Monday, July 7, 2008

Behind the Bulldozer Rampage/The Story of Hosam Dwayyat

In a rather typical way, Steven Gutkin's AP story of a Palestinian's rampage with a bulldozer down Jerusalem streets (killing three, and wounding 45) buries the context in which a person might suddenly decide to rampage with a bulldozer down Jerusalem streets. As such, it creates the impression that this is simply a bloodthirsty madman.

Anyone who knows anything about the Israeli/Palestinian situation knows that bulldozers are not inert earthmovers, they are part of the weaponry of both Israeli expansion and Palestinian destruction. This story does not mention that the man had recently been denied the permit to expand his own house and was likely going to have to have it demolished (and fined $50,000). Here is Gutkin's AP story, then please read on to find Israel Shamir's story of the killer, Hosam Dwayyat, and what pushed him over the edge.

July 2, 2008, 7:28AM
Palestinian uses bulldozer in Jerusalem rampage

Associated Press

Chaos on Jerusalem street JERUSALEM — A Palestinian man plowed an enormous construction vehicle into cars, buses and pedestrians on a busy street today, killing at least three people and wounding at least 45 before he was shot dead by an off-duty soldier.

Traffic was halted and hundreds of people fled in panic through the streets in the heart of downtown Jerusalem as medics treated the wounded.

Three Palestinian militant groups took responsibility for the attack, but Israeli police referred to the attacker as a "terrorist" acting on his own.

The attack took place in front of a building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets. A TV camera captured the huge front loader crushing a vehicle and an off-duty soldier killing the perpetrator by shooting him in the head several times at point-blank range as onlookers screamed.

A half-dozen cars were flattened and others were overturned by the Caterpillar vehicle. A bus was overturned and another bus was heavily damaged. Israel's national rescue service confirmed three deaths, and the bodies lay motionless on the ground covered in plastic.

A woman sprinkled water over a baby's bloodied face, a rescue worker stroked the hair of a dazed elderly pedestrian and a loved one raised the bleeding leg of a woman sitting outside the overturned bus.

"I saw the bulldozer smash the car with its shovel. He smashed the guy sitting in the driver's seat," said Yaakov Ashkenazi, an 18-year-old seminary student.

Esther Valencia, a 52-year-old pedestrian said she barely escaped the carnage.

"He almost hit me. Someone pushed me out of the way at the last moment. It was a miracle that I got out of there."

Eyal Lang Ben-Hur, 16, was in a bus when the driver yelled out, "Get out of the vehicle! Everyone out!" People fled in a panic, he said, and the bus was hit an instant later.

The attack occurred in an area where Jerusalem is building a new train system. The project has turned many parts of the city into a big construction zone.

Today's attack represented a departure from militants' previous methods, which were mostly suicide bombings and shootings.

During the second Palestinian uprising, which erupted in late 2000, Jerusalem experienced dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks. The city has been largely quiet in the past three years, though sporadic attacks have persisted. In March, a Palestinian gunman entered a Jerusalem seminary and killed eight young students.

The three organizations that took responsibility for the attack included the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which is affiliated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The other two are the Galilee Freedom Battalion, which is suspected of being affiliated with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a fringe left-wing militant group.

The Hamas militant group, which runs the Gaza Strip and is currently maintaining a fragile cease-fire with Israel, said it did not carry out the attack but nevertheless praised it.

"We consider it as a natural reaction to the daily aggression and crimes committed against our people in the West Bank and all over the occupied lands," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Despite the Palestinian claims of responsibility, Israeli police chief Dudi Cohen said the attacker appeared to be acting alone.

"It looks as if it was a spontaneous act," he said.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat condemned the violence.

"We condemn any attacks that target civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinians, and President Abbas has been consistent in his position to condemn any attacks, including the one in west Jerusalem, that target civilians," he said.

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said the man was an Arab from east Jerusalem and had a criminal background. Channel 1 TV, citing police, reported that the attacker, a man in his 30s, worked for a construction contractor. Police chief Cohen said the attacker was the father of two children.

In contrast to West Bank Palestinians, Arab residents of Jerusalem have full freedom to work and travel throughout Israel. Many Jerusalem Arabs work in the construction industry, possibly helping the attacker to easily gain control of a construction vehicle.

