February 27, 2020

My death letter: On freedom of expression

Weeks before the murders of French cartoonists and Jews in Paris by Muslim terrorists, journalist and satirist Orit Arfa received a threat of murder and sexual assault. She wrote this letter as a warning of what might happen if Israel and the world don't take seriously death threats by those who hate both Jews and anyone who mocks Islam.

I can’t tell you exactly how I was brutally murdered, but I recall vaguely being stopped outside an event in Tel Aviv by two Muslim men. One looked very familiar. He must have been that Eminem wannabe Abedul Rachman who had sent me an audio “death rap,” which I’ve transferred to YouTube for you to hear.

I had gone to the police right after he sent it to me on Facebook. The police and I laughed about it while still taking it seriously. You never know these days. They said they’d look into it, but since he appears to be from the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, it might be out of their jurisdiction. I guess they didn’t look into it hard enough. The police officer supposedly in charge of my case and who said he conducted surveillance on my apartment building ended up making an inappropriate pass on me. I didn't complain about it because I didn't think anyone in the Israeli police would take it seriously. And if I did complain, who knows if I'd lose my protection.

And there I was, on the hard pavement. The sex and blood crazed terrorists must have figured out my whereabouts, easy given the lack of privacy we have when we use social media. Wearing black hoodies, they grabbed me and threw me into their beat-up Suzuki. I screamed, but no one heard, and they immediately gagged me, the force of their fingers bruising my arms. They took me to an abandoned alley in Jaffa, with one man standing guard, and took their turns.

I didn’t have time to think. I was too terrified.

I didn’t have time to think if I really should have done all those Miley Cyrus parodies and satiric videos they claimed are the reasons for their violent assault. I didn't have time to think if I really should have stopped mocking Islamic anti-Semitism after the attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the French kosher supermarket.

I wanted to believe that I’m stronger, that I’d risk my life for freedom of speech, for the freedom to my own life, my loves, my thoughts – and to fight against the Jew haters. I wanted to think I’d even withstand this horrendous violation to stand up for what I believed in.

But it hurt, and I couldn’t think about it when they banged my head against the wall, so that all I could see was the blood washing over my eyes. I fainted as they dealt their murderous blows, an automatic reaction of my body, perhaps, to shield me from the pain.

I know a lot of cowards will say that I had it coming. I deserved this. I fueled the fire of this bloody conflict. I should’ve kept my mouth shut, just like Abedul Rachman wanted.

But I don’t care about them. I care more about my family, and especially my mom, who was always worried about me, who always told me to be careful, and who didn’t want me to make these provocative videos. I can’t expect them to be as strong as I wanted to be. She wanted a wedding, not a funeral.

Still. People will say it’s my fault, and Abedul and his gang will have succeeded. The murderers of the cartoonists will have succeeded. The murderers of the French Jews at the supermarket will have succeeded. No one will feel safe to speak the truth. They will never say anything to offend Muslims or the Palestinians.They will surrender their rights to their speech, to their home, to their mind, to their land, to who they are….

Because who wants to undergo the horror and terror that I underwent?

They’ll forgive the Israeli police for being incompetent, sleazy and apathetic. They’ll forgive the IDF for not utilizing their authority to stop Abedul and his ilk. They’ll forgive the Prime Minister for not building deterrence against these bloody attacks. They’ll forgive the pundits who told me to be quiet lest my words ignite violence. They’ll forgive the Palestinian Authorities who didn’t do anything to end incitement in their mosques and schools. They'll forgive Islam for not really being a religion of peace. They'll forgive the media for portraying Islam as a religion of peace. And, of course, they’ll forgive Abedul, a thug who had no choice….

And I’ll be left to blame. But I’ll be thankful I’m no longer a part of this world. Thankful I don’t have to witness, in this worldly form, the death and destruction that will befall peaceful people for being so afraid of what others will say and think and do that they’d sacrifice basic moral principles. And I won’t be here to watch that their cowardice won’t help – that my friends and colleagues will be next.

But still, somewhere deep inside, I know I would do it all again.