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Revisiting ‘Graveyard of Numbers’: Israel refuses to return remains of Palestinian militants as a punitive measure

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A recent headline in Haaretz claimed the Israeli government withholding of Said Abu Jamal and Uday Abu Jamal’s corpses, they are the two Palestinians cousins responsible for carrying out the synagogue attack in Jerusalem last Monday, was an “unprecedented move“.  How odd, for there’s nothing unprecedented in the least about Israel refusing to release the bodies of deceased Palestinian militants to their families for burial. How short are our memories? It was only two years ago Israel ceremoniously returned 91 Palestinian bodies back to their families as a bargaining chip to grease Abbas into yet another round of futile “framework” negotiations.

At the time Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev said the gesture was intended as a confidence-building measure “Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever.”

Rrright. We all know how well that worked out. So, what’s the unprecedented move?


The state won’t release to their families for burial the bodies of the two cousins who carried out the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue…..This is apparently the first time that Israel has withheld the bodies of terrorists as a deterrent measure….

“This won’t deter [anyone], it will only cause more tension and more people will do terrible things,” said the family’s lawyer, Muhammad Mahmoud.

This is demented. It’s the very same policy they had before they just slap a new rational on it and claim it’s as a deterrence. Palestinians know very well Israel interns the bodies of militants for decades if it suits their purpose. And where’s the evidence it deters anyone?

Israel will likely use the corpses of Palestinian martyrs as a bargaining chip at some later date. How morbid and cynical. Although Israel is not alone in using fighter’s remains as a bargaining chip, Hamas is currently holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers for this purpose, Israel may be alone in using the dead to actively try to punish the living. Amira Hass, in writing about the reaction to the synagogue killings in Behind the silent reaction of the Palestinian street, make the point the assailants knew what the consequences would be for their families.

In recent weeks, government officials have called for intensifying the collective punishment of Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents to deter potential attackers. But these official, public threats did nothing to deter Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal. They planned their murderous operation despite knowing their families would suffer one way or another: violent raids on their houses, arrests, humiliation, having their houses sealed or destroyed. They surely knew that if they weren’t killed, they’d be arrested, perhaps tortured during interrogation and sentenced to life. But none of this deterred them.

I’m sure Israel knows this too.

Last year we ran the report Graveyard of numbers by Palestinian-American Nadya Raja Tannous where she recounts her travel guide’s explanation of a martyrs poster on a wall in Nablus. Reading it again now I’m reminded how nothing has changed. Everything stays the same and the seed of violence is propagated for a new season. In the following excerpt the guide explained a man who died nearly 40 years ago, his corpse carried out the sentencing imposed by the court ruling after his death:

Martyr Poster (Photo:Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) 47th Delegation 2013)

Martyr Poster (Photo:Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) 47th Delegation 2013)

If a Palestinian from the West Bank is considered to be guilty of a crime by the State of Israel upon their death, the Israeli military can collect that person’s remains and place the individual in a trial post-mortem. After the trial process, a sentence is assigned and the body is taken to a storage facility inside of Israel and held in detention until the sentence is fulfilled.

This man looking down at us was named Hafith Muhammad Wahid Abu Zanat and his corpse was condemned to 20 years in prison. During this time, his family’s rights to burial and/or viewing of his remains were revoked until the 20 year jail period was carried out to term. In 1996, Hafith was returned to his family in Nablus, marking the first time that they were actually able to see him and mourn over his remains since the day that he was shot and his body was initially removed by the military.

Our guide told us that he was present when the Abu Zanat family received their son. His old father stooped over the casket and opened the lid only to find, of course, his son’s bare bones, his recognition long gone with the process of time. Additionally, there was no assurance that these remains even belonged to Hafith.

This is not the kind of homecoming that I would wish on anyone. I see this policy as a way to intentionally prolong familial and community mourning in order to cultivate greater desperation, hopelessness and defeat in other aspects of Palestinian life. For, as long as the remains have not been returned to their family for burial and ceremony, it is essentially as though that person is still alive, still incarcerated, with no control of their life even in death.

Furthermore, the “jail” holding facility purposefully does not catalog the remains that they process by name. It instead estranges the individuals from their identity by assigning them numbers after the court process and immediately stripping them of their name both on paper and in references for the future return to their families, hence the colloquialism the “Graveyard of Numbers”. Thus, when the body is finally returned to the family, the name of the remains is not released along with them. This often necessitates a very expensive DNA test, paid out of pocket by the family members, in order to check if the bones match up with the identity of their loved ones.

This form of arbitrary bureaucracy is ultimately a method of dehumanization and disenfranchisement that aims to remove martyrs’ families from any sort of cohesive healing process.

Incarceration of Palestinian individuals, both living and dead, contributes to the daily obstruction of general civilian movement and control over their basic livelihoods. Such aims are all part of the same network of demoralizing policies that are implemented by the State of Israel to remind the Palestinian people, Zones A, B, and C, that they are not free and will not soon be free.

