The death of a Palestinian boy shows blood libels are born

He was the tragic victim of likely negligence – local residents said for years they had been calling on the authorities to erect a fence around the pit.

Missing 7 year-old Qusai Abu Ramila (photo credit: Courtesy)
Missing 7 year-old Qusai Abu Ramila
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We have just witnessed how blood libels are born. In a week in which Israel and the world mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, this year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, accusing fingers pointed at Jews suspected of kidnapping and killing a non-Jewish boy. In this modern version of the ancient blood libel, it was “Israeli settlers” accused of killing a Palestinian boy, seven-year-old Qais Abu Ramila.
Qais’s body was found the morning after his disappearance. He had apparently fallen into a huge pit, filled with water after the heavy rains, and drowned. The pit was drained during the search and rescue efforts. He was the tragic victim of likely negligence – local residents said for years they had been calling on the authorities to erect a fence around the pit – but not the victim of a horrendous Jewish nationalist abduction.
Qais went missing on Friday afternoon when he set out from his home in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood to buy pitot at the nearby grocery store. When he failed to return, his family began searching for him. From this point, the story quickly blew up into a harrowing tale gaining international attention and igniting local violence.
Security camera footage of a child being pulled toward a car inflamed the situation. The family issued a statement saying, “If it turns out he was kidnapped by settlers it would set the entire neighborhood on fire.”
Qais’s father later acknowledged that the child in the camera footage was not his son but apparently an uncooperative child being dragging to a car by his parent. But the damage was done.
A Twitter account belonging to “Real Seif Bitar” accused “a herd of violent Israeli settlers” of kidnapping Qais and throwing his body “in a water well.” Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian Authority legislator, re-tweeted this lie, adding, “The heart just shatters, the pain is unbearable, no words.” Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who proudly flaunts her Palestinian roots and anti-Israel stance, re-tweeted Ashrawi’s post, spreading the blood libel further.
While Ashrawi later apologized for “re-tweeting something that’s not fully verified. It seems that the news of his being kidnapped is not certain,” Tlaib simply deleted the tweet with no explanation or apology.
Meanwhile, inflamed by the false stories that the boy had been kidnapped, some residents of Beit Hanina marched on the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Neveh Ya’acov, shouting Palestinian nationalistic slogans. Some 12 demonstrators were injured in the clash with police who prevented a rampage against “settlers.”
Incidentally, the neighborhood of Neveh Ya’acov was established by Jews in 1924. Residents were attacked in the deadly Arab riots of 1929 and ultimately forced to flee in the War of Independence in 1948, when the area fell under Jordanian control. It was rebuilt in 1970, after the land returned to Jewish hands in the Six Day War.
Had the inflamed Palestinian mob reached the streets of the Jewish neighborhood, the results could have been deadly. Similarly, had there been fatalities among the rioters in the clash with police, events could have quickly descended into broader violence.
The abduction and murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish terrorists in 2014 was undoubtedly on the minds of many of the Palestinians who rioted on Friday night, but there are important differences to kept in mind. Abu Khdeir’s abhorrent murder was condemned by Israel’s leadership, from the president, prime minister and chief rabbis down. Such acts of Jewish terrorism are fortunately rare, and tremendous effort is made to stamp them out.
The Palestinian leadership and those who profess to support it should not be exploiting any tragic death in a way that can only lead to more violence and hatred, let alone by turning an unfortunate accident into a doubly insidious modern blood libel. The tropes of kidnapping a non-Jewish child and poisoning water wells have both been used to incite pogroms against the Jews from medieval times on.
We call on the Jerusalem Municipality to swiftly take action to prevent more needless deaths like that of Qais in any neighborhood in the city. But above all, we call on the Palestinians to act to prevent more violence, not stoke the flames of hatred by spreading lies and blood libels.