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Sunday, November 01, 2009

First they came for the Jews

The Sunday Times of London has what it bills as the first insiders' account of last November's terror attack in Mumbai. Specifically, they have the story of Nariman House, where the Chabad Center was located. They present the clearest evidence yet that the Jews were a main target (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
Three days after I arrived in Mumbai, I tracked down a man who was one of the first people into Nariman House after the siege ended. It was the first time he has spoken to a journalist, and he asked me not to reveal his identity as he feared upsetting the families of the deceased. He allowed me to say that he has medical training. One windy evening, he seemed to want to talk, as if he were carrying a great burden. So we drove to a promenade ringed by skyscrapers and sat in the darkness as he told his story.

He had waited outside Nariman House as the commandos battled their way in on Friday, he said. He was optimistic; when Sandra escaped on Thursday morning, she had stated that the hostages looked unconscious rather than dead. But what he found appeared different. “They were tortured very badly,” he told me, speaking sombrely and matter-of-factly. He was greatly affected by what he saw, and says of the attack’s organisers: “I want to kill them.” All the hostages had been shot, he said. Some had multiple bullet wounds. But there was more. Two of the rabbis had broken bones. The skull of one of the victims had caved in, as sometimes happens when somebody is shot in the head at close range with a rifle, except the man had not been shot in the head. The two female visitors, Orpaz and Rabinovich, were found bound with telephone cord and lying next to each other on a fourth-floor bed. One of the hostages had bruising all over her body, which the man, who is not a pathologist, said was consistent with being hit by a blunt object. There was a large cut on her thigh. And one of her eyes was out of its orbit and lying on her cheek.

It sounded so extreme, so hard to believe, that the man said in a quiet voice: “I can show you photographs.” So we drove through deserted night-time streets to his home, where he opened a folder on his laptop entitled “Nariman House”. Inside were pictures, presumably taken by the Mumbai police, of the terrorists and four of the hostages: Gabi, Teitelbaum, and the two visiting women. He did not have photos of Rivki or Kruman. The pictures are overwhelming, an almost unbearable tableau of blood and contorted bodies. Nariman House is in disarray, the furniture overturned, bullet holes everywhere. It was not hard to believe that the hostages met a horrific, drawn-out end. Based on the images and eyewitness reports, it becomes clear that most did not die in the first hail of bullets as the terrorists entered the building, as has been reported. They may have fought back. Survivors would hear Rivki through the first night, and Gabi appears to have died some time after being shot in the leg, as there is a tourniquet around his thigh. The most brutal injuries suggest torture, but the organisations that might have conclusive answers, such as Zaka, the Israeli emergency-response group, decline to comment.

I showed the images to Vincent Di Maio, a noted US pathologist. He saw in them something hinting at another controversial rumour: that hostages had been alive when commandos stormed Nariman House, but were killed by crossfire. This was the conclusion of volunteers from Zaka. One volunteer leaked the finding to the Israeli press, sparking an angry reaction from the Israeli government, which said the claims were unfounded and could harm Israeli-Indian relations.

According to Di Maio, one of the female hostages was almost certainly fired on after she died. Bullet wounds to the arm and shoulder of one of the visiting women were inflicted postmortem: “Note no bleeding and visible yellow fat,” he says. It is unclear who shot her. Perhaps it was the terrorists. Perhaps it was crossfire when the commandos stormed the house. If it was crossfire, then the accidental shooting of live hostages does not seem too distant a possibility.
Read the whole thing.

One of the things that struck me as I read this article: The nanny, Sandra Samuel, doesn't seem to understand to this day how she escaped with little Moshe Holzberg (pictured above). It's really quite simple. The only people who escaped Nariman House were the diamond dealer who climbed down from a bathroom window whom the terrorists never saw (it's in the Times article), the Muslim cook, Sandra and little Moshe. The terrorists let the non-Jews go. They probably believed that Moshe was Sandra's son once she climbed up to the 5th floor to get him.

The Times article is entitled "And then they came for the Jews." Neither the Times nor Sandra Samuel get it. They couldn't. They're not Jews. That's why I titled this post "First they came for the Jews." We're always the first target for terrorists and anti-Semites. But rarely the last.


At 5:46 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The thing that still astounds me is the parallel to the biblical story. They came for Moshe but Hashem saved him! Here, Hashem saves him again! The lesson is they will never wipe out all the Jewish people. And the Jewish people one way or another, will survive. G-d has to seen to it the memory of Moshe's parents is kept alive upon the earth, may their blood be avenged!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Thanks for the hat tip, Carl.

The images of that horrific day in Mumbai will never really leave me, and the sight of Moishele in his Nanny Sandra's arms, screaming for his parents HY"D. My friend's son, Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, is doing an incredible job to see that the Chabad House will be re-built.

I had no doubt it was a terror attack against the Jews when it happened, and now, nearly a year after? Yes, the Jews were the main target, tragically, in a place that I had never thought of as such. It seems now that this is so anywhere in the world now.


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