Wadea Al-Fayoume, Samantha Woll, and a tangle of unknowns

Wadea Al-Fayoume, Samantha Woll, and a tangle of unknowns October 21, 2023

It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon and I had sat down at the computer to put together some thoughts on the recent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6 year old boy of Palestinian ethnicity in the Chicago exurbs, when I came across a new report in my twitter feed, a second stabbing death.  More on this later, but first things first.

A week ago, as reported by the Chicago Sun Times on October 16,

As the war between Hamas and Israel unfolded in recent days, a Plainfield man became increasingly concerned about what he was hearing on conservative talk radio — and became agitated about the tenants living in his home, a Palestinian American mother and her young son, prosecutors said.

On Saturday, he allegedly attacked her and then stabbed her 6-year-old son to death — horrific allegations that have stunned the Muslim community in Chicago and beyond and drawn condemnation from around the world, including from President Joe Biden.

This story as reported here and in follow-up articles (also on Oct. 16, with updates on the funeral and statements by speakers there, an editorial inveighing against hate, and a CBS News as well as  NBC News report with some additional details)  is both horrifying and straightforward, and has a clear villain:  conservative talk radio, as it was repeatedly listening to unnamed radio shows that triggered the deadly stabbing of the boy and the serious injury of his mother, who was able to survive only by locking herself in the bathroom and calling 911.

Per the Sun Times reporting, he was something of a “local eccentric” —

Neighbors said Czuba liked to collect things he found in the street and display them in front of his home. Old political campaign signs, tattered U.S. flags, discolored children’s playground sets, broken exercise equipment and other items were strewn around the yard.

Dozens of wooden crosses were planted in a row across the front lawn. A large sign reading “School of the Rock” was displayed in front of the home.

The report offers no explanation of the significance of the crosses or the sign.  A photograph of the home shows that the “School of the Rock” sign is homemade, with “rock” cut and pasted in a “ransom note” format.  There are also signs saying, “raw organic honey” and “bikes” and what seems to be a “pray to end abortion” sign.

But at the same time, up until the Hamas attack on Israel, he was not just an indifferent “landlord” — the mother and son lived in the ground floor of a two-flat or even (it’s not clear) just some portion of a shared home, the perpetrator had built the child a treehouse, and, according to a family friend, in the NBC reporting, “Czuba had been like a grandfather to Wadea.”  Which means that, as I understand it,  by no means did the mother protect herself at the cost of her son’s life, but she did not believe her son’s life was in danger — and, after all, it is beyond comprehension that this horrific attack would have happened.

Among the other details in the story, upon digging deeper:

Again according to the NBC report, the man said “you Muslims have to die” and “”You are killing our kids in Israel. You Palestinians don’t deserve to live.”  I can find no further reporting that would explain whether the man had any direct connection to Israel or Israelis, and he has been identified as Catholic.  Did “our kids” mean that he believed American soldiers were deployed there?

The reporting implies that he was listening to virulent talk radio hosts but gives no specifics, and even the editorial decrying “hate” speaks of Republican politicians, claiming, generally speaking that “they’ve been baring their Islamophobic fangs once again by painting all Arabs and Muslims as barbaric and evil supporters of Hamas,” and that Democrats “in order to profess their devotion to Israel, can’t even get themselves to utter the word Palestinian or express any concern about Palestinian Americans who are stuck in Gaza or have relatives overseas.”

In fact, at the funeral, speeches given were not about peace, generally speaking, or tolerance in America, but instead

Speakers and attendees at the funeral called for peace in the Palestinian territories and an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Some criticized politicians including President Joe Biden, Pritzker and Johnson for their statements of support for Israel. Speakers said disregarding violence endured by Palestinians is dangerous.

“We are standing for human rights, and the Palestinian people deserve to be afforded and extended the same human rights that we enjoy,” said Osama Abuirshaid, the executive director of the American Muslims for Palestine.

Outside the mosque, Sadia Nawab held up a sign in front of TV cameras that read, “One-sided statements and media lies fueled the hate that killed Wadea’s life.”

“Telling these things that are not true, telling debunked lies over and over, it is creating a culture among mainstream Americans, who don’t know as much about global news, that Muslims are to be hated,” Nawab said. “That resulted in a 71-year-old landlord … to stab an innocent 6-year-old child.”

Separately, in tweets that I admittedly can no longer find, spokespeople for the emigrant/Muslim community made clear what those “debunked lies” were referring to, that is, that they denied the truth of the massacres of Israelis at the hands of Hamas that had happened the prior week, and about which ever-more horrific details are continuing to emerge.

So what was it that triggered Czuba to kill?

