by Kathryn Shihadah
Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was kidnapped and murdered on July 2, 2014, near his East Jerusalem home. He was beaten, then doused with gasoline and, accordingÂ to his autopsy, set on fire while still alive. His Israeli killers were caught; two are serving life sentences, and a third was sentenced to 21 years.
The day before Mohammadâ€™s kidnapping, 3 Israeli teens from an Israeli settlement had been buried, after having been themselvesÂ kidnapped and killedÂ by Palestinians. (In the previousÂ months,Â aÂ 10-year-old Palestinian boy, 7 teens, and 26 other Palestinians had been buried after having been killed by Israelis. Since 2000, Israelis haveÂ killedÂ 2,172 Palestinian minors, while Palestinians have killed 134 Israeli minors.)
The Israeli teensâ€™ funerals had included hundreds of IsraelisÂ rioting and shouting â€śDeath to Arabs.â€ťÂ Right-wing government officials and politiciansÂ joinedÂ demonstrations orÂ postedÂ on social media, encouraging vengeance. Few, if any, mentioned the Palestinians previously killed by Israelis. Similarly, U.S. news reports on the Israeli deaths neglected to include that information.
Mohammad was chosen apparently at random for a revenge killing. He was abducted in view of witnesses and a surveillance camera. Israeli policeÂ foundÂ his charred body an hour later in a forest near Jerusalem. Burns covered 90% of his body.
The perpetrators included a 29-year-old settler named Yosef Haim Ben-David and two 16-year-old boys. They confessed soon after, and gave aÂ detailed accountÂ of the incident. Ben-David said the three regretted their actions. â€śWeâ€™re not like the sons of Ishmael [meaning Arabs]â€¦ Weâ€™re Jews. We have a heart,â€ťÂ andÂ â€śI request forgiveness from the family for what happenedâ€¦Thatâ€™s not my character and I am not that kind of man.â€ť
The day before Mohammad Abukhdeirâ€™s life was taken, Netanyahuâ€™sÂ eulogyÂ at the Israeli boysâ€™ funerals similarly rang with self-congratulation and condemnation of the â€śenemy â€ś:
Three gifted, innocent and upstanding boys were struck down by evil murderersâ€¦despicable kidnappers of children, heinous murderers whose brothers rejoice at the spilling of innocent bloodâ€¦
A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.
When Netanyahu heard about Mohammadâ€™s murder, he managed toÂ denounceÂ the incident, while once again applauding Israeli righteousness and vilifying Palestinians:
I would like to send my condolences to the Abu Khdeir familyâ€¦I know that in our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers.
And thatâ€™s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We donâ€™t. We condemn them and we put them on trial and weâ€™ll put them in prison.
Israelâ€™s leading politicians vowed that the Jewish murderers would be treated the same as any other murderer:
Netanyahu: I pledge that the perpetrators of this horrific crime will face the full weight of the lawâ€¦We do not differentiate between [Jewish and Palestinian] terrorists and we will respond to all of them, wherever they come from, with a firm hand.
President Shimon Peres: â€śIf a Jew kills they will be put to the court like any other criminal, there is no privilege, the law is equal to all and all are equal before the law. On that there is no compromise. We do not distinguish between blood and blood.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman: â€śThe shocking murder of Mohammed Abukhdeir is beyond being a despicable crimeâ€¦The murderers should be punished to the full extent of the law.â€ť
When a Palestinian is convicted of murder â€“ or evenÂ suspectedÂ of murder â€“ he is oftenÂ hunted downÂ andÂ killedÂ (nicknamed â€śtrial by assassinationâ€ť). The perpetrators of Mohammad Abukhdeirâ€™s murder were spared this custom: they had their day in court.
Yosef Haim Ben-David received a life sentence plus 20 years; one of the minors also received life, and the other was handed a 21-year sentence.
Palestinians can also expect to have their familyâ€™s home demolished, whether they have been found guilty, are believed to be guilty, or were already killed by Israeli law enforcement. This is known asÂ punitive home demolition, and although it is illegal under international law, Israel hasÂ demolishedÂ about 80 homes and apartments since 2014, leaving well over 300 innocent family members homeless. (ReadÂ this reportÂ on punitive home demolitions.)
Mohammad Abukhdeirâ€™s parents demanded that their sonâ€™s killersâ€™ homes also be demolished, the judge in the case responded,
[I] understand the feelings of the victimâ€™s family, which submitted the petition. And yet, [home demolitions] are a preventative tool, not a punishing tool. We must remember that the perpetrators underwent legal proceedings, they were convicted, and were given lengthy sentences.
The Israeli Defense Ministry also argued that because Israeli Jew-on-Palestinian terror is so â€śinfrequent,â€ť home demolition as a deterrent is unnecessary. In fact, Jewish settlers haveÂ for yearsÂ attacked Palestinians and their property. Even theÂ Washington PostÂ reported that the frequency of such terror attacks have been rising at an alarming rate, especially since the Trump administration has been vigorously pro-Israel.
Many PalestiniansÂ see this as proofÂ that Israelâ€™s punitive home demolition policy is racist.
Israel has also begun yet another punitive practice, that ofÂ suing the familiesÂ of Palestinian attackers for â€śreparations.â€ť In what is being hailed as â€śa new era against terrorism,â€ť the first case seeks $2.3 million from a young widow who with 3 small children whose husband was killed after allegedly ramming his car into a group of Israeli soldiers.
Other Palestinians have been subject to similar lawsuits, even when the familyâ€™s breadwinner had been killed and the family home demolished.
In Mohammad Abukhdeirâ€™s case, however, no reparations were required of the killers because, according toÂ Haâ€™aretz, they had â€śno real assets.â€ť
Palestinians have much to mourn. Some still remember theÂ NakbaÂ (Catastrophe) in 1948, when 750,000 were exiled from their homes and lands; hardly a day has gone by since without persecution, injustice, and tragedy.
Within days of Mohammadâ€™s murder, Israel launched a major, devastating attack on the Palestinian territory of Gaza â€“ the third such attack in just six years.Â About 2,200Â Palestinians were killed in this operation, of which two-thirds were civilians; 73 Israelis were also killed, 6 of them civilians.
Much has been written about this incursion â€“Â NGOsÂ haveÂ reportedÂ on theÂ devastation, the UN called for anÂ investigation, and the International Criminal Court is nowÂ examiningÂ the conflict as well. Read moreÂ hereÂ andÂ here.
The story of Mohammad Abukhdeir is one of countless examples of Israeli oppression â€“ and one of only a handful in which due process even made a showing.
This has gone on for decades because the US, Israelâ€™s benefactor (to the tune ofÂ $10 million a dayÂ in aid) and the international community have turned a blind eye. It is time for compassionate and justice-loving people of the world to say Stop.