‘Our only demand is that the murderers spend the rest of their lives in jail, so that everyone knows that what they did is unconscionable.’
By Michael Salisbury-Corech
Hundreds of Palestinians marched last Thursday in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat to mark one year since the abduction and murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Participants waved Palestinian flags and held posters with Abu Khdeir’s face as they marched from the mosque where he was kidnapped, to the local girls elementary school where a memorial service was held.
Abu Khdeir was murdered in the early morning of July 2, 2014 by three Jewish men, purportedly as a random act of “vengeance” in response to the murder of three Jewish teenagers by Palestinians in the West Bank. The perpetrators kidnapped Abu Khdeir as he was walking to a neighborhood mosque for early morning prayers, took him to a Jerusalem-area forest, where they beat and burned him alive.
Thursday’s service included speeches from several public figures, including Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, and Adnan al-Husayni, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority. The service passed without incident, despite warnings and threats by the Shin Bet and police toward the Abu Khdeir family to delay and even cancel the event altogether.
In an interview with +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, Abu Khdeir’s cousin Said said the event was important, especially in light of the pressure to cancel it out of fear that Palestinian youth would throw stones:
“We knew that there would be no clashes, despite all the pressure that was placed on us by the security services. Shin Bet agents came two weeks ago and threatened me and several other family members that if something happens, we would be arrested that same night. The police also wanted us to sign a document promising that nothing would happen. We refused to sign and said that we are organizing the event and don’t want clashes. They pressured us to delay the event to Friday event, when the Jerusalem light rail no longer passes through the village and there isn’t much traffic in the area. We refused.
“The father of the martyr, Hussein Abu Khdeir, said that we would hold the ceremony on the exact date of the murder, and that if we do it on Friday, many people from the West Bank will come after they are done praying at Al-Aqsa, which would only raise the likelihood of clashes.
What are your thoughts on the trial of the suspects?
“We want the three of them to receive life sentences. A life sentence for the kidnapping, a life sentence for the murder, and another life sentence for the trauma this has caused the family. We do not want to see a situation in which the president grants them clemency, or the courts cut down their sentences for good behavior, which means that in a few years time they will be released and continue living their lives.
“Palestinians who take part in terrorism have their homes destroyed, but when Jews do the same nothing happens to their homes. I understand that this is because the state is racist. After all, we are talking about Jews who have rights here.
“I must say that despite all of my anger at the killers’ parents, I do not think it is right to destroy their homes. They shouldn’t have to pay for what their children did. My only demand is that they are convicted and spend the rest of their lives in jail, so that everyone can understand that what they did is unconscionable.”