Even in death, escape requires permission.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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50 Responses

  1. just
    November 21, 2014, 2:21 pm

    agony. illegal.

    from 2013:


    In a report submitted to the United Nations in 2009, JLAC exposes Israel continued violation of international law and the “the inappropriate and disrespectful actions practiced on human bodies. ” Conventional and customary International Humanitarian Law has determined that contesting parties in armed conflict, whether international or domestic, must respect the dead whether killed in the battlefield or died while in detention. Bodies must be collected, evacuated, buried in properly marked graves and their families must be notified. Moreover, the return of dead bodies to the party that they belong to or upon the request of their next of kin is an international obligation duly recognized under international customary law and relevant treaties.

    Israeli actions constitute a direct violation of international Law and Article 17, 120, 130 of the Geneva Convention that outline the criteria for treatment of enemy bodies.

    Graves are not adequately maintained and bodies are buried in areas at high risk of exposure. Tombs are not properly marked and families are unaware of their location, bared from visiting their loved ones. Furthermore as Khilleh notes that prior to the 1st of September 1976, “None of the cases were documented, identified or filed. Some of the bodes were used to harvest organs and as cadavers for medical students, while the conditions of the graves have made it impossible to identify some of the returned remains. These actions show a severe and criminal disrespect for the bodies of the deceased.”

    Colonial Policy

    The unofficial Israeli policy of withholding the bodies of Arab and Palestinian war victims, if viewed in comparison to other wartime conflicts, is consistent with international law. However it is important to contextualize this violence within the reality of the conflict itself. Israel continual retention of the Palestinian dead is not a byproduct of war but a form collective punishment for resisting colonialism. Israel’s policy to withhold the remains of enemy combatants is consistent with the State’s narrative of perpetual war. This narrative aims to present the conflict as a battle between competing powers, not the asymmetrical struggle against the ongoing occupation and Judaization of the oPt. The inability for Palestinian and Arab families to burry and honor their loved ones reflects a gross violation of their rights and an extension of Israeli control over the bodies of the living and the deceased. For these Palestinians the occupation extends to the grave.”

    thanks, Annie. it’s important to be reminded of this~ there are so many Isr atrocities, and some become forgotten. I was reminded of this ‘graveyard of numbers’ when I went looking for the craven destruction of cemeteries by the IOF this last round when some here alleged that not enough respect was being shown for the terrible deaths of the men who were in synagogue.

    • annie
      November 21, 2014, 2:35 pm

      i just didn’t see the point of headlines claiming this was a “first”. more like ‘first time they used this hasbara on an all too common practice.’ as if the practice is somehow going to make jewish lives safer! can you imagine if hamas tried advertising the idea they were holding jewish remains to deter israel from bombing them!!! no one would believe that for a second. what a farce, israel will bomb the hell out of them, as the did last summer, to prevent live jewish hostages. what’s the chance jewish remains would make them rethink that policy? deterrence my a**.

      • just
        November 21, 2014, 2:41 pm

        you nailed it again, Annie…

        speaking of murdered Palestinians who Isr has lied about, did you see this yet?

        “A sophisticated and compelling analysis of video and other evidence has pinpointed the Israeli occupation soldier who shot and killed seventeen-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara six months ago.

        Meanwhile, an occupation soldier arrested in Nuwara’s killing is being treated as a hero by thousands of Israelis.

        Nuwara was shot dead in cold blood by an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia on 15 May during protests marking Nakba Day, the commemoration of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Another teen, Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, sixteen years old, was shot dead at almost the same spot, the same day, in the same manner.

        The analysis, explained in the brief video above, was conducted by the UK-based research group Forensic Architecture at the request of Defence for Children International–Palestine (DCI-Palestine).”

        lots more:

      • Walid
        November 21, 2014, 8:31 pm

        Annie, like you said, Israel is in the habit of storing remains for decades to be used in swaps. The really big swaps were with Hizbullah that only got into the game of swaps because this was the way of Israel. So the master at trading human bodies and human parts is Israel.

        1996- Israel traded 46 live Lebanese prisoners held at Khiam Prison and the remains of 123 Lebanese fighters with Hizbullah for the remains of 2 Israeli soldiers killed 10 years earlier in Lebanon.

        2003- Israel traded the remains of 2 Hizbullah fighters with Hizbullah in exchange of allowing the German negotiator to see the captured Israeli spy Elhanan Tanenbaum held prisoner by Hizbullah.

