We, Palestinian Chicagoans, write today to clarify who is to blame for the tragic murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian American boy from the Chicago suburbs—one of our own. On October 15, Wadea was brutally stabbed 26 times by a racist assailant who shouted, “All Muslims must die.” This disturbing act of violence was undoubtedly stoked and fostered by a biased political and media landscape parroting unverified, racist Israeli disinformation intended to dehumanize Palestinians as a people. We believe that these racist narratives about Palestinians led to Wadea’s tragic death. We hold our political representatives, as well as local and national news outlets, responsible for his murder.
During the week of October 9, 2023, in a city home to one of the largest Palestinian populations in the United States, Ald. Debra Silverstein introduced a resolution to position the city of Chicago in staunch support of Israel. This one-sided resolution explicitly invoking 9/11 alarmed Chicago’s Palestinian community for its racist language and potential to perpetuate dangerous anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim stereotypes, callously evoking a distressing era of unfounded fear-mongering, surveillance, and violent attacks against Arabs. Our community is still reeling and suffering the effects of this violence. We saw the resolution’s power to renew it.
As a community, we sought to voice our concerns and demand that our city adopt a resolution fully recognizing and supporting the Palestinian cause—an anti-apartheid struggle to end Israel’s military occupation and ongoing theft of Palestinian land. Silverstein’s resolution did not call for an end to violence or for freedom, justice, and equality for all. It notably omitted any mention of the over 1,900 Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza the week prior, a result of Israeli bombings with munitions produced by U.S. corporations, including Boeing, headquartered here in Chicago.
The City Hall meeting, initially scheduled for Wednesday but delayed to Friday afternoon, coincided with Muslim Friday prayer times. Throughout the event, Palestinians received conflicting information intended to frustrate and demean us, while police allowed pro-Israel agitators to record and harass Muslims during their prayers. City Hall staff idly stood by as these agitators called us “suicide bombers,” shoved our friends, used sexist slurs against women, and said we had “bombs underneath our clothes.”
Inside the chambers, the atmosphere was no different. The meeting began with a prayer for Israel that failed to adequately acknowledge, let alone mourn, the thousands of Palestinian civilians Israel killed that week. A mix of pro-Palestine and pro-Israel speakers then delivered their public comments on Zoom, which led to the viral video of Gabriel Miller defending Palestinian lives against Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign. However, the public forum trafficked in unsubstantiated Israeli disinformation about the events of October 7 from pro-Israel speakers, repeating racist tropes about Arabs—of systemic sexual violence against women, the systemic slaughter of children, beheadings—which the Israeli army and White House have since refused to verify. Nevertheless, these racist tropes echoed across our media landscapes and motivated this resolution. They helped motivate the killer of our six-year-old Wadea.
City Hall Police demonstrated clear bias, kicking out Palestinians while allowing rowdy pro-Israel voices to stay. Brandon Johnson completely vacated the chambers as we chanted for our rights, lecturing Palestinians and Arabs, who organized and voted en-masse for his election, about their lack of “civility” and “decorum.”
The resolution ultimately passed, but not without a walkout by pro-Palestinian Alderpeople, marking a historic moment in our movement. After the close of the meeting, we stood in the rain crying, chanting, and reminding people of our collective struggle for liberation.
Just 72 hours later, Brandon Johnson and JB Pritzker attended Wadea’s funeral prayer. To them, we say this: Why is it that you stand with our corpses but never our living breathing bodies? You show up to our places of worship, and you apologize for the violence that your rhetoric causes, but you fail to condemn the genocide perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians, which sparked this violence in the first place. We warned you in City Hall that this rhetoric would lead to such atrocities, and within 48 hours, our fears became a tragic reality.
We cannot forgive the City Council’s adoption of racist narratives about the Palestinian struggle for freedom. We refuse to accept our Governor, Mayor, and Representatives’ empty expressions of grief and solidarity. You allowed for the demonization and dehumanization of Palestinians to fester and flow free in our home, and now Wadea has been taken from us.