Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother Hanaan Shahin

Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother Hanaan Shahin

Photos from Hanaan Shahin Facebook page

Have Mercy: The Smallest Coffins Are the Heaviest

Still, again, words fail. As Israeli bombs kill one Palestinian in Gaza every five minutes, a six-year-old Palestinian boy in Illinois was stabbed to death 26 times by his white landlord, who before the attack yelled, "You Muslims must die!" He also stabbed the boy's mother, who survived. She told police the man was like a grandfather to her son - he'd built him a treehouse - so when he arrived the boy ran to him for a hug.

Even as an American mainstream media historically aligned with Israel grapples with nominally fair-minded coverage of the complex carnage - MSNBC may or may not have silenced its three Muslim news anchors, their most knowledgeable journalists - Israeli's campaign of "extermination by air, land and sea" goes on in Gaza. At least 2,670 Palestinians have been killed to date, including over 455 in the last 24 hours, or roughly one every five minutes; observers say Israel has killed six Hamas leaders and over 800 children, many of whom may die of hunger or thirst if not bombing. While Israel hasn't yet launched a ground assault, its relentless, indiscriminate air strikes have wiped out entire families, refugee camps and neighborhoods, along with schools, hospitals, a UN school and several international relief sites; an Israeli survivor at a kibbutz also says civilians were "undoubtedly" killed in "very, very heavy crossfire" when their own forces stormed the settlement: "They eliminated everyone."

On Saturday, the violence oozed into the ostensible land of the free and the Chicago suburb of Plainfield, where Joseph Czuba, 71, stabbed to death Wadea Al-Fayoume, who just turned six, with a serrated military-style knife; he also stabbed Wadea's 32-year-mother, Hanaan Shahin, 12 times. Shahin left the West Bank 12 years ago to escape the region's violence and come to the U.S., where she was later joined by Wadea's father. She and her son - who "liked to play, to jump up and down" - had peaceably rented Czuba's ground-floor apartment for two years; during that time, Czuba befriended the boy, brought him toys, let him use a makeshift pool, and with another neighbor helped build a tree-house for him. But in the last week, Czuba's wife Mary said, her husband became obsessed with news from the Israel/Hamas war; a regular listener to right-wing talk radio, he grew paranoid and convinced that Shahin was going to call her Palestinian friends over to harm them.

Saturday morning, Czuba knocked on Shahin's door and told her he was angry about the war. She responded, “Let’s pray for peace." Seconds later, he began choking her and then attacked her with the knife, screaming, "You Muslims must die!" She fled to the bathroom to call 911, and emerged moments later to find her son stabbed in his bedroom. From the hospital, she told police that, given their earlier interactions, she "didn't have even 1% suspicion (Czuba) would hurt the child." In texts to the boy's father, she said Czuba also shouted, "You are killing our kids in Israel. You Palestinians don’t deserve to live." Police found Czuba sitting on the ground outside the home, and arrested him for first-degree murder and a hate crime; they said the mother and son “were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim." The DOJ has also launched a hate crime investigation. On Facebook, Shahin later wrote, "My son’s last words were, 'I’m fine.' May God have mercy on him and let him dwell in the highest paradise."

For Palestinians, "The attack was an attack on all of us," said Ahmed Rehab, head of CAIR-Chicago, who noted the spike of hate crimes in the U.S. even before the Hamas attack. "What we have is a Palestinian child murdered by someone radicalized by the environment in which we live right now that casts Palestinians as human animals." He described a boy who loved his family, soccer, basketball, who "paid the price for the atmosphere of hate." At a press conference, Dr. Omar Suleiman echoed him: "What type of hate has to be manufactured in the head of a man for him to stand over a 6-year-old boy and stab him 26 times." So did Wadea's uncle Yousef Hannon, a teacher who's lived here 25 years. "The gentleman heard it. It was in his mind, the only thing he saw," he said. "We are not animals, we are humans. We're not at war (or) bringing war here. We hope nothing like this happens to another child. No Palestinian, no Jewish child. No family should go through this kind of pain.”

Wadea's funeral was held Monday at a mosque in Bridgeview, a Chicago suburb home to so many Palestinians it's known as Little Palestine. Mourners filled the mosque, viewed the small white coffin draped in a Palestinian flag - Rehab: "The smallest coffins are the heaviest" - visited a memorial with stuffed animals and said they do not feel safe in America: "He was Muslim, and this is what they did." In the wake of "Israel's 9/11," just like our 9/11, notes Jon Schwarz, the revenge Israel exacts will be hideous: "There is nothing on earth like the fury of the powerful when they believe they have been defied by their inferiors." After a calamitous "war on terror" - born of grief, fear, hubris, forged by "grotesque leaders," triggering up to 5 million deaths - "Have we not learned anything?" asks Imam Omar Suleiman. And what has become of the world, that we are burning, bombing, burying, terrorizing, starving, stabbing small children, and still the blood-letting goes on. Have mercy, indeed.

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