        2004- Israel traded 400 Palestinian and 30 Lebanese prisoners (including Dirani that was raped by the Israeli interrogator Captain George), and the remains of 50 Lebanese fighters with Hizbullah in exchange of the remains of 3 Israeli soldiers killed in Chebaa Farms 4 years earlier and the release of the Israeli spy Colonel Tannenbaum. On his release, Tannenbaum on live TV announced that he had been extremely well treated by Hizbullah during his captivity, given the best food ad all the books he had asked for to read during his 2 or 3 year imprisonment

        2007- Israel traded the remains of 2 Hizbullah 2006 fighters and the release of the mentally sick Lebanese prisoner.(Israel had dragged the 2 Lebanese corpses across the border for use in future swaps as well as a mentally sick man that had been sitting on his front porch watching the fighting a few meters away) in exchange with Hizbullah for the remains of the Ethiopian swimmer that had drowned in Israel but had gotten washed up on Lebanon’s shore.

        2008- Nasrallah announced to the families of soldiers killed in 2006 that they had been lied to by their government in pretending they had brought back full bodies of killed soldiers when in fact, Israel had abandoned the remains of 21 soldiers on the battlefield in Lebanon and had lied about it. The IDF was too busy dragging corpses across the border for future swaps that it left body parts of 21 of their comrades.

        2008- Israeli traded 7 Lebanese prisoners in exchange with Hizbullah for the body-parts remains of 21 soldiers abandoned in Lebanon.

        2008- Israel traded the remains of 199 Lebanese that it had held for 30 years and released prisoner Samir Kuntar in exchange with Hizbullah for the remains of the 3 abducted soldiers in 2006.

      • annie
        November 22, 2014, 7:37 am

        just, i have not read EI’s article, but forensic architecture wrote us days ago – we started a draft …just behind that’s all.

        walid, i was aware israel and hezbollah have made many trades over the years (excellent tour guides at mleeta), but i didn’t recall or had not heard of some of the exchanges you mentioned. thank you.

      • just
        November 22, 2014, 6:52 pm

        thanks for the reply, Annie. the video is stunning.

  2. seafoid
    November 21, 2014, 3:48 pm

    “Last week, at the funeral of the three Jewish teens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the huge moral chasm between us and the Palestinians. ”

    That is so laughable. There is a moral chasm alright but it is not as Zionist Jews imagine in to be.

    “Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Friday called for Israel to revoke the citizenship of terrorists’ families who support attacks against Israelis.
    “We must be extremely focused [in or efforts] against evil people, to locate them and deal with them firmly,” Barkat told Army Radio. ”

    Evil . Again, a joke. When Israel punishes with the full force of the law those who kill Palestinians with impunity Barkat can start talking about evil. But not now.

  3. seafoid
    November 21, 2014, 3:53 pm

    None of the punitive measures Israel impose whether retaining corpses, demolishing homes , torturing etc will deter Palestinians who have had enough. The cruelty is a communication with Yossi Israeli within the confines of the Hebrew bubble to assure him that the heinous crime against humanity of killing JEWS (with tefillin or not) OMG WTF will not go unpunished. Palestinians don’t give a f$ck about Jewish sanctity as long as Jews kill Palestinians with impunity and that’s just a normal reaction to bullshit.

  4. seafoid
    November 21, 2014, 4:21 pm

    Those special Jewish teams that scour death sites gathering the minutest pieces of flesh before sundown, so important it is for Jews to have everything for the funeral and Israel won’t release bodies of Palestinains to families for burial, with the accompanying agony for grieving families – the rank hypocrisy of Zionism is so repugnant.

    • just
      November 21, 2014, 4:42 pm

      Yeah, and Salem Shamaly( RIP) was murdered in cold blood during a break in the bombing as he was searching for his family…other volunteers went to try to retrieve the dead during breaks, and were unable to because the IOF were sniping at them…

      so much for respect.

  5. Kay24
    November 21, 2014, 4:43 pm

    Now they are inflicting pain, by refusing to release the bodies of Palestinians. Another form of collective punishment, zio style. I am sure they would be enraged had the situation been reversed. There is no limit to this.

  6. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    November 21, 2014, 4:50 pm

    Sweet, baby Jesus. I consider myself fairly well informed on Israel’s outrages but I was not familiar with this one. I knew that they kept bodies from families as bargaining chips but to impose a sentence on a corpse? That sounds positively medieval.

    “On 30 January 1661, (the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I), Cromwell’s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey, and was subjected to the ritual of a posthumous execution… His disinterred body was hanged in chains at Tyburn, and then thrown into a pit. Cromwell’s severed head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685.” Wikipedia.

    Remind again who’s suppose to be the force of modernity out there?

  7. hophmi
    November 21, 2014, 7:11 pm

    I see you’re repeating this blood libel about trying corpses. You truly will believe anything.

    • annie
      November 21, 2014, 7:45 pm

      hops, what definition of blood libel are you using? it’s my understanding from what nadya wrote, what she was told was that the court sentenced “the individual” (judged actions he committed while alive). it doesn’t say in the text they tried his corpse. they kept it from the family until the man’s sentence was fulfilled. and there’s no blood in the story at all or any accusation any jew killed anyone. not sure how that qualifies as a blood libel. or has the definition been expanded?

      it also might interest you to know the haaretz article did reference the court wrt the final decision on the withholding of remains.

