When news broke of a Palestinian bus driver’s body found hanging by a metal cord in the rear of an Israeli bus in a West Jerusalem parking lot, two separate narratives developed. The death came in the midst of a bitter pattern of attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians across the city and the official reason given in the autopsy by Israel was that Yousef Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, had committed suicide. However, the Palestinian media, government, family of the deceased, and witnesses to the body, most importantly a pathologist that sat in on the medical exam, all said otherwise, contradicting, the police’s pronouncement that there was “no suspicion of criminal activity.”
According to Israeli medical professionals at Abu Kabir hospital in Jerusalem where the exam took place, Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber al-Aloul agreed with their analysis that the death was self-inflicted. But Dr. al-Aloul sent his own report with different findings that suggest homicide to the Palestinian Authority. He then spoke of foul play to the Palestinian outlet Ma’an News Agency.
The day after al-Ramouni’s death, photos emerged from his family showing bruising on the torso. Immediately, the dispute over the death escalated. Palestinians claimed settlers killed al-Ramouni. “According to the report they made for us, there is no way he committed suicide. My brother had everything in life,” said al-Ramouni’s brother to Haaretz’s Nir Hasson. “This is impossible, he had a great life,” he continued.
In the fallout Israeli police took to social media. “Autopsy of Arab bus driver that died last night completed. Findings are-incident not criminal related whatsoever,” said spokesperson Investigator Micky Rosenfeld.
On Sunday police summoned for interrogation Dr. al-Aloul. He did not surrender himself. “After I participated in the autopsy of al-Ramouni, I wrote a report and handed it to the Palestinian minister of health in accordance with legal protocol an hour before the victim’s body was buried,” Dr. al-Aloul said to Ma’an.
But with the Palestinian narrative of homicide gaining steam, as well on social media, more action was taken.
Mondoweiss has obtained a copy of a letter authored by the Israeli General Coordinator of the Palestinian territories to the Palestinian Authority, asking them “to stop such incitement and bring the genuine facts regarding the circumstances of death of the deceased, to the attention of the Palestinian public.” In Israel, incitement is a crime punishable with a prison sentence.
The letter also links al-Ramouni’s death, and the Palestinian media coverage that labeled it a murder to last week’s attack on a synagogue where five Israelis, four rabbis and one Druze police officer, were killed by cousins and East Jerusalem residents Ghassan and Oday and Abu Jamal. “It is clear that such publications have the capacity to incite and to lead to violence and terror against Israel and its citizens. Only today we witnessed heinous terror attack that took the lives of 4 Israelis, in a synagogue in Jerusalem.”
But discrepancies in narratives on the cause of death continued. After the autopsy was disclosed, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that Netanyahu was directly responsible for the death that they called an “assassination.” At the same time, Jerusalem is still reeling from weeks of unrest with a series of Palestinian attacks and suspected attacks on Israelis. In turn Israeli officials have re-instituted a policy of punitive home demolitions for the families of the presumed and identified Palestinian attackers. Last week border police demolished by explosion the home of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi and ransacked the apartments of 40 neighbors in the process.
Below is the text of the correspondence sent to the Palestinian Authority.
Editor’s note: the letter is incorrectly dated August 14, 2014. A spokesperson for Israel’s General Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories confirmed the authenticity and said the incorrect date of drafting was an error. The letter was written and sent on November 18, 2014.
The suicide of the deceased, Mr. Yussef Hassan
- As an act of goodwill and for the sake of transparency, Israel allowed the presence of a Palestinian pathologist as a representative on behalf of the family during the post mortem autopsy of the deceased, Mr. Yussef Hassan al Ramoni
- The findings of the autopsy led to the clear conclusion that his death was a result of a suicide, and was not caused by any violence by others against him.
- We attach hereby the preliminary autopsy report. It is important to emphasize, that during the autopsy there was an overall agreement among the participants regarding the conclusions, including by the by the Palestinian pathologist.
- Nevertheless, the Palestinian media and social networks keep on wrongly publishing that the deceased was murdered by Israelis.
- To our understanding, it seems that such publications stem from the alleged Palestinian pathology’s acceptance of the autopsy’s genuine results.
- It is clear that such publications have the capacity to incite and to lead to violence and terror against Israel and its citizens. Only today we witnessed heinous terror attack that took the lives of 4 Israelis, in a synagogue in Jerusalem. It is also very disturbing that these insightful lies are supported by the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs.
- In light of the above, we urge you all to take appropriate measures to stop such incitement and bring the genuine facts regarding the circumstances of death of the deceased, to the attention of the Palestinian public.
Yoav Mordgechai, General
Coordinator of Government
Activities in the Territories