I have been almost paralysed by shock and horror at the thought that Israeli Jews – any Jews – could have murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir for nationalistic reasons, i.e. for revenge for the murders of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel HY’D. That was my reaction when I heard that 6 Israelis had been arrested for the murder of Mohammed. (I really object that the suspects are called “Jewish extremists” even in the Israeli media. Why emphasise their religion when no one refers to Arab terrorists as “Muslim”).
I feel physically sick at the thought of this dreadful murder, and to be honest I’m at a loss for words. I am still having a hard time getting my head round the fact that a group of Israeli Jews could get together to plot such a heinous crime. I know that murder is murder, but premeditated murder is so much worse than opportunistic murder or a killing in the heat of passion. And the way this murder was carried out – by stalking, kidnapping, beating and burning – just doesn’t feel “Jewish” to me. I know that sounds racist, almost antisemitic, for which I apologise. I just can’t quite find the right words to express how I feel.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m horrified (too mild a term for sure) at the thought that Jews could descend to such levels, the worst levels of the most heinous of our enemies.
The method of the murder of Mohammed is just so atypical of previous Israeli “revenge killings” (there haven’t been many but sadly even one is too many). None entailed planning a kidnapping, and certainly not a child. None of them involved walking into a hostile Arab neighbourhood in order to carry out their nefarious plans. Baruch Goldstein turned his gun on local Arabs praying at Me’arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs), killing 29. He was beaten to death by other Arabs at the scene. Ami Popper opened fire on a group of Arabs standing at a bus stop, killing 7. Eden Natan-Zada turned on Arab passengers on his bus, killing four, and he himself was then lynched to death.
All of which go to explain my confusion, incomprehension and ultimate shock. I simply cannot get into the heads of the killers.
Most importantly, if they wanted revenge for the three murdered teenagers, Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali, do they think murder is the way to do it? Those boys’ lives were framed by study, faith, love, prayer, helping the other; and their families demonstrated these qualities in the most amazing manner during the frantic search and then at the funeral. Indeed one of the families, the Frenkels, condemned the murder of Mohammed as soon as they heard about it, and I’m sure they are mortified at the thought that someone would think that killing an innocent person, whether they be Arab or Israeli, Muslim or Jew, adult or child, would avenge their beloved sons.
I know that I’m mortified at this thought. I cannot imagine what the families are going through.
And above all else we have the 6th Commandment: Thou shalt not murder.
All this being said, we must not lose sight of the few facts that we do know, as opposed to leaks, rumours and guesswork:
The 6 (or is it 3? There are reports that 3 people have already been released) suspects have not yet been indicted. They have been arrested for questioning, and were taken to court (in Petach Tikva of all places) to have their remand extended. That is the full extent of what any of us know of this case. From the ToI link above:
Six people were arrested Sunday in connection with the murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir, whose burned body was found in the Jerusalem forest on Wednesday morning, officials said Sunday.
The suspects are members of a Jewish extremist cell, the Shin Bet security agency said.
Officials suspect the killing was most likely carried out by Jewish extremists in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teenagers earlier in June.
A number of minors were among those held.
The suspects are from Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem and the settlement of Adam, police said.
“Apparently the people arrested in relation to the case belong to an extremist Jewish group,” an unnamed official was quoted by AFP as saying.
An official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that authorities believe the killing was “nationalistic” in nature.
According to Channel 2, days before the kidnapping and murder, three of the suspects had scouted out the area in East Jerusalem and attempted unsuccessfully to kidnap an Arab child, later named as 9-year-old Musa Zalum.
A gag order on some details was still in place as on Sunday evening. A press conference on the arrests scheduled for 5 p.m. was canceled at the last moment.
Palestinians alleged that Abu Khdeir was killed by Jewish extremists to avenge the killings of the three Israeli teenagers, who were abducted in the West Bank on June 12. Their bodies were found last week, and Abu Khdeir was killed just hours after their funeral.