      “We can’t commit to a certain date [for returning the bodies],” Chief Inspector Yigal Elmaliah, who was representing the Israel Police, told the court. “There are two aspects, the investigative aspect, which the court has seen, and another aspect that I’m not sure I’m authorized to report. For this reason we are arguing that this isn’t the forum to discuss it. …… One possibility being considered is not to return the bodies to the families, but [for the state] to bury them. The issue is being examined at the highest levels.”

      one assumes they’d get a life sentence. so if the state decides to bury them do you think they will also make the location known? with a headstone or plaque? otherwise what we’re quibbling about here is the name of the graveyard. but to palestinians, it’s essentially the same thing. where’s the bloodlibel hops?

      • just
        November 21, 2014, 7:50 pm

        i think it’s any truth/fact that he doesn’t want to admit to…

      • just
        November 21, 2014, 7:53 pm

        and, that’s a whole lotta ‘blood libels’…

  8. Mayhem
    November 21, 2014, 7:37 pm

    Israel may be alone in using the dead to actively try to punish the living

    What rubbish! You so conveniently block out of your mind what doesn’t suit your vanilla agenda. Israel was held to ransom over the bodies of three of their soldiers in 2004, having to barter hundreds of convicted terrorists in exchange. What a punishment for the living is that, for the families of those who see those who murdered their loved ones being freed.
    Israel perfectly justified in not released the bodies of the murderers –

    As one commenter so aptly said, “The graves are turned into shrines. It encourages more terror.”

    Israel has to find ways to give less and less opportunity to potential murderers to gain from their evil acts.

    • annie
      November 21, 2014, 8:01 pm

      Israel was held to ransom over the bodies of three of their soldiers in 2004, having to barter hundreds of convicted terrorists in exchange

      doesn’t that indicate the intention of keeping the remains was for the return of their living? what, pray tell, is one to think about the headline? what is one to think about the “unprecedented move”?

      This is apparently the first time that Israel has withheld the bodies of terrorists as a deterrent measure.

      ….. Attorneys Sigi Ben-Ari and Andre Rosenthal of the Center for the Defense of the Individual, who have been involved in a number of cases in which terrorists’ bodies were returned to their families, don’t recall a previous instance of the state stating outright that it was withholding bodies as a punishment or deterrent.

      and what is your evidence, or any evidence at all that keeping the remains would deter a crime? there is none! it’s all conjecture used to manipulate peoples minds. because we know very well hamas will not return the remains of the israeli soldiers unless some prisoners, or some of the 500 people abducted during israel june/july pogrom on the palestinians in west bank are released. it’s highly unlikely.

      Israel has to find ways to give less and less opportunity to potential murderers to gain from their evil acts.

      iow, you wouldn’t object to anyone creating less and less opportunity for potential jewish murderers to gain from their evil acts. and by what methods should one pre identify the border guard who shot the boy in cold blood on nakba day? or 16 yr old abu khdeir. so many more palestinians are slaughtered by israel than in reverse, would you advocate killing little jewish children as collateral damage too? please don’t talk to us about evil acts. not after last summer. go dig the mote out of your eye while lecturing us on the virtues of collective punishment.

      • Mayhem
        November 21, 2014, 9:42 pm

        In previous cases, following the police investigation, the bodies of perpetrators were returned to families who held funerals for them, some of which spiraled into violent Palestinian protests. Israel has invariably abided by due procedures, while its enemies have time and time again pursued cruel, hateful measures.
        Hamas has always shouted out that it will reek havoc on Israel when its own militants get killed. Hamas continues to celebrate the brutal murder of innocent people, making it plainly evident that Israel has no-one with whom to negotiate. Israel needs to explore new ways to deal with the current wave of attacks. No nation in the world can allow such heinous acts like those perpetrated in Jerusalem this week to sway its resolve.

      • annie
        November 22, 2014, 8:29 am

        yes we are all well aware israel interrupts funeral processions and starts shooting tear gas and other weapons sometimes killing people.

        No nation in the world can allow such heinous acts like those perpetrated in Jerusalem this week to sway its resolve

        don’t act like you’re so special. we’ve got plenty of horrendous attacks in this country, including school massacres and stuff. it doesn’t justify collective punishments with all your hamas hamas hamas evil evil stuff as israel cranks up the tension and rhetoric day in and day out.

        why don’t you calm your nerves by reading about israeli pr porn:

        “After Jerusalem attack, Netanyahu hopes ‘PR porn’ will win support abroad”

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      November 21, 2014, 8:33 pm

      If collective punishment is such an effective way to stop crime why don’t they apply it to Jewish terrorists?

