Friday, February 10, 2023

Thursday rave and rants: #Ep10 "The Jerusalem serial killer that was never caught"

This is what I ranted about in tonight’s episode of “Thursday Rants and Rave” in Arabic: The unsolved or actually the solved case of the Jerusalem serial killer in the late 1990s yet unclosed. 

I was planning to rant about another infamous serial killer tonight but then the latest escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories drew my attention to a serial killer that actually made a surprise cameo in the background of the latest and deadliest attack against Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem in 15 years.

Chaim Pearlman with Itemer Ben Gvier in 2010

Nobody thought that this cold case would come out of the past to hunt down a whole society as well as the whole world forcing us to ask questions about what if again and again.

It is officially a cold case because till now no one was convicted despite we got suspects and victims.

That cold case goes back to the year 1997 in East Jerusalem. 

On 30 November 1997, a Palestinian was stabbed and lightly injured in Shmuel HaNavi Street which borders Beit Yisrael and is considered another Ultra-Orthodox stronghold but no one paid attention. 

On 17 February 1998. 14-year-old Hamzeh Obeidieh of the Shoafat neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem who used to work in a local grocery store was attacked. He was stabbed and had a slight injury by an unknown assailant who covered his face at Mea Sheariam's Batei Warsaw quarter.

On 10 March 1998, that unknown masked assailant did it again. He attacked, stabbed, and slightly injured 17-year-old Nasser Bsharat of the Jaba neighbourhood at Reshit Chochmah street. Bsharat also worked in a local grocery store.

Two days later, on 12 March a new attack took place. 35-year-old Hassan Ka’abneh was attacked and stabbed severely in a main street in the ultra-Orthodox Haredi and Hasidic Jews neighbourhood of Mea She'arim. There was no mention of what time the attack was.

Ka’abneh’s attack was a turning point in the investigations.

In the first two attacks, the Israeli Police suspected that they were the result of a “falling out among Palestinian criminals” according to Haaretz's report on the incidents because Palestinians are the usual suspects.

It reminds me of that Israeli docuseries “The Motive” on Netflix where a whole Israeli family was shot down in their beds in 1986 in West Jerusalem and the first thing that came to the detective’s mind "it could be the Palestinians” but then it turned out to be the family’s only son aka 14-years-old-boy. “Another rant in another episode”

After the third attack, a special investigation team was formed to investigate if there were “nationalistic” motives behind those attacks. I think that a new direction in the investigation was taken due to the latest crime scene “Mea She’arim”, the stronghold of ultra-orthodox Jews where Palestinians would stand out.

Also, it seemed that there was a serial assailant who was accelerating his attack against one victim group that got no common factor between them except being Palestinian workers.

On 29 April 1998, the masked stabber did it again. The victim at that time was Wael Sawahri of Jordan who was visiting his relatives in East Jerusalem. According to Haaretz, Sawahri had left a hospital near Mea She'arim and was walking toward the Old City via Mea She'arim Street when he was stabbed from behind. Mea She’arim once again was back as a crime scene.

The Jordanian man could not see his attacker. It was a critical incident because it took during the Al-Nakba anniversary.

A week later which means on 7 May 1998, another attack took place at 5 AM.

That time the victim was 38-Nashad Salah who was stabbed in his back while he was on his way to work as a bread distributor at Ultra-orthodox Beit Yisrael Street.

Beit Yisrael street is on the North of Mea She’arim street.

Despite being unclear if Salah survived the attack or not, he gave the first description of his attacker and what he wore. He had a beard.

On 13 May 1998, the bearded assailant stroke again. It was a fatal strike that would be echoed two decades later.

Khairy Alaqm in 1998
A scan from a Palestinian newspaper reporting the murder of 
Khairy Alqam and accusing the Israeli settlers of standing behind it 

The victim’s name was Khairy Alqam of East Jerusalem’s Rus al-Amud. A construction worker, he was on his way to his work at a construction site at Ramot settlement after praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque when he was stabbed repeatedly in his torso. He was repeatedly stabbed at Shmuel HaNavi street near Beit Yisrael Street.

A father of nine, Alqam died due to his wounds on the sidewalk.

After that, it seems the assailant went into a dormant state for a couple of months.

In September 1998, an Israeli man with connections to a Jewish Ultra-nationalist group was detained for questioning but was quickly released after passing the polygraph test.

On 2 December 1998, 41-year-old Osama Natche of Abu Tor was stabbed to death at 5 AM just like Khairy Alqam 

The father of six children was working as a street cleaner. He was on his way to his work about 27 meters away from his home when he was stabbed to death on a sidewalk at Shmuel HaNavi Street. Shmuel HaNavi street is on the borders of Jewish areas and Palestinian areas above them Sheikh Jarrah.  

A knife was found at the crime scene. That knife made the Israeli police suspect the killer may be a Jewish according to a CBC News report then. It is unclear if they found fingerprints on it or not. 

How could a knife be evidence of the religion of the suspect!? Well, I assume that the stabber used a kosher knife or a shechita for instance.

The Israeli police said they suspected the attacker was out to avenge the killings of Jews by Palestinians in Jerusalem. That suspicion that the attack was a Jewish settler created an uproar in Palestinian territories then, especially in West Bank.

