Hardline supporters of Israel are expressing joy over the death of 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker and sometime Palestine solidarity activist Kayla Mueller, who was killed while in captivity of Islamic State last week.
Islamic State (also variously abbreviated as IS, ISIS or ISIL) claimed that Mueller died in a Jordanian airstrike in Syria coordinated with the United States.
Although it has yet to verify the circumstances, the US government on Tuesday confirmed that Mueller was killed, prompting an outpouring of tributes from people around the world lauding her humanitarian activism.
But for Israel’s most hawkish supporters, Mueller’s solidarity work with Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation made her unworthy of sympathy and even deserving of death.
Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief at Breitbart, called Mueller an “anti-Israel activist” who admired the terrorists who killed her.
“Another Rachel Corrie propaganda story”
In an opinion piece at the ultra-nationalist Israeli publication Arutz Sheva, anti-Palestinian activist Lee Kaplan called Kayla Mueller’s death “another Rachel Corrie propaganda story in the making, and the western media is falling for it again, or embracing it on purpose.”
Rachel Corrie, an American human rights activist, was deliberately run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003 while defending a Palestinian home in Gaza from demolition.
Rightwing Zionists often refer to Corrie as a “terrorist” who deserved to die and characterize the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the nonviolent solidarity organization she volunteered for in Palestine, as a supporter of terrorism.
While in Palestine in 2010, Mueller, like Corrie, worked with ISM in solidarity with Palestinians resisting ethnic cleansing and dispossession in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.
Mueller participated in nonviolent protests with Palestinians against Israeli home demolitions and walked Palestinian children to school to protect them from harassment by Jewish settlers — the kind of work ISM is known for.
“As an ISM activist [Mueller] was a tool for the worldwide jihad,” wrote Kaplan, adding, “she paid the ultimate price for that choice.”
“Too Bad ISIS didn’t burn her alive”
Packer, who served as the “Rabbi on Campus” at Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) after a stint in the Israeli army, is currently “Supreme Commander” of “Heritage House,” a Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem that provides lodging for Jewish tourists and “lone soldiers,” essentially foreign fighters recruited from abroad to participate in Israel’s military occupation in Palestine.
Packer went on to respond enthusiastically to a friend who remarked that Islamic State should have burned Mueller alive like it did the captured Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasassbeh.
In a blog post titled, “Dead ISIS Hostage Was Jew-Hating, Anti-Israel Bitch,” conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel calls Mueller “a Jew-hating, anti-Israel piece of crap who worked with HAMAS and helped Palestinians harass Israeli soldiers and block them from doing their job of keeping Islamic terrorists out of Israel.”
Schlussel concludes her post with the following farewell: “Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.”
Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit added his voice to the mix, accusing Mueller of “protesting Jews.”
Erasing Mueller’s Palestine work
As right-wing Zionists and Islamophobes cheer Mueller’s death, mainstream media outlets are actively whitewashing her Palestine activism.
In a timeline of Mueller’s humanitarian work, USA Today completely erased her work in Palestine, saying only that between 2010 and 2011, she worked in “Tel Aviv, Israel, volunteering at the African Refugee Development Center.”
Although a more in-depth USA Today article specified that Mueller worked with ISM for the Palestinian cause, the article claimed she did so in Israel, vaguely noting that Mueller “would walk to school with children in the morning and then make sure they returned home safely later in the day.”
Mueller escorted Palestinian children to school in Hebron in the occupied West Bank, not “Israel,” to protect them from violent Jewish settlers. Leaving out such crucial details obscures the reality of Israeli violence.
While some outlets shied away from emphasizing Mueller’s Palestine activism, others framed her death as a consequence of it.
The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz implied that her involvement in Palestine led to her death with the headline, “US idealist Kayla Mueller’s road to ISIS captivity went through West Bank.”
The Washington Post seemed to agree, with an article titled, “How Kayla Mueller’s pro-Palestinian activism led her to Syria.”
Despite the gross displays of celebration from pro-Israel extremists, the vast majority of people have expressed sadness for Mueller’s death. However, it is difficult to take them all at face value.
For example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences. “On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish to send condolences to President Obama, the American people and the family of Kayla Mueller. We stand with you,” he said.
This is the same man whose army routinely targets and kills aid workers while obstructing desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Palestinians trapped in the besieged Gaza ghetto.
Equally disingenuous were the remarks by US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who enables American and Israeli atrocities for a living by vetoing any and all attempts to hold either power accountable for human rights abuses and war crimes.
Between the Zionist backlash against Mueller, the outlets erasing her Palestine activism and those using her death to advance their own agendas, there is one constant: Mueller’s support for Palestinians against Israeli oppression is a taboo that must be ignored, obscured or ridiculed.