    • eljay
      November 21, 2014, 9:52 pm

      >> Mayhemeee: Israel has to find ways to give less and less opportunity to potential murderers to gain from their evil acts.

      And the world has to find ways to give less and less opportunity to the oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel to gain from its past and ON-GOING evil acts.

      Of course, it would be nice if Israel were to:
      – stop stealing, occupying and colonizing Palestinian land and oppressing, torturing and killing Palestinians; and
      – pursue justice, accountability and equality.

      Unfortunately, Zio-supremacism won’t allow it.

      • Mayhem
        November 22, 2014, 7:40 am

        And Eljay makes his 7746th posting repeating the exact same terms as he always does – oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and zio-supremacist, omitting the word ‘ethnic-cleansing’ this time through some inexplicable oversight.

        True to form Eljay makes remarks that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

      • eljay
        November 22, 2014, 12:07 pm

        >> Mayhemeee: And Eljay makes his 7746th posting repeating the exact same terms as he always does – oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and zio-supremacist, omitting the word ‘ethnic-cleansing’ this time through some inexplicable oversight.

        It’s quite explicable: I use terms that I feel are relevant in the post I’m writing. Ethnic cleansing wasn’t relevant in that post, so I didn’t use it.

        I get that the accuracy of those terms offends you, but until such time as they are no longer accurate, I will continue to use them.

      • Mooser
        November 22, 2014, 7:18 pm

        “Mayhem”, I’m glad you got “ethnic cleansing” in your comment, since “eljay” omitted it. Maybe he just forgot for a minute, but I’m sure you never do.

    • seafoid
      November 22, 2014, 9:18 am

      >In previous cases, following the police investigation, the bodies of perpetrators were returned to families who held funerals for them, some of which spiraled into violent Palestinian protests.

      Yeah Mayhem. The Palestinians should just accept not to get too uppity when the Jews are in charge. Otherwise massa Jew will whup them til they understand real good

      > Israel has invariably abided by due procedures, while its enemies have time and time again pursued cruel, hateful measures.

      Thanks for the laughs

      > Hamas has always shouted out that it will reek (sic) havoc on Israel when its own militants get killed. Hamas continues to celebrate the brutal murder of innocent people, making it plainly evident that Israel has no-one with whom to negotiate.

      Israel killed over 500 children this summer and won’t negotiate anything.
      Brutal systemic murder of children and we are supposed to start crying when JEWS are killed OMG WTF

      “Nobody to negotiate with” is bullshit. Hamas offered a long term ceasefire, the Arabs have the 2003 plan and Abbas wants to discuss borders. Israel wants all the land, bas.

      > Israel needs to explore new ways to deal with the current wave of attacks.

      Maybe see the big picture and sue for peace before it’s too late . Gd doesn’t care about Israel.

      > No nation in the world can allow such heinous acts like those perpetrated in Jerusalem this week to sway its resolve.

      FFS. Rhe British in Ulster tried the hard line for years and eventually gave up. Israel has less political intelligence than the UK.

  9. Jim Holstun
    Jim Holstun
    November 22, 2014, 8:11 am

    The practice goes back to Creon of Thebes, who refused to bury his nephew Polyneices–and it didn’t turn out too well for him, once Antigone got involved.

    Here’s a B’tselem report: Lein, Yehezkel. Captive Corpses. Jerusalem: B’tselem, 1999.

  10. Polar
    November 22, 2014, 9:18 am

    No statement for any respondent here that those 2 MURDERED innocent civilians peaceful worshiping in a synagogue. . You all relate to these 2 corpses as heroes. What is the world coming to?

    • Bornajoo
      November 22, 2014, 7:16 pm


      “You all relate to these 2 corpses as heroes. What is the world coming to?”

      Is that really your understanding and impression from reading through the comments? Actually the discussion is about collective punishment. Can you please point out the bits where everyone relates to the 2 corpses as heroes?

      • Polar
        November 22, 2014, 10:08 pm

        No, it’s by reading the article:

        “Israel will likely use the corpses of Palestinian martyrs as a bargaining chip at some later date. How morbid and cynical ”

        What is the use of the word martyrs about? Are they “martyrs”?

      • annie
        November 22, 2014, 11:06 pm
      • seafoid
        November 23, 2014, 2:03 am

        Martyr is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew world vermin.