It is worth mentioning that we are speaking about the late 1990s when actually there were direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis and things were better than now politically speaking.

Late Natche’s attack was the seventh attack of its kind in one single year according to Israeli police. It was the second fatal one.

On 13 January 1999, another Palestinian man from Rus al-Amud was stabbed but I could not find any more details about them in Israeli media.

Following January 1999, the stabber disappeared or in the language of serial killers went into a dormant state.

I found both the November 1997 and January 1999's stabbings not in Israeli media reports but rather on Wikipedia which cites the 2009 “Jewish terrorism in Israel” book by Ami Pedahzur as its source. I agree with Pedazhur that both the November 1997 and January 1999 stabbings can be traced to one guy. It is his MO.

Before Natche’s case, the Israeli police could not find a single eyewitness in those Ultra-Orthodox streets where the stabbing happened despite, they all took place in daylight.

The family of Khairy Alqam requested to have compensation from Israel’s National Insurance Institute as Alqam was a victim of terrorism according to the Israeli Victims of Hostile Acts Law. Still, they were denied because they were not Jews. The Alqams appealed in August 2000 and won the case and they were compensated USD 162,000.

I wonder if Alqams received the compensation or not because I read that Israeli organizations stood against that.

Fast forward to mid-July 2010 when the Israeli occupation police announced that it was arrested the man suspected of the stabbings aka the serial stabber: Chaim Pearlman.

Chaim Pearlman or Haim Pearlman is a well-known Ultra-Orthodox Jew activist that is a member of the banned far-right movement “Kach” aka he is a Kahanist. He was 29 years old when he was arrested.

At the end of the 1990s he studied at a yeshiva identified with Rabbi Meir Kahane's doctrines, and he was a member of the outlawed extremist group Kach.

Pearlman was arrested a few months ago for hanging wanted posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak then. He already had a record of assaulting Palestinians.

Pearlman denied the charges in an interview with Israeli Channel 2 TV during then and accused the Shin Bet or “Israel Security Agency” of framing him because he had refused to serve as an informant and kill an Israeli Arab for them.

On 1 August, Haaretz reported that the IOP arrested two men suspected of assisting allegedly Pearlman including a man who was arrested in the year 1999 for alleged involvement in the stabbings but was released due to the lack of evidence.

During then, the Ultra-right Jewish nationalists of the Kach movement were having this support campaign demanding his release from detention, the prominent activist then and Minister of National Security now Itamar Ben-Gvir. Those supporters paid Pearlman’s legal cost.

Ben-Gvir defended Pearlman in front of a Petah Tikva court against charges of killing at least two Palestinians and injuring others “Haaretz says four, but I can’t find any source that says they were four.”

On 9 August 2010, the Judge refused a police request to extend the detention of Pearlman ordering his release because he did not see any substantial evidence that could serve to convict Pearlman according to Haaretz !!

I am reading this and, in my mind, passes tens of cases of Palestinians lingering in administrative detention for years!!

Pearlman came out of court and beside him Ben-Gvir in that infamous photo claiming that he was abused by the Shin Bit and was in prison for 31 days.

Chaim Pearlman with Itemer Ben Gvier in 2010
Chaim Pearlman with Itemer Ben Gvier in 2010

Chaim Pearlman was again summoned by the Shin Bet in August 2010. During then he was under house arrest.

Chaim Pearlman then disappeared somewhere, and we do not know what happened to him.

Yet on 27 January Khairy Alqam’s name made another deadly comeback along with Ben-Gvir.

Khairy Alaqm
Khairy Alaqm
The grandson and grandfather

Khairy Alqam junior, his 22-year-old grandson went into an illegal settlement and killed 7 settlers in a lone wolf operation after less than 48 hours of an Israeli military escalation into the West Bank and Janin refugee camp.

Ben-Gvir, the current Minister of National security ordered the demolition of Alqam’s house. Many people wonder in the Arab world if Khairy Jr was avenging Khairy Sr . I think his grandfather's murder did play a role but it was not the only reason. 

For me when I read the case of the Jerusalem stabber and how he got away whether he was Pearlman or not, it shows a lot of issues here. Israeli authorities brag about being the best intelligence and investigators and yet they could not catch a stabber in the board daylight!!

I mean to this day I do not know how many Palestinians that stabber fatally stabbed. Haaretz says one time two and the other time four victims!!

Now I would like to remind if it was the other way round, if the serial killer was a Palestinian Muslim or Christian and the victims were Jewish Israeli settlers, things would have been different, and we would have seen a very swift justice and his family may have been forced out of its house.

Here is the RSS of the Podcast which I hope you follow if you speak Arabic.

Here is the podcast's URL on Spotify and Apple Podcast. It is also available on StitcherGoogle Podcasts and  Anghami.

I want to thank all those amazing listeners who are kind enough to listen to my rants in Arabic and the amazing readers who are kind enough to read those very long posts in English.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, lets look at it the other way round. If an Egyptian was out stabbing Christians in broad daylight there would be no witnesses and no one would be arrested. No Jews could be stabbed because noble Egyptians expelled them all. If the Christians complained about the lack of police action there would be a riot and churches would be burnt down and many Christians killed or injured. Turkey, 10's of thousands killed or injured, millions homeless. But this blogger writes about the Jews..


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