On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority attorney-general, Dr. Muhammed Abed al-Ghani al-Aweiwi, said that Abu Khdeir was burned alive, according to the preliminary findings of the autopsy.
Aweiwi told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that Abu Khdeir had sustained severe burns across 90 percent of his body, including his head, where he was also beaten.
In East Jerusalem, Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, welcomed news of the arrests but said she had little faith in the Israeli justice system.
“I don’t have any peace in my heart. Even if they captured who they say killed my son,” she said. “They’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?”
“They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do to our children,” she added.
Ma’an said the raid occurred in the city’s Qarn al-Thour neighborhood, and that the arrest was made “in connection with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers weeks earlier.”
It named the suspect as Husam Dufish, and cited his relatives and Palestinian security sources as confirming the raid on his home.
And today another breakthrough was announced when the murder of Shelley Dadon was solved – (I mentioned her murder back in May) and it turns out to have been yet another terrorist murder (and not just a “regular” crime” as the police had surmised earlier):
Israel Police on Sunday announced that an Israeli Arab was behind the murder of 20-year-old Shelly Dadon in an empty parking lot in northern Israel on May 1, and that the killer is suspected to have had nationalistic motives.
The suspect is Hussein Khalifa, 34, from Iblin, a taxi driver who drove workers to and from factories in the Migdal Haemek industrial zone, according to the ISA – Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).
“During ISA questioning, Hussein Khalifa confessed to murdering Dadon and disclosed many details regarding the murder,” Shin Bet investigators said in a statement.
“On the morning of the day of the murder, after dropping off workers at one of the factories as he did daily, he continued toward the center of town (Migdal Haemek) where he picked up the deceased. She requested that he drive her to a job interview in the industrial zone. He drove her to an abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of the industrial zone (not far from her requested destination) where he stabbed her to death and fled the scene in his cab.
“According to his version, after perpetrating the murder, Hussein Khalifa threw away the murder weapon and the deceased’s cellphone as he fled the scene, and later washed bloodstains from his cab. He also threw away the deceased’s wallet near the community of Beit Zarzir.
“While Hussein Khalifa’s motives have yet to be fully clarified, the ISA assessment is that the murder was perpetrated for nationalistic reasons,” the Shin Bet statement read.
The announcement comes after a months-long investigation into Dadon’s death.
So the tally for the moment, if anyone wants to keep score, is 5 brutally murdered teenagers, (OK, technically Shelley wasn’t in her teens any more) 4 of whom were kidnapped first.
This is not a cycle of violence. This is war, and it has to stop before we all blind each other in an eye for an eye.
There is no “cycle of violence” in Israel. There is instead an Islamic fundamentalist aggressor, identical to the one which at this moment is causing hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout the Middle East. An aggressor who hates the Jews, and whose orders to kill them is established in its charter, and who has kidnapped and killed three boys in cold-blood while singing joyously as can be heard in the terrible police’s tape recording.
If the Palestinian boy found Wednesday morning in the Jerusalem forest was killed by a group of Israeli criminals and racist psychopaths (which is still unproven at this time), this has nothing to do with the systematic and programmatic murder which has been perpetrated by Hamas for decades; an immense organization which has at hand an army, a significant stretch of land, Gaza, and access to funds.
If the Palestinian boy was killed by Jews from the extreme right, then undoubtedly they are murderers, but this has nothing to do either with Judaism, or with the fact, if things had happened in such a manner, that the responsibility belongs to the “settlers”, an insulted category of which the world just had the opportunity to witness the immense compassion, integrity, and dignity in the parents of the three murdered boys.The settlers are people who are living in the notorious Territories, like so many other good people who have, in the eyes of the world, the defect to believe that to accept the transfer of part of the places inhabited by Jews today, Israel is entitled to greater safety.
This is why Netanyahu and pro-Israel advocates constantly stress the danger inherent in the incessant anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian society, their media, and their educational system.
Thankfully saner heads are trying to prevail, with varying degrees of success, though these are still early days.
