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Israeli Officials, Jewish Organizations Condemn Murder of Palestinian Teen

Mohammed Abu KhdeirCredit: AFP

Over the weekend Israeli officials confirmed that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teen who was found last week in a Jerusalem forest beaten and burnt to death, was likely murdered by Jewish Israelis who were seeking revenge for the recent kidnapping and killing of Gilaad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah by Palestinians. There had previously been speculation that the Palestinian teen was killed by fellow Palestinians because he was gay or as part of an ongoing family feud, but this was put to rest with the announcement by Israeli police that six Jewish Israelis have been arrested in connection with the murder. Soon after the arrests, both Israeli officials and American-based Jewish organizations were quick to condemn the murder.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Israeli media that the murderers of Abu Khdeir “have no place in Israeli society” and that “we do not differentiate between terrorists, and we will respond to all of them,” remarking that the murder is a “horrific crime.” Israeli President Shimon Peres called the murder “reprehensible” and added that “if 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.” Peres further remarked that Israel does not “distinguish between blood and blood. The murder of a child is reprehensible, regardless of the religion or nationality of the child.”

In a statement, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said he was “embarrassed and horrified at the cruel murder of the young Muhammed Abu Khdeir.” He added that “these debased murderers don’t represent the Jewish people or its values, and they must be treated as terrorists,” and that  “we will not allow Jewish terrorists from our midst to disrupt the fabric of the many different communities in the state of Israel, and to harm innocents just because they are Arabs.”

Economy Minister and Chairman of the Jewish Home party, Nafatali Bennett — known for his right-wing views — also unequivocally condemned the murder, saying that it was “terrible, immoral and anti-Jewish.” He also remarked that he agreed with Moshe Yaalon’s statement that the murderers should be treated as terrorists under the law. Furthermore, Education Minister Shay Piron remarked that the murder was “an attack on the heart of Israeliness…the personification of evil and an attack on our very humanity.” He added that the “education system will work to deepen the discourse of mutual respect and fight against incitement, hatred and racism.”

In America, prominent Jewish organizations also swiftly condemned the murder. In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman said that “We are outraged and horrified that this heinous attack is believed to have been carried out by Israeli Jewish extremists, who sought out and brutally murdered an innocent Palestinian teen.” He continued that “unbridled extremist hatred was behind the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who are mourned around the world. We cannot shirk from the recognition that unbridled, extremist hatred may have led to the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir as well.” He added that the murderers of Abu Khdeir must be tried to the fullest extent of the law. Foxman also sent his condolences to the Khdeir family.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) issued a statement in which Executive Director David Harris said “that several Israelis are believed to be involved in this murder is despicable and shameful” and “by taking the life of a young Palestinian as an apparent act of revenge, they have desecrated God’s name and, at the same time, done nothing to ease the immense suffering of all those who mourn the tragic murder of the three Israeli teenagers.” Harris also called for “the harshest possible prison sentence” should the suspects be convicted.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also released a statement from its chairman and executive vice chairman/CEO, Robert Sugarman and Malcolm Hoenlein, in which the Jewish leaders remarked that “we learned with anguish and sorrow that the investigation by Israeli authorities appears to have determined that the perpetrators of the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir are Israeli citizens.  There is no justification for such an heinous attack by self-styled vigilantes.  We condemn this attack, as we did the murder of the three Israeli youths by Arab terrorists last week and we extend our sincere condolences to the Khdeir family.” They added that “we also urge that measures be implemented to stop all incitement to violence whatever and whoever the source.  There has been much suffering this week and we pray that it will come to a quick end.  All violations of the law must and will be thoroughly examined.”



Justin Scott Finkelstein

Justin Finkelstein recently received a Master's degree from New York University in Near Eastern Studies. He has spent most of his academic career and thereafter studying the Arab-Israeli conflict. His Master's thesis explored and analyzed the competing histories of the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem (1947-1949) and the potential for its solution.

He is currently a Research Associate at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. He has traveled to both Israel and Morocco and has attended the Middlebury Arabic School program.