Content Warning: The following letter contains mentions of death and violence.
To the Editor:
The sister of Iyad Sawalha, a serial killer responsible for the death of dozens of Israelis and Palestinians, spoke on our campus last week. Who invited her to do so I do not know — she is neither a member of our community nor a scholar at another university. Sawalha’s sister was also interviewed for an article in The Daily Princetonian, where she expressed her disappointment over her brother’s image as a terrorist.
As a historian who believes in historical facts, I would like to set the record straight. Iyad Sawalha was a criminal, pure and simple. As a member of the so-called “Islamic Jihad” (a term I put in quotation marks because Islam does not condone the murder of innocent civilians), he had the blood of countless people on his hands. His expertise was in car bombs. With one of them, near Megiddo, Israel (June 5, 2002), he murdered seven innocent bystanders, many of whom burned alive; with another, near Karkur (Oct. 21, 2002), he murdered 14 people and injured dozens more. Sawalha liked to wrap the explosives he used in his car bombs with screws and nails for greater impact. He also murdered fellow Palestinians whose political views he didn’t share.
I understand that emotions run high whenever it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nationalistic binary thinking, now more than ever, seems to be the order of the day. Still, it was morally wrong to allow Sawalha’s sister to speak on campus, and morally wrong for The Daily Princetonian to give her a stage from which to defend his heinous crimes. Peace-loving Princetonians know better. We refuse to condone senseless violence. No to war. Peace now.
Yair Mintzker is the Behrman Professor in the Humanities Council and a Professor of History at Princeton University.