Shuafat is one of the tragedies of Jerusalem. Jerusalem ambulances, garbage trucks and fire trucks cannot enter the neighborhood without being stoned. Much of it is officially an UNRWA camp where services are supposed to be provided by that organization, but UNRWA all but ignores it as well. As a result, Shuafat is a crime-ridden, drug-infested, dangerous place with open sewers, huge piles of trash and little hope. While most of it is in the Jerusalem municipal boundary, it lies outside the separation barrier – it is a failure of Zionism as well that the Israeli authorities, after many years, simply gave up on trying to control this part of Jerusalem.
Into this vacuum stepped a young man, Baha Nababta.
By all accounts, Nababta worked tirelessly to help the residents of his neighborhood. He founded a number of social institutions in Shuafat to help troubled youth. Nababta was also the head of a local, volunteer fire department that worked with tools as crude as hammers to rescue people from burning houses. He created an emergency response team with over 50 volunteers to respond to all kinds of local emergencies from snowstorms to a team of motorcyclists who could protect Israeli emergency teams who must enter the camp. He helped pave roads, get rid of garbage – essentially every service taken for granted by residents of every other urban area
Nababta was not shy about asking for help from Jerusalem authorities or from liberal Israeli organizations, asking for basic medical and firefighting equipment. His local groups received training from Jerusalem municipal firefighters and from Jerusalem medics, and from all accounts they were happy to help. His main contact on the Israeli side was Dr. Meir Margalit, a Jewish member of the far left Meretz party.
This is probably the reason he is no longer alive.
Haaretz reported last week:
Baha Nababta, a well-known social activist in the Shoafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem, was shot to death on Monday by an unknown assailant.
The murder occurred at about 11:30 P.M. on Monday, while Nababta stood with a large group of local residents near the paving work they had initiated. Witnesses said an unknown person riding a motorbike was looking for Nababta, and when he found him he shot 10 bullets at Nababta, seven of which hit him. Nababta was rushed to hospital but died a short time later.
Camp residents said on Tuesday that they did not know who the murderer was, but thought the murder was connected to his social activism.
We don’t know who executed Baha Nababta but it seems likely that Palestinians who are against “normalization” were behind the murder.
This is the one week anniversary of the murder. The story was covered, barely, in Israeli newspapers (Jerusalem Post buried it on page 10, for example.)
Palestinian media ignored the story completely. Outside of social media I couldn’t find one news story about this murder of a prominent social worker.
His death did not receive the headlines of those who are killed while trying to murder Jews. Nababta did not have a huge funeral. His Facebook page – which was quite active – does not have one person expressing condolences after his death.
I’m sure I wouldn’t have agreed with Baha Nababta’s politics, but he deserved a huge amount of respect for actually working to help his people instead of choosing to spend his life complaining and protesting. His work was heroic and his death is a tragedy by any measure for Arabs and Jews alike.
But perhaps the bigger tragedy is that his murder has been so roundly ignored by his own people.
The Palestinian leadership and media do not want to publicize anything that cannot be blamed on Israel, because their entire existence is based on “resistance,” not on doing anything positive for their people. Nababta was guilty of the cardinal crime of “normalization” with Jews who wanted to help him and his fellow Arabs, and to Palestinians, that is unforgivable – and his murder is understandable if embarrassing to mention.
The execution of Baha Nababta, and the silence about his murder from not only Palestinians but from so-called pro-Palestinian activists, sends a message to all Arabs that working even with left-wing Jews is an unforgivable crime.
A person who should be hailed as an example to all Palestinians has been relegated to one of the many piles of garbage that he worked hard to eradicate.
Peace is impossible with a society that treats a true hero like Baha Nababta as a villain.