Tel Aviv, Israel. New information from Israel is confirming a new perspective in the death of a young American arrested for supposedly stealing a banner as a prank or for souvenir value. But the bigger picture is showing the young man was an ardent member of a number of Zionist organizations and tied to Israel in ways one only learns of decades later, if ever.
Americans for days have been perplexed by the story of Otto Warmbier and his tragic death. Warmbier, 22, was traveling on a tour of North Korea last year when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. Following international outrage, North Korea agreed to release him admitting that he had suffered a severe neurological injury.
With no prior citation of the boy’s activity internationally, came word out of the blue, that Warmbier was a Jewish young man, active with Hillel at the University of Virginia and Warmbier had visited Israel at least once.
In 2014, Warmbier went on a Birthright mission to Israel, where he received a Hebrew name. Following the trip, he became involved with Hillel and the Jewish community on campus. Rabbi Jake Rubin described Warmbier as “a beloved member of our Hillel community.”
“He was a regular at Bagels on Lawn, celebrated Shabbat and holidays at Hillel, and even led a seder for other students that focused on issues of environmentalism and sustainability,” Rabbi Rubin wrote.
Many are asking was Warmbier an Israeli spy? Who knows, but it is likely that someone in North Korea thought he was. This goes a long way in explaining the sad ending of the young man caught up in international affairs gone bad.
It is well known that Israel and North Korea are extremely hostile towards each other. North Korea has never recognised the Jewish State and in 1988 it recognised the State of Palestine as including all of Israel. Israel often accuses North Korea of trading arms with Hamas and Syria.
Not a single MSM outlet has referred to Warmbier’s ties with Israel. Until his last hours, Israel and the Jewish community kept silent about Warmbier’s Jewish identity, his Zionist affiliation and his visit to Israel. Maybe this silence is more revealing than anything else. If so, we may never know Warmbier’s real mission in North Korea or how all about him was known in North Korea, allowing his interception.