As I mentioned yesterday, Arab residents of Kalansawa are furious at the rioting youngsters (Hebrew only) and want them to apologize to the Jewish victims of their violence. There is yet hope…
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat did his best to unite two grieving families, the Frenkels of Nof Ayalon and the Abu Khdeirs of Jerusalem, in a phone call made from the Shiva for Naftali HY’D
During his condolence call at Nof Ayalon, Barkat spoke with Naftali Frankel’s uncle, Yishai, and, by telephone, with Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein.
Speaking “in the name of the citizens of Jerusalem,” Barkat expressed to Hussein his shock “over the horrible and barbaric slaying of his son,” a statement from his office said.
During the visit with the Frankels, the Mayor suggested the two families speak together. The father and uncle tried to comfort each other in their grief.
“As one who has lost a family member, I understand the loss and difficulty, and we want to express our total rejection of violence between the Jewish and Arab peoples,” Yishai Frankel said.
“As soon as we heard about the murder, (our) family asked to put out a statement rejecting all violence and expressions of revenge over the deaths of the teens,” Frankel said, according to the statement.
Possibly the most heartening news of the day was this item (Hebrew only): Palestinians from the Hebron area made a condolence visit to the Frenkel family. Rough translation to follow:
Two Palestinians accompanied by Rabbi Rafi Ostroff from the Gush Etzion area arrived on a condolence visit to the Frenkel family in Nof Ayalon, who lost their son Naftali z”l when he was murdered together with Gil-Ad Shayer and Eyal Yifrah after being kidnapped.
One of the Palestinians from the Hebron area explained to NRG “I come from a bereaved family, I lost my brother and we have several ex-prisoners. I’m sorry to admit that we threw stones at you. What can I say?”
Why did you decide to visit the Frenkels?
“I think that the lack of reconciliation in this region comes from a lack of coping with pain. As soon as we learn to deal with each other’s pain and stop being angry at each other things will be better. Our mission is to strengthen the family and take a step towards the liberation of my people. We believe that only through the hearts of the Jews will we gain our liberation. “
He said the visit was excellent and they were received in a beautiful and warm manner. “I very much identified with them, they welcomed us very well, The mother (Rachel Frankel) was charming., I see before me a Jewish family who lost her son opening the door for me. It’s not a given. I was touched and so were my people. I wish that no other family will be bereaved, but if so, that they would react as the Frankels responded, which strengthens the Arab street“.
What did you say to them?
“We said we send our condolences to them. We regret any harm to people, no matter whether they are Jew or Muslim. We do not want anyone to get hurt and want to reach a political settlement. What Rachel (Frankel) told the media a few days ago (around the murder of Arab boy) touched many Palestinian people. “
He also mentioned her words, “Pain is pain, and we are all human.” Another two Palestinians told the Frankel family that “It’s not just the extremists that prevent progress towards an agreement, even the peace camp themselves and the politicians are not doing enough, and should act more for peace.”
Another told of a joint initiative of Jews and Muslims that on the 15th July, the Fast of Seventeenth of Tammuz , a joint fast would be held for the two religions and called the initiative “a hunger strike against violence.”
The organizer of the visit is the head of the Religious Council of Gush Etzion Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, who drove the Palestinians to Nof Ayalon and said that “Palestinians whom I know wanted to visit and comfort the families, so I brought them. The families welcomed us in an amazing way. They did not even think twice about letting them enter, it was obvious to them that it’s okay. From what I understand these is the only Palestinians who came to visit the family. “
This story has been one of the only bright spots in this whole miserable day. Would that there were more people like Rabbi Ostroff and his Palestinian friends.
Meanwhile let us not forget that the residents of southern Israel are suffering yet another straight day of constant rocketing and missile fire, with only sporadic IDF responses. Palestinian rioting has reignited in the north and an attempt was made to burn Joseph’s tomb in Shechem. Again.
