U.S. police have arrested a 71-year-old man and charged him with murder and a hate crime after he allegedly stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy to death and critically injured his 32-year-old mother in retaliation for the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The Will County Sheriff’s Office, located outside of Chicago, issued a statement on Sunday saying that their investigation had led them to the conclusion that both victims in the violent attack were targeted by the suspect because of their religion and the ongoing struggle between Hamas and the Israelis in the Middle East.
On Saturday morning, police located both bodies in a residence about 65 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Chicago.
Autopsy results released on Sunday indicated that the youngster, who was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, had been stabbed 26 times with a big military-style knife.
More than a dozen stab wounds covered the mother’s body. She was still in the hospital on Sunday, but doctors thought she would make it.
Even as it prepares a ground invasion, Israel is bombing a Palestinian enclave it has been surrounding for months.
Unnamed police say they found the suspect “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” on Saturday with a wound on his forehead.
On Sunday, he remained in police detention pending his upcoming court date. First degree murder, attempted first degree murder, two counts of hate crimes, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon are all charges against him, according to the police.
Chicago CAIR director Ahmed Rehab said, “Our hearts are heavy, and our prayers are with the darling boy and his mother.”
Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American kid who had just turned six, and his mother Hanaan Shahin were named as the victims by the organisation.
CAIR said in a statement, “While we wait for the official investigation of the local authorities, what we can confirm at the moment is that we have a murdered child in his own home, a six-year-old who had just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago, and a mother lying in the hospital in serious condition, both stabbed over a dozen times.”
Rehab claimed that the surviving mother had testified to the events to CAIR. We trust the police to thoroughly examine this horrific act as a hate crime, he stated in a statement.
The charity claims that the family of five spent two years in the house’s basement. According to the reports, the suspect was their landlord.
CAIR-Chicago called the crime “our worst nightmare” and part of a disturbing spike in hate calls and emails since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, citing text messages from the mother to the boy’s father as evidence that the suspect yelled, “You Muslims must die!” before the stabbing.
Jewish, Palestinian Hate Crimes
A growing number of Jewish and Palestinian Americans live in fear that the “isolating and scary” tensions between Israel and Palestine may lead to an increase in hate crimes and harassment in cities across the United States.
Bay Ridge has long served as a haven of security for the city’s Arab American community. There is a large Palestinian, Yemeni, Syrian, and Egyptian community in this 3 square mile area of south Brooklyn.
On Wednesday, though, news of a hate crime pierced that bubble of security.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a statement this week saying that police reported that “three alleged assailants in three cars were waving Israeli flags” and shouting “anti-Palestinian remarks at three men walking on 86th Street.” As soon as they parked, “the group jumped out and began attacking the three men.”
ABC7, a local Brooklyn news station, said that two guys approached two persons waving Palestinian flags, stole one of the flags, and beat one of the protesters in the head. Two young boys in Gravesend, Brooklyn brandished what turned out to be toy weapons at the B’nai Yosef synagogue, according to the police. The juvenile court issued criminal summonses for the lads.
The FBI released a report earlier this year showing that the number of hate crimes in the United States increased again in 2021.
“But this moment is different,” CAIR’s research and advocacy director Corey Saylor said. According to one student, “right now there is an unusually vicious targeting of students that support Palestine, and the volume and intensity is something I haven’t witnessed before.”
Saylor noted that the youth of the United States who have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people on college campuses have been the target of intense abuse and intimidation.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee at Harvard University sent a letter last week in which its signatories said they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”
That the events “did not occur in a vacuum” was a common refrain. Other student organisations also signed a statement condemning the violence, expressing concern over “the devastating and rising civilian toll,” and pointing out that the treatment of Palestine by the Israeli government has contributed to “conditions of violence.”
Some Jewish students, offended that their peers seemed to blame only Israel for the violence, reacted negatively to the statement’s publishing, arguing that by remaining silent in the face of Hamas’s attacks and showing no compassion for the group’s innocent victims, the letter actually endorsed Hamas.
On Wednesday, a billboard truck featuring the names and photos of Harvard students who had signed the committee’s letter drove near the university’s campus.
“They’re not targeting longtime activists who are used to harassment,” Saylor emphasised. You’re targeting “young professionals,” “young adults,” and “people who aren’t likely to be full-time activists at the moment.”
He referred to the truck as a “political intimidation” tool.
One Harvard law student, Hejir Rashidzadeh, told ABC News, “This is the most tense campus has ever been.”
Bill Ackman, CEO of a billion dollar hedge fund, tweeted to the university, “Please release the names of the students who signed the letter to insure that we do not inadvertently hire any of their members.”
Former Hamas leader Khaled Mashal called for a global day of “anger” on Friday to send a “message of rage to Zionists and America,” and many Jewish Americans feared violence would rise as a result.
New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC, among others, have increased security for citizens in anticipation of protests.
“We have reviewed this information in close coordination with our partners in law enforcement and Jewish security organisations,” the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group fighting antisemitism, said in a statement on Friday.
“At this time, the Centre on Extremism is not aware of any credible threats to Jewish communities in the United States,” the statement reads.
Jews in the United States remain concerned for their security. The Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Centre has been monitoring a disturbing increase in antisemitic sentiment in recent years, which they attribute to the burgeoning white supremacist movement in the United States.
Deputy director of research, reporting, and analysis at the SPLC’s Intelligence Project Rachel Carroll Rivas told the Guardian that there has been “an alarming amount of antisemitic activity across the US in recent years,” including “explicit” neo-Nazi organising and “more coded” conspiracies and Holocaust revisionism. During the Israel-Hamas war, this has made the country “ripe for manipulation.”
Twitter users in Irvine, California, shared photos of a man waving a Nazi flag earlier this week. After the Hamas strikes on Israel, a protester at a pro-Palestine rally in New York City displayed a phone with a swastika graphic.
“This moment is profoundly isolating and scary for our people,” said Audrey Sasson, executive director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.
Sasson stated that many people in her liberal Jewish group are still looking for lost family members in Israel.
“We are close to this pain,” Sasson, who has friends and family in Israel right now, added. We may be concerned about and sad for the Israelis who have died, and we can feel sympathy for the people of Gaza who are under siege at the same time.
Israeli forces have issued an evacuation order for northern Gaza, home to over a million people, ahead of a planned ground assault, which the UN has called “impossible without devastating humanitarian consequences.”
Some Jewish Americans, like Sasson, have expressed concern over the widespread sharing of content depicting the destruction of Gaza on social media accounts owned by the Israeli government.
When asked about the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza, she stated, “Not in my name should you be starving and bombing an entire civilian population in Gaza.” I really hope that’s not a contentious statement.
The lack of more voices like Sasson’s causes concern among Palestinian Americans, who fear for the safety of their community.
Ussama Makdisi, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, remarked, “It’s as if the Hamas attacks were the beginning of the conflict, and everything before that never happened.”
Makdisi remarked on “how quickly and strongly” American business, academic, and governmental elites expressed their condolences for Israeli victims of violence.
They have not shown any compassion for Palestinian victims of violence, he claimed. “It’s heartless. Refusing to speak out against genocide diminishes Palestinian lives and tells Palestinian Americans, “you’re on your own.”