The general details of the 2000 murder and disembowelment of two Israeli soldiers in the Arab town of Ramallah, and the iconic photograph of one of the murderers holding up his blood-soaked hands to a cheering crowd, are familiar to even casual observers of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Palestinian Media Watch this week revealed that three of the Arabs involved in the lynching were honored – you read that right – by the Palestinian Authority. The families of the three being honored were visited by high ranking PA/PLO officials, and were given “plaques of honor” and called “heroes.” And these are the “moderates” with whom Israel is supposed to make peace?
Rather than learn about how or to whom these honors were handed out, one should instead revisit the enormity of what happened that day in October, 2012. One owes it to Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami to learn how it was that they were murdered, by whom and the best reason the perpetrators themselves gave as the motivation for the murders, as well as what happened to the most famous of the murderers.
Readers will likely remember that two Israeli reservists mistakenly wandered into Ramallah on October 12, 2000 after getting lost in the area, and they may remember that Nurzhitz and Avrahami were murdered in a police station.
How did the Israelis end up in the Ramallah police station?
The Israelis were approached by two Palestinian Authority police officers. The Israelis explained to the police officers, Ra’ad A-Sheikh and Tariq Tabesh, that they were lost. A-Sheikh later explained the Israeli soldiers told him, “they lost their way and they need to get to Beit-El,” he said. Beit-El is near Ramallah.
But the officers instead brought the Israelis to the police station. There the officers, along with approximately half a dozen other Arabs, tortured and beat to death the two Israelis.
A-Sheikh admitted taking a length of iron pipe and beating Vadim Nurzhitz with it, “punching him in the head until the soldier began making gurgling noises.” Nutzhitz had recently married, and left a pregnant widow. Their son, David Vadim Nurzhitz, never met his father.
The other PA police officer also took part in the murders. “I saw a soldier on the floor,” Tabesh told investigators, “saying things in Hebrew that I couldn’t understand,” and then, the police officer said, “I hit him on the back three times.”
The most famous of the lynch mob, the one who stood at the window triumphantly displaying the life blood of the Israelis which had seeped into the flesh of his own hands, is Aziz Salha. Along with others present in the second floor of the Ramallah police station, Salha repeatedly stabbed and strangled one of the Israelis. He rammed his hands into the innards of their body cavities, which had been ripped open. Many others did the same.
The lifeless bodies of the Israelis were dumped out the window, where more than 1000 Arabs had gathered, cheering on the carnage. The – literally – bloodthirsty crowd was then able to join in, thrashing the already dead Israelis, pulling out their entrails, gouging out their eyes. They decapitated one the corpses and used his head like a soccer ball. One of the bodies was set on fire. The remains of the bodies were then dragged into Ramallah’s Al-Manara, the city center.
At Salha’s sentencing, the president of the Military Court, Col. Shaul Gordon wrote: “the book of rules has no punishment severe enough for Salha and his accomplices, and all we can do is remove Salha and people of his kind from human society for the rest of the lives. He will remain behind bars as long as he lives.” Instead, Salha now lives in luxury in an apartment in Gaza after having been released in 2011, as part of the more than 1000 Arab soldiers released as part of the exchange for Israeli Gilad Shalit.