About two-thirds of Jerusalem's 700,000 residents are Jews, and the rest are Palestinians who came under Israeli control when Israel captured their part of the city in 1967. Jerusalem's Arabs are not Israeli citizens but hold Israeli ID cards that allow them freedom of movement in the city and throughout Israel.

Israel's national rescue service said at least 45 people were wounded in today's attack. At one point, a paramedic lowered a screaming baby into an ambulance.

Wounded people sat dazed on the ground amid piles of broken glass and blood stains on the street. A baby had blood all over its face, and the driver of the construction vehicle was slumped motionless over the steering wheel.

"Where's the baby? Where's the baby?" said one distraught man as he ran from the overturned bus.

Yosef Spielman, who witnessed the attack, said the construction vehicle picked up a car "like a toy."

"I was shocked. I saw a guy going crazy," he said. "All the people were running. They had no chance."

At one point, witnesses said a female traffic cop shot at the perpetrator, after which he slumped over with his eyes closed. Then he suddenly lifted himself back up and continued his rampage, the witnesses said.

Hen Shimon, a 19-year-old solider, said the whole scene was a "nightmare."

"I just got off the bus and I saw the tractor driving and knocking everything down in his path," she said. "Everything he saw he rammed. He had a gun and started shooting at a police officer."

Cassia Pereira, office manager for AP's Jerusalem bureau, watched the attack unfold outside her window.

"I saw him but it was too late and there was nothing to do," she said, with tears in her eyes. "I was in panic I couldn't say a word ... I realized something was not normal, something was wrong."

The mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski, said his daughter was on one of the buses rammed by the attacker, but was not injured.

"To our regret the attackers do not cease coming up with new ways to strike at the heart of the Jewish people here in Jerusalem," Lupolianski said.

Here's Shamir, providing some important context.
Heemeyer Rides Again
By Israel Shamir

?This is a human interest story. It could have happened anywhere, but it happened in Jerusalem. Yes, we have Jews and Arabs here, but this is a story about men and women. It would make a good subject for a film, or for a novel, as it includes romantic love, beautiful young lovers separated by prejudice, severe and unjust punishment meted out in the name of law and order - and untimely death.

A few days ago, a young Jerusalemite got aboard his Caterpillar tractor, ran amok on the main street, hitting buses and cars and was finally shot dead by a vigilante. Why did it happen? For the same reason an American, Marvin Heemeyer, did his deed. When a man is pushed too far, too hard, he snaps. One weeps, another one commits suicide, and yet another one takes a gun and shoots everybody in sight ­ or rolls his bulldozer over cars and people.

Marvin Heemeyer was a Colorado welder who, on June 4, 2004, drove his bulldozer through the town hall, the office of the hostile local newspaper that editorialized against him, the home of a judge and others. He was pushed too hard: the municipality had blocked his access road, his livelihood had been ruined, his simple requests were being refused. The young Jerusalemite, Hosam Dwayyat was pushed much harder.

Hosam was born in Jerusalem after the Jewish takeover, and grew up in a village on the outskirts of the city. Sur Bahr, his village on the edge of the desert with its shepherds and sheep, is not a bad place: it is walking distance from both the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Houses are nice, spacey and covered with white limestone, surrounded by small gardens.

Hosam, like all the youth of Sur Bahr lived in the twilight zone between Jews and Palestinians. He spoke Hebrew and Arabic, had Israeli and Palestinian friends, went to discos and concerts, could go to Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem like an ordinary human being, like you and me. However, on his way he would frequently be stopped, searched, ordered to present his documents, detained, beaten and released: Israeli security police, Border Guards, do this regularly in order to remind an Arab that he is an Arab. For this reason, the dwellers of East Jerusalem hesitate to venture westward, much like you'd hesitate to visit a violent South Bronx.

But Hosam was young, and youth does not surrender easily. Some eight years ago, and he was 24, he had met a young Russian girl Marina who was 19, and they fell in love. He was her first love, and she did not hide her happiness.

The Russians are a breed apart in the social mosaic of Israel. Though nominally "Jewish", they have kept their Russian identity, and their own ways. They were not infected with Jewish chauvinism in the cradle. For Russians, Jewishness is a private thing, not a public identity. In the internationalist Soviet Union and in its successor states, boys and girls fall in love with or befriend a person without regard to his or her ethnic and religious origin, and it does not cause a ripple, let alone a storm. Upon arrival to Israel, these good-natured young people are classified by rather arrogant Israelis as "Johnnys-come-lately". They are snubbed and socially rejected. They have little contact with youth of good social standing, while the children of poor Oriental Jewish suburbs are too foreign for them. The Russians do not share the ideals of other Israeli Jewish communities, i.e. military valour and the amassing of wealth.

