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Mukhtar’s Murder in West Bank Symbolizes the End of an Era

It was a day of mourning in this Palestinian village of 5,000, which overlooks the Nablus-Tulkarm main road and the Jewish settlement of Einav.

Mahmoud Salem, 65, was murdered.

The question bothering the villagers is whether he was killed as a result of a land dispute with neighbors or by Palestinian nationalists who believed he was collaborating with the Israelis.

Salem had been mukhtar (head man) of this village since the Jordanians controlled the territory more than 21 years ago.

On Sunday, he rode his donkey to inspect his olive grove. When he failed to return home by late afternoon, his nephew, Jamal Salem, set out to look for him.

He found the older man’s body in the olive grove with multiple stab-wounds.

But Jamal rejected the idea that his uncle was murdered as a collaborationist, although politically motivated killings are more and more frequent in the territory.

“Had it been the case, the killers would have conveyed a message to that effect, blaming my uncle for collaborating with the authorities,” he told reporters. “No one has done so.”

Outwardly, the villagers show no emotion. Violence has become commonplace in the territory. The death of a village elder is cause for sorrow, but not likely to change anything.

But in Salem’s case it symbolized the end of an era.

The last remnants of the old Palestinian leadership is fading away. The younger leaders are strongly behind Yasir Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization chief.

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