The man’s photo shows someone who looked aged well beyond his 71 years, with white, matted hair and a blank look on his face.  Again, however much the media calls him a “landlord,” he hardly seems to be such by profession, with the implication of wealth and earning a living renting out property.  Also, he made no attempt to flee the scene of the crime but was found on the lawn.  The reports provide no information on his mental state other than the implication he had been “brainwashed” by talk radio.

Here’s another detail:  he was being treated for prostate cancer, according to the man’s public defender (as reported at CBS News).  It turns out that treatments for prostate cancer have fairly serious side effects/risks, so much so that there is discussion around whether testing for prostate cancer is too aggressive and whether too many men are being treated for a form of prostate cancer which would not actually have killed them.

According to Cancer.net, chemotherapy drugs (or discontinuing certain kinds of drugs) can trigger mental confusion.  According to various sources, among which is the Yale School of Medicine, the specific medications used for prostate cancer, ADT or androgen deprivation therapy (a form of “chemical castration”) has effects on cognitive function which are not well-understood, but in a small study using MRI for analysis, “ADT significantly decreased medial prefrontal cortical activation during cognitive control.”  According to Cancer Connect, ADT is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  And a case report from 2013 states,

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is commonly used in the treatment of prostate cancer and is associated with several side effects including psychiatric disorders. We present an unusual case of a 62-year-old man with high risk prostate cancer that developed de novo psychosis after starting luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists and discuss possible mechanisms to explain such findings. This case report highlights the importance of continuing assessment and monitoring of potential emotional and behavioral symptoms in prostate cancer patients treated with ADT.

Now, am I saying that the perpetrator committed his acts due to a rare psychosis as a result of prostate cancer treatment?  No.  But honestly it seems like an explanation that makes more sense than “Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro convinced him to kill a 6 year old.”

Which all blurs the lines between what is evil and what is tragic.

Part 2:  Brussels

The New York Post, Oct. 16, “2 shot dead in Brussels in possible ISIS retaliation attack for murdered 6-year-old Illinois boy.”

Two Swedes were shot dead in Brussels Monday during a possible ISIS terror attack in retaliation for a 6-year-old Muslim boy who was killed in Illinois over the weekend.

Belgian police were still searching early Tuesday for the gunman whose attack raised the terror alert in the capital city and caused a professional soccer game to be cut short.

A man claimed in a video on social media that he was the assailant in Monday’s attack and that he was from the Islamic State.

The double murder was reportedly revenge after a Chicago-area landlord allegedly stabbed and killed a 6-year-old boy and seriously wounded his mother on Saturday, purportedly because the tenants are Muslim. . . .

The man claiming responsibility for Monday’s attack wrote on Facebook, “They called it a brutal crime because he was a Muslim,” according to a Belgium outlet. “If the murdered were a Christian and the murderer was a Muslim, the subject would have been terrorism.”

Despite the Post‘s claim, it is not necessarily a slam-dunk that this was a revenge killing for the child’s death; it appears to be presumptively the case because of the timing, commenting on the child’s killing just before his own attack; according to Euronews, the perpetrator posted a claim of responsibility and said he was defending the Quran.  (It is presumed he attacked Swedes because of recent Quran burnings that took place in Sweden.)  And the man has now been shot dead so, of course, he can’t be questioned.

Part 3:  Detroit

Detroit News, Oct. 21, “Detroit synagogue board president found dead outside home.”

Police are investigating after a Detroit synagogue board president was found dead outside her home early Saturday.

Detroit police have not released the victim’s name, but the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue announced the death of synagogue Board President Samantha Woll just after 2 p.m. Saturday on Facebook. . . .

Detroit police were called to the 1300 block of Joliet Place regarding someone “lying on the ground unresponsive,” according to a news release.

Investigators found multiple stab wounds to the victim’s body and medics pronounced the victim dead on the scene.

Officers followed a trail of blood leading to the victim’s home, the location that investigators believe the homicide took place, police said. The motive for the killing was unknown, police said.

According to other reports, she was very active in Democratic politics and also had founded a Muslim-Jewish interfaith organization.

No motive is known but honestly, without any indications of robbery-gone-bad (and there may be some more evidence yet-to-come) it seems rather more likely to me that she was targeted.  Perhaps there will be surveillance footage yet to come, perhaps there won’t be, but it seems easy to believe that being known in the local Muslim community could have made her a target — since, after all, local public radio reported on pro-Palestinian rallies:

The chants, repeated in Dearborn and across many protests, were “Free, free Palestine. From the river to the sea. Palestine will be free. Free, free Palestine. Free, free Palestine. When people are occupied, resistance is justified.”

And, yes, “From the river to the sea” is a call for Palestinians to take control of the entire territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  And “resistance is justified” is a chant now being repeated to support — or refuse to condemn — Hamas’s brutal attacks.

So is this an eye for an eye?

And how many more will die?

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