Mahmoud Abbas has run to the UN as per usual to demand an international investigation into “settler violence” – although what the settlers have to do with the current violence is anybody’s guess. I’m sure Abbas will get his heart’s desire and I’m sure the UN will find the settlers guilty. Of what, who knows? Who cares? They must be guilty of something!
And yet Abbas has also asked Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal to calm down the Gaza escalation. He obviously knows, when he’s not play-acting on the world stage, who the real culprit for the violence is.
And bubbling in the background is a story of police and legal bribery corruption which sounds like it’s about to boil right over, with who knows what kind of implications. Will this story affect the investigations of the murder suspects? What kind of society are we growing in Israel?
Michael Eisenberg’s excellent facebook post (h/t Reality) expressed our feelings about all these events perfectly:
As the police investigation drags on about Muhammad from Bet Hanina and the search for the Kawasmeh’s who killed Naftali, Eyal and Gil-ad drags on, I think we need a more nuanced view of what the last few weeks have brought upon us than we are being treated to by the politicians.
First, nothing is known yet about who killed young Muhammad. However, if it turns out that this act was perpetrated by Jews, then they should be punished harshly and the same measures we take on Arab terrorists should be applied to Jewish terrorists. Further, as Jews we should be horrified on an ethical, moral and national level that this repugnant act was done by Jews and caused unbelievable reputational harm to Israel. It is also completely and totally inexcusable for Jews or anyone to be walking through the streets chanting “Death to Arabs.” We know what it is like to be on the other side of that and, as Hillel says “Don’t do to your neighbor what you would not want done to you.”
However, none of this should excuse the rioting and lawless behavior of the Arabs in Bet Hanina. 3 Jewish teenagers were killed and their families and communities responded with incredible responsibility and dignity. Nothing excuses lawless behavior and further destruction. Nothing. Frankly, the police should be ashamed of the way they handled the protests in Bet Hanina, allowing this vandalism and hooliganism to carry on for too long. In addition, the citizens of Jerusalem should not be required to pay for the clean up of the hooliganism with their municipal taxes (arnona). The people of Bet Hanina could have comported themselves like the people of Nof Ayalon and Talmon but they chose not to and should be responsible for those actions. The same is true for the rioting in the north. It is inexcusable and should not be tolerated.
In addition, this murder should not impact the need to ensure that the Israeli residents of Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Sderot can live in peace. Nothing can excuse the rocket fire there. And it is the job of the government of Israel to put a stop to it. Whatever it takes.
How one chooses to respond to tragedy is an indication of their moral fabric as well as national and personal values. It is very disappointing that politicians from the Left such as Erel Margalit (on his FB page) have chosen to focus on how uncomfortable he feels with the “death to Arab” chants but has found no time to criticize the behavior of the hooligans in Bet Hanina or to suggest that we need to deliver a mortal blow to Hamas for firing endless salvos on our communities in the South of Israel (let alone the bedouin ongoing hooliganism in the Negev). It is equally disappointing that politicians from the right such as Naftali Bennet have not found the wherewithal to harshly condemn the marching chanters but can only find time to talk about the salvos in the south.
Life is more complex than politicians on the left and right would have everyone believe. Israelis are very smart people and I believe most of us understand that there are many sides to what is going on now and a complex situation needs a complex response and not simple soundbites to the newspapers or Facebook pages. It would also have been refreshing to hear these politicians who are all so outspoken now on security matters to have been as outspoken, forceful about the police corruption or the possibility that corrupt Fuad would have been President. Sadly, the Labor party supported corrupt Fuad and neither the left nor the right has the spine to take on the police.
We are in need of leadership that embraces complexity and is willing to be bold by breaking the standard models of right and left in this country. We are in need of leadership that knows moral and ethical fouls when it sees them in society and the police and treats it across the board with appropriate measures. And we are in need of leadership the restores personal and national security to the citizens and is not afraid to tackle the thorny problems within the system from the Police to the bureaucracy, to widening economic gaps to the corrupt politicians. Our nation deserves it
Our nation not only deserves it. We desperately need it.