American Palestinian boy tortured, slain; is this not terror?

Published: 1989-08-28

Another American has fallen victim to terrorism in the Middle East, but this time the United States is being careful not to overreact. The president hasn't interrupted his vacation to fly back to Washington for consultation with his top advisers. The airwaves aren't full of blustering congressmen demanding retaliation. In all likelihood, the killers will go unpunished. They may even be rewarded.

The dead man this time is a 14-year-old boy, Amjad Hussein Jibril. He grew up in Colorado. Three years ago, his parents took him back to Palestine — the West Bank, Judea-Samaria, whatever you want to call it. A few days ago he turned up dead, his, body showing signs that he was tortured and murdered.

A dispatch from Agence France Presse, published in The Washington Times on Aug. 21, reported a sequence of events as follows: Amjad left his family on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 16, to attend prayer services at a mosque in the town where his family now lives, El Bireh. After the service, there was a demonstration. Israeli troops fired on it, and Amjad was among a group of youths who fled.

"What happened to him during the next 48 hours," writes the reporter, Marius Schattner, "remains a mystery." Some witnesses said Amjad was later seen in an Israeli army jeep. His mother went to Israeli occupation administrators to find him but was told Amjad was not among those who had been arrested. She didn't believe them. She then went to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, since Amjad was a U.S. citizen, and asked officials there to help find her son. They have asked Israeli authorities to investigate the matter.

Amjad's body was found Aug. 18. It was identified by his cousin, Dr. Walid Tawil, also a U.S. citizen.

"According to Dr. Tawil, a Vietnam veteran," the reporter writes, "Amjad's teeth had been smashed, his skull had been fractured, his body was covered with cigarette burns, and his left eye was missing." The Times adds, in brackets, that "Reuters news agency, in a censored dispatch, quoted unnamed Israeli military officials as saying that Palestinian activists might have killed the boy to incite anti-Israeli unrest."

This explanation is, to put it very mildly, implausible. At a time when Israeli forces disguised as tourists are killing Palestinians, the idea that Palestinians would not only murder a Palestinian boy for propaganda advantage but also torture and mutilate him first, is so hard to believe that the man who said it probably didn't believe it himself.

You may note the disparity in moral indignation between the murder of Lt. Col. William Higgins and the murder of Amjad Jibril. Col. Higgins' death caused our politicians and pundits to call for an all-out "war on terrorism," preferably a war against "the source," presumed to be Iran. Amjad's even crueler murder has evoked almost no public reaction, certainly no calls for retaliation — because any retaliation would most likely have to be directed against our "reliable ally" and fellow champion of "democratic values," Israel. Few of our congressmen even have the nerve to suggest that the United States should distance itself from Israel.

The critic of Israel knows what to expect. The columnist Patrick Buchanan is being assailed as anti-Israel and anti Semitic for asking bluntly just what benefits the U.S. is getting from this costly alliance. Those who revile him have no answer except personal abuse.

Not only abuse, but peculiarly baseless abuse. Mr. Buchanan has never suggested that Israel has no right to exist, or that Jews should enjoy fewer rights than other people. On the contrary, he is applying a single moral criterion to everyone.

The charge ought to be turned around. Anyone who defends Israel's present laws pertaining to non-Jews and especially its treatment of non-Jews in the occupied territories ought to be asked whether he would approve the similar treatment of Jews anywhere.

To ask the question is to answer it. Any such abuse of Jews would instantly get the infamy it deserved. A torture-murder like that of young Jibril would result in a flood of speeches, articles, probably a book and a movie, not to speak of military reprisal.

And what does our fellow citizen, Amjad Jibril get ? As far as I know, one newspaper column, which will probably cause more anger here than his wicked killers.

Joseph Sobran is a columnist with the National Review

Published in The Palm Beach Post, Monday, August 28, 1989

Joseph Sobran is a nationally syndicated columnist who now maintains a Website at

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Joseph Sobran
Title: American Palestinian boy tortured, slain; is this not terror?
Sources: The Palm Beach Post Monday, August 28, 1989
Published: 1989-08-28
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 15, 2000, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Comments: Joseph Sobran died on Sept. 30, 2010, aged 64. For an obituary see
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