      • Polar
        November 23, 2014, 8:19 am

        Very very few in Israel viewed Goldstein as a hero and there was no one OFFICIALLY honoring him for his horrible crime. It was condemned buy Israelis for the crime that it was. The Jordanian parliament honored these Palestinian murders in an official session.–-for-synagogue-terrorists/

      • annie
        November 23, 2014, 9:53 am

        Very very few in Israel viewed Goldstein as a hero

        excuse me? from the wiki page

        Goldstein’s gravesite became a pilgrimage site for Jewish extremists.[7] Upon the tomb, the following words are inscribed: “He gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land.”[6] In 1999, after the passing of Israeli legislation outlawing monuments to terrorists, the Israeli Army dismantled the shrine that had been built to Goldstein at the site of his interment. The tombstone and its epitaph, calling Goldstein a martyr with clean hands and a pure heart, was left untouched.[8]

        it has nothing to do being “officially” recognized. i can’t speak for palestinians, but it’s my understanding anyone dying as part of their struggle for liberation is considered a martyr. the synagogue massacre was carried out as related to the struggle. and i am not the only person who feels like that,it’s widely understood. and it seems fairly certain lots of orthodox jews consider the attack at the synagogue as part of the resistance too: to the perpetrators their actions were likely related to al aqsa mosque. also, it was the synagogue where the father of one the killers of mohammed khdeir worshipped. it was thought out, and logically they undoubtably assumed their actions would lead to their death and they chose to sacrifice their lives for a cause.

        goldstein’s massacre, as horrendous as it was, was carried out in his mind and the mind of his followers as a (his) sacrifice for a cause. it wouldn’t be in the same category as say, the columbine massacre. this is the definition of a martyr, is it not? i think it is undoubtably clear goldstein died as a martyr to a cause, i (or you) can’t change that no matter how i personally feel about a crime. and he will go down in history as a martyr to his cause regardless of whether he is “officially” designated as such (which i am sure he is behind many closed doors of certain officials in israel).

      • Bornajoo
        November 23, 2014, 10:34 am

        The term “martyr” is the one used within the context of the community they lived and died in. In that world they are courageous freedom fighters who fought and died as part of the ongoing struggle against the occupation. These murders, as abhorrent and horrific as they were, need to be understood within the context and framework of the whole situation. This was not just a random act with no motive. I absolutely do not agree with what they did, I cannot condone it or support it in any way. On a different level I believe it was a political/strategic mistake

        But I do understand the motives and the “why” it happened in the overall situation even though I don’t agree with it one tiny bit

        In your world they are just murderers. In their world they were freedom fighters who died as martyrs for their cause

        From the other point of view, israel was responsible for 2,200 MURDERS in Gaza during Operation Protective Slaughter and hundreds more during Cast Lead and Pillar of Defence, not to mention the almost daily murder, maiming, imprisonment of innocent Palestinian civilians that happens on a daily basis which goes almost unnoticed. Those soldiers who carry out those acts are terrorists to those on the receiving end, a much more powerful and deadlier form of state terrorism.

        Being murdered by the IDF or Israel police doesn’t count as murder. It’s only murder when it’s carried out by Arabs, right? Or do you consider all killings of Palestinians by the Israeli state completely legitimate?

      • Mooser
        November 23, 2014, 11:04 am

        “Very very few in Israel viewed Goldstein as a hero….”

        Squelch! Oh, phew! Whoa! What are you doing, Polar? Don’t try and rub it off on me!

    • Walid
      November 23, 2014, 11:44 am

      “What is the use of the word martyrs about?”(Polar)

      The Bible’s first recorded Christian martyr died stoned by the Jews for refusing to renounce his faith was Stephen, one of the 7 helpers appointed to help the apostles with their work. Saul the Jew that later became Paul the Christian as he held the cloaks of the stone throwers. (Acts 6 and 7)

      The New Advent Encyclopedia explains martyrdom”

      “The Greek word “martus” signifies a witness who testifies to a fact of which he has knowledge from personal observation. It is in this sense that the term first appears in Christian literature; the Apostles were “witnesses” of all that they had observed in the public life of Christ, as well as of all they had learned from His teaching, “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

      ths of the Christian religion, that he gladly suffers death rather than deny it.

      … Yet, it was only by degrees, in the course of the first age of the Church, that the term martyr came to be exclusively applied to those who had died for the faith.”

      For full essay on martyrdom:

      Christians count close to 8 million Jehova’s Witnesses worldwide that could be considered living martyrs in the “witness” sense of the word.

      For Moslems, the word is used for both one who bears witness for his faith (the shahada)and one that dies for his faith, either being applicable to the 2 cousins.

      • Bornajoo
        November 23, 2014, 12:11 pm

        Thank you for the detailed and informative explanation Walid. It explains the context of the use of the term martyr clearly in this case

      • gamal
        November 24, 2014, 2:30 am

        Daniel McGowan writes “Some of Us Still Remember” about the site of Har Nof, the disclaimer after the article is also interesting

  11. CigarGod
    November 22, 2014, 10:20 am

    Nice job, annie.

    Thanks, walid. I didn’t know the extent of this practice. As I read the list…i almost expected to hear that the collected trophy ears were exchanged for…

    • annie
      November 22, 2014, 10:59 am

      cigar god, speaking of extent of practice, there’s a b’tselem report up thread, i have not read it yet.

