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Remembering the Barbaric Ramallah Lynch


The media love a powerful, symbolic image, but exactly twenty years to the day after the brutal, barbaric lynching of two Israeli reserve soldiers, this one isn’t being republished.

This is the important story the media failed to retell today.

On 12 October 2000, two Israeli reserve soldiers dressed in civilian clothes, Yossi Avrahami and Vadim Nurzhitz were headed towards their unit’s assembly point in a town near Jerusalem. The pair were unfamiliar with the local road system, took a wrong turn and ended up in Ramallah.

Although previously Palestinian Authority policemen had sent wayward Israelis back, this time the two reservists were detained by Palestinian Authority policemen and taken to a local police station.

The incident coincided with a nearby funeral service for a Palestinian youth who had been killed in clashes with Israeli forces two days earlier. The funeral was attended by thousands, and soon afterwards, as rumors spread that Israeli undercover agents were in the building, an angry crowd of over 1,000 Palestinians gathered outside the station calling for the death of the Israelis.

While there are indications that at first police attempted to protect the soldiers, before long the enraged rioters managed to overcome the police and storm the building. It later emerged that Palestinian Authority policemen actually took part in the horrific assault.

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What followed can only be described as a savage, barbaric lynching. The crazed mob beat and stabbed the Israelis, tore the men limb from limb and gouged out their eyes. During the attack, Mr Avrahami’s wife Hani called him on his mobile phone. Instead of being greeted as usual, an unfamiliar strange voice answered the phone : “I just killed your husband.”

As all this was happening, one man came to the window and, much to the delight of the delirious crowd below,  triumphantly held up his blood-soaked hands for all to see.

The crowd stood below, waving fists and cheering. The body of one of the soldiers was then thrown out of the window. The baying crowd rushed to attack, beating and stamping the lifeless body in a frenzy. The body of the other soldier was set on fire. One of the soldiers was later seen upside down, dangling from a rope.

The horrendous episode was not over. Within minutes of murdering the Israelis, the mob dragged the two butchered bodies to nearby Al-Manara Square, and broke out into impromptu victory celebrations.

Only months earlier, Israel and the Palestinians had been negotiating a peace agreement at Camp David. Israel made massive concessions, offering the Palestinians far more land than ever before – but the unprecedentedly generous offer was rejected by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Instead of forging a lasting peace, the next few years were marked by horrific violence as waves of Palestine suicide bombers attacked Israelis on buses and at shopping centers, universities, restaurants and clubs.

The vicious lynching showed Israelis that while peace is surely the objective, hatred and violence on the Palestinian side remain massive obstacles to achieving this goal.

It is hard to overstate the profound effect this barbaric act had on the collective Israeli consciousness. Two decades later, the picture of a Palestinian showing off his blood-soaked hands to a joyous mob remains seared into the minds of many, perhaps the most-recognizable image of the Second Intifada.

It’s a compelling photo and horrific story. But it’s not consistent with the narrative that Israel mercilessly oppresses the helpless Palestinians. And so it’s been totally overlooked by the media today.

Twenty years on, Israel has managed to curb the terrible waves of suicide bombings and shootings emanating from the West Bank that left Israeli society deeply scarred and unable to trust in their Palestinian neighbors. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ most effective attacks nowadays come in the form of intermittent, intense bursts of rocket fire.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership continues to glorify and encourage such vicious acts by paying terrorists and their families generous “salaries” in a policy known as Pay-for-Slay and naming public schools and streets after convicted murderers.

It is up to us to remember these stories and continue telling them so that common people, journalists and politicians alike do not forget the brutality Israel faces.

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Emanuel Miller

Emanuel Miller is a Jerusalem-based writer who has previously worked for the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel, and helped establish the English media department of My Truth, an organization that documents the experiences of Israeli soldiers while facing an immoral, cynical enemy. He regularly speaks about Israel, media bias, and Israel's geopolitical complexities to audiences including Birthright groups, student leaders visiting Israel, and for those seeking to get a more nuanced understanding of Israel.