Vermont Conversation: ‘This hideous crime did not happen in a vacuum’ 

Three Palestinian American men were shot in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, according to police. Family members identified them as Tahseen Aliahmad (left) Kinnan Abdalhamid (middle) and Hisham Awartani (right). Photo courtesy of the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

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Three Palestinian American men were shot in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, according to police. Family members identified them as Tahseen Aliahmad (left) Kinnan Abdalhamid (middle) and Hisham Awartani (right). Photo courtesy of the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

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Three Palestinian American men were shot in Burlington on Saturday, according to police. Family members identified them as Tahseen Aliahmad (left) Kinnan Abdalhamid (middle) and Hisham Awartani (right). Photo courtesy of the Institute for Middle East Understanding.

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

were shot and wounded while walking in Burlington on Nov. 25. The men were in Vermont visiting family for Thanksgiving.

Police allege that 48-year old Jason Eaton stepped off his porch and shot the three men. The attack appears to have been unprovoked and the assailant said nothing before opening fire, the victims told police. Eaton has been charged with three counts of attempted second degree murder, and authorities are investigating whether to add a hate crime charge. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held as he awaits a bail hearing. 

The three victims, all age 20, are Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Aliahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut. They were classmates at the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker high school in the West Bank. Two of the students are U.S. citizens and one is a legal resident of the U.S. They have been treated at the University of Vermont Medical Center. 

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger called the attack “one of the most shocking and disturbing events in this city’s history.”

U.S. Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., cited the attack when he reversed himself on Tuesday and called for an indefinite cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas War. “The impact of the conflict in the Middle East has reverberated across the world, and we’ve seen the effects here at home in the form of Islamophobia and antisemitism,” said Vermont’s junior senator. “This cycle of fear, intimidation, and violence must end.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the attack in Burlington was part of “a sharp increase in the volume and frequency of threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities across our country since Oct. 7.” That was when Hamas launched a surprise attack that killed 1,200 Israelis, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Hamas’ attack sparked a bombardment and ground invasion by Israel that has so far killed some 15,000 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The United Nations reports that two thirds of the victims are women and children

The Council on Islamic Relations reported an “unprecedented” 216% increase in complaints of Islamophobic or anti-Arab bias from October 7 to November 4 compared to the previous year. The Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic incidents surged 316% in that same period. 

On this Vermont Conversation we speak about the attack on the three Palestinian American young men with Burlington resident Rich Price, the uncle of Hisham Awartani, who was shot in the spine. Doctors have told the family that Hisham may never be able to walk again. 

We are also joined by Wafic Faour, a Palestinian who is a member of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, and Fuad Al-Amoody, vice president of the Islamic Society of Vermont

“This hideous crime did not happen in a vacuum,” Hisham Awartani texted from the ICU.

“I am but one casualty in this much wider conflict,” he wrote to a professor who read the statement at a vigil at Brown University this week, according to the Boston Globe. “Any attack like this is horrific, be it here or in Palestine. This is why when you send your wishes and light your candles for me today, your mind should not just be focused on me as an individual, but rather as a proud member of a people being oppressed.”

Rich Price told The Vermont Conversation that his nephew and his friends who were attacked “represent the best and brightest of Palestine and what it means to be Palestinian.” 

Price said, “It’s important that we stop dehumanizing Palestinians, that we create a place where you can both advocate for the rights of Palestinians, stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and not be viewed as antisemitic or anti-Israeli.” He said that is essential to achieve lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Fuad Al-Amoody added that while he was moved by the outpouring of support for the three Palestinian Americans in Vermont, it underscored a painful reality. “If this tragedy happened in Palestine (to) the same three people, I don’t think we’ll see the same compassion that we’re seeing right now here.”

“If you remove that ‘American’ and just the ‘Palestinian’ remains, I wish, I hope (that) the compassion, the solidarity is shown to the same people in Palestine,” Al-Amoody said. 

Wafic Faour said that after this tragedy, “I hope people will learn that Palestinians are no different. They are human.”

“We should go after hate crimes if it is against Palestinians, or Muslims, or because of Islamophobia, or antisemitism or anti-black and anti-Brown. We have to teach our kids that racism shouldn’t be part of our daily life here.”

Price observed, “To be Palestinian in this world is difficult. You learn how to deal with trauma, you learn how to deal with tragedy, and I’m seeing in these boys resilience and strength that would really just be awe inspiring to anyone to witness.” 

“They had big dreams to build a bright future. And my hope is that this has pushed pause on that and that they can resume building that bright future sometime soon.”

Read the story on VTDigger here: Vermont Conversation: ‘This hideous crime did not happen in a vacuum’ .

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