The family of Tarek Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American brutally beaten by Israeli forces, says that he was standing in his uncle’s backyard when he was ambushed in the Shuafat neighborhood of Jerusalem–and did not attack the police, as Israeli officials have claimed. The family, who have been in contact with Tarek’s parents, who are in Jerusalem, is also demanding that Israel pay the costs of medical treatment for the head wounds Tariq suffered.
“All of the accusations that he’s a violent kid–he’s not violent,” said Hamdi Abu Khdeir, a Florida resident and an uncle of Tarek, during a press conference today in Florida organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In response to a reporter’s question about whether Tarek was participating in the protests in Shuafat that erupted after Mohammed Abu Khdeir was murdered, the uncle said: “He wasn’t inside [the protests], or doing anything.”
A reporter also asked why Tarek was wearing a kuffiyeh on his face–echoing what Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said on Twitter yesterday.
@nickschifrin I’m not sure but in the footage circulating, it seems he was masked with a kafiyah. Any reason for that?
— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) July 6, 2014
His uncle responded to the reporter by explaining that it is a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.
The family’s version of events sharply contradicts what Israeli officials have claimed in the aftermath of Tarek’s beating, which was caught on video and sparked widespread outrage in the U.S. and in Palestine. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told news outlets that Tarek was among Palestinian protesters who attacked the police. “How does a 15-year-old American student end up attacking security officers and rioting with hundreds of masked Palestinians?” Rosenfeld asked the New York Times‘ Jodi Rudoren. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., told ABC News that “this boy was one of six boys who attacked police with petrol bombs, Molotov cocktails.”
The family also expressed outrage at Israel’s handling of the case in the aftermath of the beating, which happened after he was arrested and continued while the 15-year-old was unconscious, according to the Abu Khdeirs. While Tarek was released Sunday, he was placed under house arrest for nine days and fined. “On top of that, another insult, we have to pay a fine!?” said Sana Abu Khdeir, his aunt. “This is our baby, imagine if it was yours.”
Hassan Shibly, CAIR’s executive director in Florida, said that estimates of the medical treatment Tarek needs runs to an estimated $200,000. Tarek’s uncle, Hamdi, said that “the people who did this to him, they’re supposed to pay for it, and that is the Israeli government.” The family says that Tarek is still suffering from headaches, and that he has stitches.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Tarek’s mother, Suha, says she wants to take legal action against the Israeli officers who beat her son.
The beating of Tarek was the second tragedy to hit the family in a matter of days. Last week, Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped by Israeli Jewish members of a soccer gang and murdered. Mohammed’s killers burned him alive, according to the autopsy report.
“This is a watershed moment that exposes the brutality Palestinians face,” said Shibly.