  12. Polar
    November 23, 2014, 1:07 pm

    “Marty”r + “freedom fighter” + “context”=justification for the attack on the synagogue.

    Tou really are no different than those who support Baruch Goldstein

    • annie
      November 23, 2014, 1:49 pm

      are you crazy? maybe you don’t know the common definition of

      martr 1mar·tyr noun \ˈmär-tər\
      : a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion, cause, etc.

      here’s another:

      : a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle

      even those violent crackpot thrusting around with knives at the wedding, if they attacked and killed arabs solely because they were palestinians, to make the “land of israel” free of muslims and/or arabs, and were killed as a result the chances they would be considered martyrs by their own kind is 100%. regardless of having distain for killings or any racist nature behind them it is inevitable people who are part of that same cause will consider the sacrificial aspects and conclude the act one of martyrdom, just like they did w/goldstein. i or you can’t change the definition merely because you find the action despicable. it has nothing to do w/my personal feelings, this is the definition.

      if you care to argue the cousins had no ulterior motive in relation to the surrounding events wrt the liberation of palestine or the mosque or, say if one was a jealous lover and had some personal beef with one of the people killed having to do with money or something like that, have at it. but if someone does something for a cause and personally suffers, or is willing to sacrifice ones life for that cause that is the definition of a martyr. as a stated earlier i think it is undoubtably clear goldstein died as a martyr to a cause, i (or you) can’t change that no matter how i personally feel about a crime. – See more at:

      what’s next! are you going to accuse me of justifying what goldstein did? seriously, you are spamming this thread. you asked me why i used the term and i told you. enough with this stupidity!

      • Mr Saigon
        Mr Saigon
        November 23, 2014, 9:30 pm

        The use of the word “martyr” to describe the two Arab Palestinians who murdered innocent Jews praying in a Synagogue is appalling and your explanation is ludicrous to say the least. Those who believe that their religion commanded or compelled them to murder innocent civilians and that a greater principle was served by that gruesome act, would refer to them as ‘martyrs’. Violent Islamist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad etc would use the word ‘martyr’ because that is part of their belief system, that killing innocent civilians for the sake for their religion is justified and even rewarded by their warped sense of a compassionate and merciful God. Those who do not share those values and hold the belief that such acts are inconsistent with someone who is guided by a God full of compassion and mercy, do not use the word ‘martyr’ to describe such gruesome act.

        Out of this whole tragedy, all you can muster is a condemnation of Israel for not releasing the bodies of the perpetrators. Do you have no empathy for the family and friends of the victims at all?

      • annie
        November 23, 2014, 11:06 pm

        Those who do not share those values and hold the belief that such acts are inconsistent with someone who is guided by a God full of compassion and mercy, do not use the word ‘martyr’ to describe such gruesome act.

        not necessarily. for example, in the case of last summer when the iof slaughtered hundreds and hundreds of innocent civilians. they merely blamed the militants of their opponents (many of whom were parents and relatives and loved ones of those same innocents) and absolved themselves as easy as washing their hands clean after an evening meal. you may have noticed those who died in the process of slaughtering those children were regarded (by some) as heroes who died for a cause.

        frankly, it’s hard for me to take people like you seriously. the hypocrisy is stunning.

        i noticed your ‘heart went out’ to the one little girl killed in gaza that, according to PCHR, was killed when a rocket misfired and not another word about any of the hundreds of little children slaughter in cold blood by israel last summer. your remorse is not accepted.

      • Walid
        November 24, 2014, 1:47 am

        Mr Saigon, I agree that the word “martyr” used in all sauces has been overused by Moslems, somewhat like the subject of the Holocaust being overused by Jews, but from your post, you don’t appear to know much about Islam and its views on violence and terrorism. Here, Juan Cole summarizes it in 10 points:

        “1. Terrorism is above all murder. Murder is strictly forbidden in the Qur’an. Qur’an 6:151 says, “and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (i.e. murder is forbidden but the death penalty imposed by the state for a crime is permitted). 5:53 says, “… whoso kills a soul, unless it be for murder or for wreaking corruption in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and he who saves a life, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”

        2. If the motive for terrorism is religious, it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur’an says, “There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error.” (-The Cow, 2:256). Note that this verse was revealed in Medina in 622 AD or after and was never abrogated by any other verse of the Quran. Islam’s holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

        3. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, “But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things.” (8:61) The Quran chapter “The Cow,” 2:190, says, “Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! God loveth not aggressors.”

        4. In the Islamic law of war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community that engages in the war. Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state, as advised by the mufti or national jurisconsult.

        5. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. According to Sunni tradition, ‘Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first Caliph, gave these instructions to his armies: “I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . . ” (Malik’s Muwatta’, “Kitab al-Jihad.”)

