A journalist interviewed Salha in 2013. That account appeared in the execrable Electronic Intifada, with lots of humanizing details, to make the murderer appear somewhat vulnerable and cuddly. When asked about his motivation for the brutality of the rampage that October, 2000 day, Salha self-righteously described the death of a Ramallah resident that day.
“Earlier on that day, one Palestinian from Ramallah was murdered by Israeli settlers from a settlement neighboring Ramallah,” Salha said. “After they had killed him, they cut his ears and threw his body. This is the reason there were thousands of protestors across Ramallah on that day, and accidentally, we got the word that there were two Israeli soldiers held in one Ramallah police station.”
This is the “context” in which the Israelis were met by a murderous crowd. But even EI was compelled to add that a “forensic investigation by Physicians for Human Rights later found that the man was most likely killed in a car accident.” In other words, as usual, Israelis are demonized, then they suffer the consequences of the demonization, even when they are not the demons at all.
Though many people know the basics of this story, the barbaric details set out above have not previously been widely reported. Why weren’t more of the lurid details made public? For a simple reason — one that often affects coverage of events in the Arab world: It’s because members of the media who were present and knew what had really happened were threatened, physically attacked, and had their cameras broken.
The reason the one iconic photograph exists is because an independent Italian camera crew filmed the incident, filed the film, and a station aired it before it was unceremoniously pulled from the airwaves. The Italian television station which aired the footage later apologized to the Palestinian Authority. That’s right, they apologized — for reporting truthfully.
A British journalist who was present that day in Ramallah, Mark Seager, gave an interview three days after witnessing the horror.
Seager explained that he was in Ramallah to photograph a funeral. Possibly it was the funeral of the man who died in a car accident, but about whom rumors spread that he had been murdered and mutilated by settlers. After getting out of a taxi in Ramallah, Seager noticed a crowd yelling “allahu ahkbar,” and dragging something. They were coming down the hill from the police station.
Within moments they were in front of me and, to my horror, I saw that it was a body, a man they were dragging by the feet. The lower part of his body was on fire and the upper part had been shot at, and the head beaten so badly that it was a pulp, like red jelly.
I thought he was a soldier because I could see the remains of khaki trousers and boots. My God, I thought, they’ve killed this guy. He was dead, he must have been dead, but they were still beating him, madly, kicking his head. They were like animals.
They were just a few feet in front of me and I could see everything. Instinctively, I reached for my camera. I was composing the picture when I was punched in the face by a Palestinian. Another Palestinian pointed right at me shouting “no picture, no picture!”, while another guy hit me in the face and said “give me your film!”.
I tried to get the film out but they were all grabbing me and one guy just pulled the camera off me and smashed it to the floor.
Seager was able to run from the scene with his life, albeit without any award-winning photographs or even his camera. He said the lynching “was the most horrible thing” that he had ever seen, and he’s reported from the Congo, Kosovo and other places where horrific things have happened.