The Palestinians, especially those brought up in the bigger cities of Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa-Tel Aviv and Ramallah, are closer to the Russians than are members of other communities: they are smarter, behave like gentlemen, and do not look down on Russians. They intermarry, or have romantic connections with them, quite often. Among my immediate friends, a young Russian girl married a boy from Batir, and now she lives in that village near Jerusalem with her new family. Another one had a Palestinian boyfriend for two years, before breaking up for personal reasons.

Hosam and Marina went steady; they lived together for a while in Tel Aviv. "Hosam liked Israelis", Marina told the newspaper this week. But their love was crushed upon the rocks of apartheid.

Liaisons between nominal "Jews" and goys cause much alarm or outright hatred in official Israel. A few days ago, the largest Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, informed its readers that "the Kiryat Gat municipality has decided to act against female teenagers falling in love with young Bedouins and they presented a 10-minute film titled Sleeping with the Enemy". In June, the Israeli army removed an Israeli girl named Melissa, 23, who married a local man named Muhammad Hamameh, 25, from the village of Husan. There is a vigilante organisation called Yad Leakhim that fights intermarriages and conversions to Christianity or Islam, and they are busy interfering with interracial happiness.

Marina's parents received hints and odd looks from neighbours. It was explained to them that "it is not done", that it is "sleeping with enemy". They conveyed this pressure to their daughter, but strong-willed Marina moved to live with her boyfriend and his family. He wanted to marry her, but Russian girls rarely marry so young, and ­ like other Western girls ­ they do not necessarily want to marry their first boyfriend. They still want to flirt with others, while seriously minded sincere young men may well disapprove of it. You do not have to be a Russian and/or Arab to know about this. Moreover, you do not have to be a Moor to be aware that jealousy may cause you to slap the flighty partner, and slap he did. In a moment of anger, Marina complained to the police, and they took away her lover. Marina tried to take her complaint back; at that time she was pregnant and lived with Hosam's parents. "He slapped me when he had reason to feel jealous", she said last week. But even her intervention in favour of Hosam in the court did not help ­ he was sentenced to 20 months of jail.

Jerusalem judges are notoriously anti-Arab; they'd have to be, as they approve of so many unjust acts towards Arabs. Here they saw a chance to break a forbidden liaison of a nominally Jewish girl with a goy, of teaching the Russians and the Palestinians a lesson. But there was another reason, and it was equally relevant. In post- feminist Israel, as in many other Western countries, a woman may not withdraw her complaint against a man. The state provides for the ham-fisted over-protection to women. It is ready to do violence to real women for the sake of "Women's Rights." In an unrelated case, Israeli minister Hayim Ramon kissed a soldier girl. She complained, but later withdrew her complaint. Police pursued her all the way to Latin America and forced her to complain, threatening her with charges of making a false accusation. The feminists witch-hunted Ramon all the way to court, and they still refer to him as a "rapist". So Hosam and Marina could suffer their same fate in any feminist-ridden European country.

Last week Marina, 27, still pretty, slim and blond, bewept Hosam and told a reporter that she was and still is in love with him, her first love and the father of her child she was now bringing up alone. She was angry at the vigilante, a far-right activist who kept shooting at unarmed Hosam. She shed tears for the man Israeli authorities and media had already judged to be an "evil terrorist". For years, Marina hoped he'd forgive her momentary lapse and come back to her after his release. But he did not return. His family arranged for his marriage, and he tried to reshape his life in the Palestinian milieu after his failure in the Israeli one.

This second try was even worse. Once his family had had much land, but it was confiscated to build nearby Jewish neighbourhood. The remainder of their land was confiscated to build the Wall, a fourteen-feet-tall monster that cut them off from Bethlehem and the desert. On what was left, he built a house for his new family, for his wife and two children.

But a Palestinian may not build a house in Jerusalem, even on his own land, and he can't ever get a permit. Hosam had been met by Israeli "justice" a second time, with equally disastrous consequences. They ordered him to demolish the house and fined him $50,000. After that, he snapped, took his front-loader tractor and ran amok in the centre of Jerusalem, ramming cars and buses. He was quickly shot dead.

