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Madness … chilling madness

Posted by Richard on July 8, 2010

Mohammed Abu Mustafa, a Palestinian infant from Gaza, was just four and a half months old and facing death in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Israel. He had a genetic immune system deficiency. According to Haaretz, his mother Raida had experienced this heartbreaking situation before:

"I had two daughters in Gaza," she continued, her black eyes shimmering. "Both died because of immune deficiency. In Gaza I was told all the time that there is no treatment for this and that he is doomed to die. The problem now is how to pay for the [bone marrow] transplant. There is no funding." 

Shlomi Eldar, a reporter for Israel's Channel 10 News, went to the hospital to report little Mohammed's story. He ended up spending eight months filming the family, creating a full-length documentary, Precious Life, that's set to premier this week at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It's already won effusive praise. 

But first, Mohammed's life was in the balance and depended on a marrow transplant. Eldar reluctantly went to the hospital to do a story about the infant, convinced that nothing good would come of it: 

"I got to her after all the attempts to find a donation for the transplant had failed," he relates. "I understood that I was the baby's last hope, but I didn't give it much of a chance. At the time, Qassam rockets falling on Sderot opened every newscast. In that situation, I didn't believe that anyone would be willing to give a shekel for a Palestinian infant."

He was wrong. Hours after the news item about Mohammed was broadcast, the hospital switchboard was jammed with callers. An Israeli Jew whose son died during his military service donated $55,000, and for the first time the Abu Mustafa family began to feel hopeful. Only then did Eldar grasp the full dramatic potential of the story.

Thanks to the generous donations of countless Israeli Jews, Mohammed Abu Mustafa's life was saved. And despite his editor's misgivings, Shlomi Eldar decided that the story should be followed, leading to the documentary film.

Based on the lengthy interview with him by Haaretz, it's clear that Eldar is a compassionate, liberal (in the best sense of the word) person who feels deeply for the suffering of the people of Gaza, who was conflicted about Israel's conflict with Hamas, and who covered the conflict in a way sympathetic to the suffering of the residents of Gaza. But that's not the point of this post.

No, the point of this post is an exchange Eldar had with Raina Abu Mustafa, little Mohammed's mother, that almost led him to abandon the film project (emphasis added): 

From an innocent conversation about religious holidays, Raida Abu Mustafa launched into a painful monologue about the culture of the shahids – the martyrs – and admitted, during the complex transplant process, that she would like to see her son perpetrate a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem.

She also explained to Eldar exactly what she had in mind. "For us, death is a natural thing. We are not frightened of death. From the smallest infant, even smaller than Mohammed, to the oldest person, we will all sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Jerusalem. We feel we have the right to it. You're free to be angry, so be angry."

And Eldar was angry. "Then why are you fighting to save your son's life, if you say that death is a usual thing for your people?" he lashes out in one of the most dramatic moments in the film.

"It is a regular thing," she smiles at him. "Life is not precious. Life is precious, but not for us. For us, life is nothing, not worth a thing. That is why we have so many suicide bombers. They are not afraid of death. None of us, not even the children, are afraid of death. It is natural for us. After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid. If it's for Jerusalem, then there's no problem. For you it is hard, I know; with us, there are cries of rejoicing and happiness when someone falls as a shahid. For us a shahid is a tremendous thing."

That was enough to drain Eldar's motivation and dissolve all the compassion he had felt for Raida and Mohammed.


Madness. Disturbing, chilling madness. 

How do you coexist with people who not only despise your mere existence, but don't value their own? Or even their children's? How do you coexist with people who will rear their son to perpetrate a suicide attack on the very people whose donations made his survival possible?

It cannot be done.

If your eyes fill with tears upon reading this — you're not alone.

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6 Responses to “Madness … chilling madness”

  1. Hathor said

    If death is such a natural thing. then why bother to bring him to the hospital?

    And if you think it is necessary for there to be another suicide bomber, sacrifice yourself.

    I never understood how one could be a “good” mother and ever be comfortable with the death of your child. It amazed me of some of the comments made by Four Star mothers who had lost of of their sons. I understand that you would respect your child choices, but to be grateful or inspired; that I can’t understand.

  2. rgcombs said

    You should read the whole Haaretz piece. Eldar couldn’t understand, either:

    ” Raida’s confession was totally at odds with Eldar’s perception of her until then: “The whole time I accompanied her, I saw a caring mother who was at her baby’s bedside night and day. She didn’t eat, she lost weight and she cried. I myself saw to it that she ate. I saw her faint when she was informed there was a small chance her son would get well. I saw her when she was told there was no longer a chance, and she stood there and caressed Mohammed, with tears, as though parting from him. ”

    ” “So I was unable to explain how on the one hand, she fought for her child’s life, but at the same time told me that his life is not precious. I never believed I would hear that from her. That’s why I decided to stop shooting. I had come to tell a lovely story, not a story about a mother who destines her son to be a shahid.” ”

    It makes no sense. I can understand a Gold Star mother feeling pride, gratitude, etc., ”after the fact” of losing her child. It’s a way of making peace with the tragedy and making the loss less painful.

    But this is totally different. Raida is ”looking forward to” her son’s death, not learning to accept what has already happened.

    As I said, it’s madness.

  3. Rev John Warrener said

    It is a way to mourn in a culture of death.

  4. rgcombs said

    No, that’s my point — unlike the Gold Star mother, Raida wasn’t mourning the loss of her son. She was celebrating the saving of his life — but only so she could bring him up to be a shahid and kill Jews. Don’t hand me any of that cultural relativism “who are we to judge” nonsense.

    It’s not “a way to mourn” in any way, shape, or form. It’s twisted, sick, and evil.

  5. Patricia rice said

    Very disturbing doc. As an American citizen who is a fan of Israeli films, I found the subject of the mother,Raida, a chilling reminder of the great divide that religion creates. She spoke English, so I assume she was not uneducated, and yet, was totally blind to any kind of compromise. Does not bode well for the future of the human race

  6. rgcombs said

    Patricia, I understand (and shared) your feelings. But then I remembered the Israeli Jews who, as Palestinian rockets rained down on their cities, jammed the hospital switchboard to donate money and help in any way they could this Palestinian child.

    This story says nothing about the human race. It speaks volumes about a particular ideology/religion/belief set.

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