Palestinian-American Boy Killed by Landlord Who Told His Mom He Was ‘Angry at Her’ for Attacks on Israel

The 71-year-old landlord also allegedly said, "You Muslims must die," before stabbing six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times.

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Palestinian-American Boy Killed by Landlord Who Told His Mom He Was ‘Angry at Her’ for Attacks on Israel
Photo:CAIR

On Saturday night, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy and his 32-year-old mother were attacked in their Chicago home by their landlord, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba. The boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, died after being stabbed 26 times. His mother, Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed more than a dozen times but is alive and in critical condition. Czuba has been charged with a hate crime as well as first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery, per the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

A warrant for Czuba’s arrest obtained by NBC says prior to the Saturday night attack Czuba “told [Shahin] he was angry at her for what was going on” in Israel. Per the warrant, she “responded to him ‘let’s pray for peace.’” Moments later, Czuba attacked her. Texts between Shahin and Wadea’s father shared with the organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), show Shahin texting that the Czuba yelled “You Muslims must die!” before stabbing them with a 12-inch military-style knife. According to Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR, Wadea’s mother ran to the bathroom to call the police after Czuba stabbed her, and when she came out, Czuba had stabbed Wadea. “This all happened in seconds,” Rehab said at a Sunday press conference. He continued, “[Wadea] has no clue about these larger issues happening in the world. But he was made to pay for it.”

NBC reported on Monday that Shahin told investigators Czuba was an “angry” man. Czuba’s wife told investigators her husband “listens to conservative talk radio on a regular basis” and recently became obsessed with the unfolding violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. On Oct. 11, Czuba told Shahin and her son to leave their apartment unit which sits above his. Shahin moved to Chicago from the West Bank more than a dozen years ago as a result of violence and the Israeli settlement, according to CAIR.

“I keep thinking that my son was probably running towards him before getting stabbed, trying to give him a hug,” Wadea’s father Oday El-Fayoume told The Daily Beast on Sunday, calling the child “a small angel in the form of a person.” Oday told the outlet he was especially shocked as Czuba has always had a good relationship with his ex-wife and son, even helping build Wadea a treehouse. According to Shahin, Oday said, Wadea’s last words were, “I’m fine” before dying en route to the hospital. On Monday, the Department of Justice opened a hate crime investigation into Wadea’s killing.

In a statement, local law enforcement said, “Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

On October 8, Hamas led attacks on Israel that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,300 Israelis. In the last week, Israel has retaliated by targeting Gaza with over 6,000 bombs while maintaining a blockade—which they’ve said won’t end until Hamas has let free the dozens of Israeli hostages—that’s cutting Palestinians off from food, water, electricity, and humanitarian relief. Since early Monday, Gaza’s health ministry reported 2,750 Gazans killed, about half of whom are children, and over 9,000 wounded.

Oday told The Daily Beast that, amid the ongoing atrocities being inflicted on Gaza by the Israeli government he wants his son to be remembered as a “symbol” for the Palestinian people. “People know that we, too, get discriminated against,” he said, referring to Palestinians in Gaza and abroad. “I want this to open a door for the freedom of the Palestinian people.”

Wadea’s death comes as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) reports a sharp uptick in discrimination and harassment targeting Arabic people in the U.S. Abed A. Ayoub, director of ADC, said last week that the organization has received a rash of calls and reports about the FBI visiting mosques, ICE detaining Palestinian nationals, and the FBI visiting Palestinian nationals and Palestinian Americans. “The Administration, elected officials, and the media for the past week have ignored Palestinians, and sold the general public lie after lie,” Ayoub wrote in a statement on Sunday. “Day after day we warned about the uptick in hate crimes, and how hate rhetoric will lead to hate violence.”

Days after an Israeli official called Palestinians “human animals,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the U.S. can’t accept Gaza refugees, many of whom are kids, because they “are all antisemitic.” Illinois state Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (D), the first Palestinian-American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly and one of its two first Muslim members, similarly pointed to the recent rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric as a result of escalations in Gaza at CAIR’s Sunday press conference. “Let’s be clear. This was directly connected to the dehumanizing of Palestinians that has been allowed over the last week by our media, by our elected officials who have lacked the moral compass and lacked the courage to call for something as simple as de-escalation and peace,” Rashid said.

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