Saturday, August 20, 2005

The "Jewish Terrorist": how low can we humans sink?

Earlier this week, the news media reported about a West Bank Israeli settler named Asher Weisgan who had gone berzerk and murdered four Palestinian workers and injured a fifth. The news media here shrugged it off, and Israeli politicians derided it as the act of another "Jewish terrorist", a man who had gone crazy and taken out his frustrations on a group of nearby Palestinians. I shrugged it off too.

Today, I read a bit more detail about the story, and was absolutely shocked. This was not a simple case of terrorism, it was the cold-blooded murder of men who the murderer had worked with for many years, and who he even ate lunch with on the day of the murders.

Asher Weisgan is a man who made his living driving Palestinian workers to and from their jobs at the Ortal factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo. He spoke fluent Arabic, and was regarded by several of the Palestinians as their friend. Two of the workers he murdered he had known for over eight years.

The wife of one of the murdered Palestinian workers was quoted by the BBC as saying, "They used to say how decent he was, how they used to eat together, how he used to ask them for our food to take to his wife."

The Jewish factory manager was quoted by Ynetnews as saying, "He spoke Arabic, he was their friend. No one who spoke to him could have known this would happen, there were no warning signs. I just can’t believe it. Three months ago, when I became angry with one of the Palestinian workers and yelled at him, Asher came to me and said, ‘do me a favor, leave him alone. This is a good guy.’"

There was one thing all the Palestinians and Jewish settlers who was interviewed by the news media seemed to have in common: all of them who had knew Weisgan were shocked, and thought he was the last person they could imagine doing something like this.

I remember a few years ago seeing the cold eyes of Mohammed Atta staring back at me from the television screen, and thinking how cold-blooded Atta must have been to have lived quietly here in the US for such a long time only to launch such a vicious attack against us. Looking at the cold eyes of Asher Weisgan staring at me from this computer monitor, I feel the same sensation. While Atta may have killed more people, he did not personally know his victims; Weisgan had worked with his victims for years. And, Weisgan is still alive to allow us all to see his lack of remorse.

Mohammed Atta and Asher Weisgan are both examples of how dangerous ideological extremism can be. Atta and Weisgan may have fought for different causes, and would probably have hated each other in person, but they are both fruit of the same poisonous seeds of hatred that have been sown in the Middle East and beyond.

Events like this brutal murder are cause for us to take a step back and think about who we are and what we stand for. Everyone who lives on this earth is a person, no matter what the color of their skin, what language they speak, what their cultural heritage is, or by what name they call God. We are all God's children, and worthy of being treated with respect by our brothers and sisters. The poisonous ideologies of hatred, exclusion, and racism that spawn the likes of Mohammed Atta and Asher Weisgan need to be eschewed and replaced with tolerance and inclusion. It is then, and only then, that we will know true peace in this world.