Ariel Runis, a senior official in the Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA), fatally shot himself Saturday evening. A message he left on Facebook and another message to a friend indicate that he was agitated because of a Facebook post that accused him of treating an African-American woman unfairly because of her skin color.
The woman, a mother of three, who came to the PIBA offices in Tel Aviv to renew a passport, published a post in which she claimed that a female official did not allow her to make us of a special fast lane for people with babies, while offering that service to white women who came before and after her.
She said that she complained to Runis, the office manager, who allegedly brushed her off rudely when she made an accusation of racism.
The post was shared by over 6,000 people, and the incident was covered on a popular mothers' website – Mamazone. The compainant was also interviewed on Channel 10 – where the Interior Ministry denied her version of events and said that had tried to cut to the front of the line in the fast lane.
A complaint was also filed to PIBA's ombudsman, who contacted Runis.
In his suicide post, Runis wrote that each of the 6,000 “shares” the complainant's post received was “a sharp arrow in my flesh.” He explained that he felt that his name would now forever be associated with the stain of alleged racism.
He described his career: at 47, he was a retired Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officer who wrote a book following his experiences working with Arabs and Druze in southern Lebanon, before Israel withdrew from Lebanon. A year ago, he founded an NGO dedicated to coexistence between Israel's Jews and Arabs. “Me? A racist? All of my activity was erased with a single stroke,” he mourned.
Runis also noted that the date was precisely the 15-year anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. It is possible that the anniversary of the traumatic event was a factor in his emotional state.
"I am not angry at the woman who, judging by her pictures, has already gotten over that 'harsh blow' she experienced,” he wrote. “I am unable to. Be well!!”
The woman who wrote the post removed it when she heard what had happened. “This morning I awoke to some of the worst news I have ever heard. I am sorry with my entire soul for the loss of a life. For years I experienced discrimination in Israel. The only time I told my story, a man was hurt. No one is more sorry than I am. If I could, I would keep silent this time, too.”
Former Shin Bet commander Yuval Diskin published a post in which he said that he knew Runis well: “I know his values, too. No epithet can hurt a man like Ariel more than 'racist.'”
"A dear friend and respected manager could not handle an unbridled attack that crossed every red line, against PIBA employees and civil servants,” wrote PIBA DIRector Amnon Ben Ami.
"PIBA employees are not racists, Nazis or evil, as many of us hear every day,” he added, and demanded a public discussion of the “daily mudlsinging” that PIBA employees experience.