        6. Terrorism or hirabah is forbidden in Islamic law, which groups it with brigandage, highway robbery and extortion rackets– any illicit use of fear and coercion in public spaces for money or power. The principle of forbidding the spreading of terror in the land is based on the Qur’an (Surah al-Ma’ida 5:33–34). Prominent [pdf] Muslim legal scholar Sherman Jackson writes, “The Spanish Maliki jurist Ibn `Abd al-Barr (d. 464/ 1070)) defines the agent of hiraba as ‘Anyone who disturbs free passage in the streets and renders them unsafe to travel, striving to spread corruption in the land by taking money, killing people or violating what God has made it unlawful to violate is guilty of hirabah . . .”

        7. Sneak attacks are forbidden. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice.

        8. The Prophet Muhammad counseled doing good to those who harm you and is said to have commanded, “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

        9. The Qur’an demands of believers that they exercise justice toward people even where they have reason to be angry with them: “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.”[5:8]

        10. The Qur’an assures Christians and Jews of paradise if they believe and do good works, and commends Christians as the best friends of Muslims. I wrote elsewhere, “Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians.

        Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”
        In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.
        When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and some Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

        5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

        So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.”

        In conclusion, there was nothing Islamic or heroic in the 2 cousins having repeated in a Jerusalem synagogue what Baruch Goldstein did 25 years ago in a Hebron Mosque. BTW, suicide as with suicide-bombers is also not permitted in Islam.

      • RoHa
        November 24, 2014, 3:25 am

        Mmmmm….martyr sauce…

    • Bornajoo
      November 23, 2014, 1:56 pm

      Nobody used the word justified!
      Was the murder of 2200 Palestinians in Gaza during the summer justified? Please answer that question.

      • gamal
        November 24, 2014, 5:42 am

        Walid from point 2 nashk (abrogation), is a far from universally accepted process, the whole idea betokens the bad faith of good many scholars, he is of course correct to mention it in that many scholars engaged in this weird activity and in the frankly hilarious discussions of the mushaf and the ”Quran ” and the famous “missing” word or verse debacles, its a favorite of anti-Muslim ideologues and i suppose rightly so, but has always been attacked in toto by many scholars, for the very good reason that it makes no sense what so ever, the whole area is replete with clearly forged hadith, of which of course there are very many, and invented but textually abrogated verse’s whose rulings are nonetheless still in force, the whole area is a cause of embarrassment and tool for the promotion of humility for Muslims, for instance in the case of stoning for adultery which is with out basis in the Quran, some cunning blokes invented their own “Quran”. I was always taught that hadith cannot be used to interpret the Quran, paradoxically only the Quran can be used to interpret the Quran, thats a pretty standard Azharite position. It always makes me think of that Bill Hicks joke about Southern fundamentalists opining “I think what God meant to say….”.

        I am listening to an extended BBC farago about the perils of home grown terrorism, we can all kiss some cherished rights good bye, surveillance must be total.

        Louay Fatoohi writes

        I also study the main relevant ḥadīths and show that they lack credibility. We will see, for instance, that most of these alleged verses are non-legalistic, yet all modes of abrogation imply that they deal with verses that introduce legal rulings. Using legal-textual abrogation to explain the absence of the alleged verses from the muṣḥaf is not only doomed to fail, but is also self-contradictory as abrogation, by definition, cannot be applied to those missing passages.

        The abrogation of the wording but not the ruling of a Qur’anic verse is the subject of Chapters 11 and 12. There are two passages that are not found in the muṣḥaf and a missing word from a verse in the muṣḥaf that are claimed to represent “textual abrogation,” as I call this mode of abrogation. I examine the so-called “stoning verse” separately in Chapter 11, because of the length of this discussion, and I deal with the other two cases in Chapter 12.

        Again, Ḥadīth narratives are used to support these claims. Yet my examination of these ḥadīths will show that they cannot be linked to the Prophet. As is the case with the instances of legal-textual abrogation, the alleged passages are not historical, i.e. they were never part of the Qur’an. Their absence from the muṣḥaf is not due to abrogation, another mechanism, deliberate manipulation, or accident. It is simply a reflection of the fact that none of them is a Qur’anic verse.

        Having reviewed the three modes of abrogation, my conclusion is that abrogation is a phenomenon that lacks any support from the Qur’an. The three modes were developed to address three different concerns. Legal abrogation, which was probably the first mode of abrogation to appear, was the result of perceived contradictions between certain Qur’anic verses. These misinterpretations were at times chosen by exegetes to explain the prevalence of certain practices that contradicted Qur’anic rulings.

        Legal-textual abrogation was needed to rationalize the belief driven by certain narratives that the muṣḥaf did not contain all verses of the Qur’an. In the case of textual abrogation, which is the last mode of abrogation to be proposed, the alleged two passages and one missing word from the muṣḥaf were invented to give Qur’anic support to widely accepted legal rulings. In the case of stoning, this ruling was in conflict with verses in the muṣḥaf.

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