Some of our readers know Maria Khoury. This will take prayer.
The Guardian Chris McGreal in Jerusalem Monday September 5, 2005
The only brewery in the Palestinian territories escaped an attack yesterday by a mob that razed a dozen homes over an alleged affair between a Christian man whose family owns the beer factory and a Muslim woman from a neighbouring village who was then murdered by her own family.
The attack on Taybeh, a wholly Christian village which gives its name to a popular Palestinian beer, came despite appeals from residents to their neighbours in Deir Jarir to refrain from violence while the body of the murdered 25-year-old woman, identified only as Haim, was disinterred for DNA tests to try to ascertain if she had sex with the accused man, Mahdi Abu Houria.
“Because we were afraid of what would happen, we got permission from Abu Mazen [the Palestinian president] to dig her up from her grave and have DNA testing,” said Maria Khoury, the wife of Taybeh’s mayor who co-owns the brewery. “You can’t just accuse someone without evidence. They buried without testing. We are very suspicious that this family raped their daughter and buried her and they want to find an excuse to destroy our village.”
The accused woman was murdered by her family last week in an “honour killing” after the alleged affair was made public. Palestinian women’s groups say that women are sometimes killed after being raped by relatives who then attempt to shift responsibility for pregnancy to an innocent man.
Abu Houria was arrested by the Palestinian police after he was accused of the affair and is being held in “protective custody” in prison where his family says he is routinely beaten.
Despite the pleas to wait for the results of the DNA test, Taybeh’s residents say hundreds of men descended on the village in the middle of the night. “They came from Deir Jarir, the Muslim village, armed, and they threw petrol and they lit up one home right after another,” said Mrs Khoury.
“They burned 12 homes down which are those of the accused man and every member of his family, third cousins, fourth cousins, anyone related. We have 12 homeless families without clothes, without anything.
“These are fanatics who take the law into their own hands. If one person is guilty that person deserves punishment, not the whole village.”
The brewery was founded by Nadim Khoury a decade ago when he returned to the Palestinian territories after living for nearly 20 years in Boston. He and about 25 other residents of the village are naturalised American citizens. The family says it attempted to enlist the help of the US consulate in Jerusalem during the attack but it said that the only action it could take was to inform the Israeli army.
“The Israeli army came in, looked around, smiled and left,” said Mrs Khoury. “The whole village is a peaceful village.”
“We don’t participate in resistance [against the Israeli occupation] and we really don’t want to be burned down. We are very afraid. These people will come back.”
The Israeli army said that when it arrived at the scene it concluded there was no imminent danger to life and, in accordance with agreements, waited for Palestinian forces to arrive and quell the disturbance.