The killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume shows anguish in Middle East threatens tolerance at home

Children's toys sit outside the Plainfield Township home on Oct. 15, 2023, where police say the landlord allegedly stabbed a 6-year-old boy to death and seriously injured his 32-year-old mother a few days earlier. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

It hardly should be necessary to condemn the killing of a 6-year-old boy, but the death of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a student at Central Elementary School in Plainfield, Illinois, is too disturbing to ignore.

Wadea was stabbed 26 times on Saturday and later pronounced dead after an attack that also seriously wounded his mother. The child was targeted by his landlord, local officials believe, because his family is Palestinian American. The level of hate needed to stab a small child is beyond our understanding.


In expressing our outrage at the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 on ordinary Israeli citizens, we made the point that not condemning such barbarism without equivocation would only make it harder to decry the inhumane events that we feared would follow, although we were thinking of the Middle East rather than suburban Chicago. This is one of those occasions.

Palestinians, and Palestinian Americans, are not synonymous with Hamas. Many of them have family in the Gaza Strip. Any reasonable person who follows the news can see there are few good options for the huge civilian population within that crowded mass of humanity. To say that most Palestinian Americans are hurting does not begin to describe the situation.

Israel has told many Palestinians to leave their homes, and for good reason, but that does not mean they have anywhere to go. Even for those with ties to the U.S., the crucial Rafah border crossing with Egypt remains difficult, especially after it was targeted by an explosion Monday.

Abroad, we call on Israel to do all it can to not target civilians, especially children, and to give those who are able to leave safe passage to do so. We think the Egyptians were within their rights to use the bargaining chip of their border to gain access for international humanitarian aid for Palestinians and that international aid groups should receive full U.S. cooperation.

At home, it’s crucial for Americans to stand against the targeting of innocents, however complex that term may appear to be in this situation. Hamas has given Israel no choice but to eradicate that organization so that the events of Oct. 7 are not repeated.

But as tensions run so high, the people of Chicago and its suburbs must practice tolerance. There is no place for antisemitism in our communities, but there is a place for empathizing with what many Jewish Americans are feeling at this time.

Similarly, there is no place for hostility toward Palestinian Americans, let alone a child.

Many immigrants came to this country to escape danger and to live their lives in peace within a diverse society where the rights of all are guaranteed.

Those ideals are why so many want to come to America. But history teaches us that in times of stress and fear, those ideals need protection. We should all rise to that cause.