - especially Europe - of the widespread and growing influence of this mind-set in the Islamic world, followed by the will to do something about it. I certainly hope it's a message that will be inculcated in the minds of the thousands of young European soldiers, including Italians, who are slated to start arriving this month as part of the beefed-up UNIFIL forces designated to keep the peace of the northern border. This is most likely not the kind of cautionary message Angelo Frammartino would have wanted to be linked to his name. But his death is a reminder nonetheless that outsiders who come to this region, even with the best of intentions, should first understand that they, no less than Israelis - or, for that matter, those in the Arab world who truly want peace - can just as easily fall victim to those here who have only the worst of intentions. The writer is director of The Israel Project's Jerusalem Media Resource Center and former managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.