There are some local specifics, and bulldozers as well as killing of an attacker are permanent fixture of the Arab-Israeli conflict: a Jewish bulldozer driver drove his armoured machine over the American peace activist Rachel Corrie who defended a Palestinian home from demolition and was never prosecuted. Another Jewish bulldozer driver shared with the world his experience of razing Jenin: "I had no mercy for anybody. I would erase anyone with the D-9, and I have demolished plenty. For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. I didn't see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at all. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people. I had lots of satisfaction in Jenin". While the Jewish vigilante who killed Hosam was called "hero", Arabs who killed Jewish murderers in Hebron or in Shafa Amr were prosecuted for murder.

However, putting aside le couleur locale, such a story could happen almost anywhere, in the US or in Europe. Some prejudices are common: A young girl could get cold feet right before marriage. A jealous youngster could slap his flirty girlfriend. Feminist judges could separate a young couple. She could remain alone loving him and bearing his child. City hall could demolish anybody's house for being built without a permit or in order to build a bypass. A man could become incensed and mete his vengeance on whoever came his way Death Wish style. And here in Israel, as in your country, we are first of all human -- men and women. This is an optimistic tragedy: normalcy creeps in through the holes in apartheid.

It is not necessary to view every event through the binary, Jew- Goy, or Jew-Arab perception. This perspective is dearest with people for whom their Jewishness is more important than their humanity. For them, denial of the "tractor terrorist murder of Jews" is "another blood libel against Jewish people". They force their binary view onto others. Thus, Prime Minister Olmert and the Labour leader Barak immediately sent their police forces to disturb the mourning family, and, equally devoted to the Jewish paradigm, President Bush, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and sundry others condemned the "bloody terrorist". Even good guy Seth Freedman wrote that "Israelis should be under no illusions as to why we're being targeted by terrorist killers such as Hosan Dwayyat". Their counterparts in Hamas, Hezbollah and the mythic Galilee Liberation also claimed responsibility, or "understood" Hosam's actions as those of resistance. The yellow press of Israel and of Jewish communities abroad invented his criminal past ("the convicted rapist, burglar and drug dealer"), his terrorist call to God and his hatred of Jews.

But this miasma of obsessive hate can't transform the human tragedy: that of an unhappy man pushed too far, whose broken body was washed by the tears of a Russian Israeli girl named Marina.

PS. Only Gilad Atzmon, Israeli saxophonist and writer of note, wondered "why the Israelis are entirely sure that it was an act of terror. It may as well be that the man was slightly mad, he might have had a phone row with his wife or alternatively a soaring dispute with his Israeli boss that made him flip. I would assume that in order to declare an incident to be an act of terror, a terrorist motivation or a scenario must be established first. Without establishing such a motivation we are doomed to admit that we are dealing here with a criminal case that must be investigated. We should as well refrain from jumping to conclusions."

He was right here, though, in a moment of despair, he came to the wrong conclusion continuing "However, the Israelis seem to be pretty convinced here. The Israelis are indeed united, and it is good that they are so united because it allows us to see what the Jewish state is all about. Sadly, there is no partner for peace in the Israeli society Unfortunately, and this is indeed a tragedy, the Palestinians are at the forefront of the most crucial battle for a better world. The Palestinians have been captured in a grave encounter with a psychotic, phantasmic, bloodthirsty self-centric Jewish national identity that knows no mercy."

Not only native Palestinians, but Israelis too, including nominal Jews, are at odds with this Jewish paradigm, or identity. Just as normal women suffer from their feminist defenders, ordinary Israelis officially classified as "Jews" do not need defence from the binary perception priests. While abroad, every man can choose whether to accept Jewish identity -- in Israel we have it forced upon us. Israeli unity is a phantasm as seem from afar; up close, you see men and women with their own preoccupations, and "professional Jews" are even rarer in Israel than elsewhere.

Like Gilad, I doubt that 'Jews', i.e. the people who uphold this identity, will agree by their own good will to any fair arrangement with native Palestinians. But unlike Gilad, I consider Israelis, including nominal Jews, to be capable of such an arrangement. For we do not fight Jews, we fight the Jewish identity, and we can win. If the Russians succeeded in making Jewishness a private thing, not an identity, so can we.

As long as there are Israeli girls like Marina and Israeli men like Gilad, there is a chance for peace. Better than a chance -- a certainty!

No wonder Americans are so misinformed about the conflict.

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