Daily Israel Report

PalestinianAuthority, Iraq-Style: U.S. Student Kidnapped, Freed

Benjamin Bright-Fishbein, a Brown University student studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was freed by his Palestinian terrorist kidnappers just hours after he was abducted in Shechem.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/11/2006, 11:34 AM / Last Update: 6/11/2006, 10:36 AM

The drama began around midnight Saturday night when word was received that a foreign citizen had been kidnapped by armed Arabs in the PA-controlled Samaria city of Shechem (Nablus). Israeli sources, while saying that the information had not yet been verified, made it clear that they were taking it very seriously.

"If we discover that this is a classic kidnapping," said one Israeli security official, "we will not be able to pass over it."

Within three hours, however, the story was over, and the student was released - first to Arab officials in the PA, then to IDF officials at the Hawara checkpoint south of Shechem. He was questioned there, and then freed to Jerusalem.

The kidnappers first released a video of Fishbein, wearing a knit yarmulke - generally identified with the religious-Zionist public - saying, in Arabic, that if Israel does not release Arab prisoners, he would be killed.

After he was freed, around 3:00 in the morning, another video was taken, this time of him answering questions as to what had happened. He is seen telling an Arab reporter how he was sitting in a coffee house in Shechem with some Arabic-speaking friends, and that an Arab man, "with a pistol, a grenade, and a machine gun," then arrived and soon proceeded to "dismiss" the friends.

Asked if he was kidnapped, Fishbein said, "Oh yes, I was definitely kidnapped." After offering to skip over some details of the "long story," he was asked how he was released. Fishbein responded that the kidnappers realized that they were "in over their heads," had "no idea what they were doing and were going crazy talking on the phone," and had not planned the action well in advance.

It was reported late this morning that the yarmulke on his head in the original video was placed there by the terrorists.

The kidnapping is the latest indication that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority appears to be on its way towards following the lead of other extremist, anti-Western Islamic states such as Afghanistan, as well as the Iraq that rebel groups want to form. Just last week, an American airstrike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi Al-Qaeda terrorist leader who was responsible for many abductions of Western citizens in Iraq, as well as the beheading of some of them.

Critics of U.S. President Bush's two-state solution, which the current and previous Israeli governments have also adopted, have long warned that it would lead to an Iran-backed Hamas terrorist state threatening Israel, Jordan and the stability of the entire Middle East.