Eyewitness to Israeli beating of teenager Tarek Abu Khdeir: It was ‘an ambush’

Israel/Palestine
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Tarek Abu Khdeir with the mother of murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Tarek Abu Khdeir with the mother of murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Tarek Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American beat up by Israeli forces last week, was pummeled in an “ambush” away from the clashes taking place in Shuafat, according to an eyewitness speaking out to the media for the first time.

“They just kept beating him,” Leen Barghouti, a Palestinian who was born and raised in Shuafat and who witnessed the beating of Abu Khdeir, told me in an interview. “It was pretty much an ambush.”

Barghouti’s eyewitness account bolsters what Tarek and his family have said from day one: that the 15-year-old was not throwing stones or taking part in clashes that were sparked by the brutal murder of his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The family has said that Tarek was in his uncle’s backyard when he was attacked.

In the aftermath of the publication of a video showing security forces beating Tarek up after he was subdued, Israeli officials have claimed that Tarek and other Palestinians attacked Israeli forces and the video of the beating was “edited and biased.”  No evidence has been presented that Tarek took part in the clashes or attacked Israeli forces.

Barghouti is staying in Shuafat, Jerusalem at her grandmother’s house over the summer while interning for an organization in Beit Jala, a Palestinian town near Bethlehem.  On Thursday, the day after Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found dead after being burned alive by Israeli Jewish terrorists, Barghouti, a graduate student at Georgetown, was at her family’s Shuafat home watching the clashes from a window. She says her home overlooks the Abu Khdeir residence in the middle-class neighborhood of Shuafat in occupied East Jerusalem.

Barghouti told me that the clashes–with Israeli forces shooting tear gas and stun grenades and Palestinians throwing rocks–took place on the main street of Shuafat.  At one point, Palestinian youths constructed a makeshift barrier and moved closer to Israeli forces stationed in the area. “Then suddenly they started shouting…and they just spread out all over the neighborhood. And that’s when we actually ended up seeing Tarek getting beaten up,” she said.  “It was really crazy. He wasn’t anywhere near the main street, that’s the weird part.  I know they keep saying he was taking part in the demonstration or clashes, but he wasn’t anywhere near the street.”

Barghouti says that the people who beat up Tarek Abu Khdeir were musta’arabin, or undercover officers who try to look like Palestinians. The musta’arabin were wearing masks and were stationed “everywhere in the alleyways.” The pummeling of Tarek lasted between three and five minutes, Barghouti said.  The video of the beating shows that he was pummeled even after being arrested.

Photos of Tarek’s bruised, misshapen face emerged soon after.  “I was shocked when I saw the aftermath. It did look brutal, but I did not expect the aftermath to be that bad,” said Barghouti.  On Sunday, as Allison Deger reported, Tarek was released from Israeli prison but placed under house arrest after his family paid a fine.  He has not been charged with anything. His family wants him to be flown back to the U.S. as fast as possible for medical treatment they estimate could cost $200,000–which they want Israel to pay for.

Barghouti’s Shuafat neighborhood, usually a quiet area of East Jerusalem, has found itself thrust into the center of Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the past week. Last Tuesday, Shuafat resident Dina Zalloum told the Israeli police that Israeli Jews had tried to kidnap her nine-year-old son, Musa. She successfully intervened, saving Musa.

The police now suspect that those who killed Mohammed Abu Khdeir, another Shuafat resident, tried to kidnap Musa first.  The kidnapping and murder of Mohammed followed a wave of incitement by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and hundreds of right-wing youth marauding through Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs.”

On the day after Mohammed was killed, “I woke up to the sounds of helicopters and there were soldiers everywhere,” said Barghouti. That was the day when fierce clashes broke out, and when Tarek was kicked in the head repeatedly.

Barghouti said that dozens of Israeli Border Police and special forces were in Shuafat that day.  She said that the Israeli forces harassed many Shuafat residents, with some calling women in the neighborhood whores.

“They’ve just been terrorizing the entire neighborhood,” she said.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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20 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 9, 2014, 1:21 pm

    Lots of voices in the internet social media keep repeating this “cycle of violence” started with the kidnapping, vanishing of 3 Jewish teens by HAMAS, one victim an American dual citizen.
    And they also say the reason Israel is attacking Gaza is rocket attacks started there; they are just responding in Israel’s defense. None of the contradicting facts brought out on MW are considered or admitted.

  2. Citizen
    July 9, 2014, 1:34 pm

    From Wikipedia:

    Mista’arvim (Hebrew: מסתערבים‎, lit. Arabized; Arabic: مستعربين‎, Musta’arabin), also spelled as mistaravim, is the name given to those counter-terrorism units of the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Border Police in which officers are specifically trained to operate undercover, in enemy territory, in order to assassinate or capture wanted terrorists.

    I imagine the “Arab Jews,” the subject of a very recent article and comment thread on MW, are the sought after recruits for this unit of IDF special forces–because they physically look like Arabs the most, and they are brought up from families exhibiting many aspects of Arab culture.

    So they felt the American Teenager from Tampa Florida, watching from relatives’s back yard, was a terrorist? These Jewish Israelis are out of control.

  3. W.Jones
    July 9, 2014, 2:49 pm

    These things are very sad and makes one feel helpless. I am not sure what the answer is. It is one of the reasons people are attracted to Christianity- because it promises hope in the face of defeat and being crushed. But for that matter, it is one of the reasons why those who are “People of Conscience”, a term based on M.Ellis’ one, sympathize with Palestinians in the first place.

    There is a lot of trauma and feelings of being crushed and helpless in the world, like what Tarek and hundreds of abused Palestinian children feel, but it is not limited to them either, unfortunately.

  4. just
    July 9, 2014, 3:01 pm

    “Barghouti says that the people who beat up Tarek Abu Khdeir were musta’arabin, or undercover officers who try to look like Palestinians. The musta’arabin were wearing masks and were stationed “everywhere in the alleyways.” ”

    and

    “Barghouti said that dozens of Israeli Border Police and special forces were in Shuafat that day. She said that the Israeli forces harassed many Shuafat residents, with some calling women in the neighborhood whores.

    “They’ve just been terrorizing the entire neighborhood,” she said.”

    OK. Are we finally allowed to say that Israel is a terrorist state?

    (P.S. How can a Palestinian disguise him/herself as an Israeli? With a shout “death to Arabs”?)

    • Mooser
      July 9, 2014, 3:49 pm

      “Barghouti says that the people who beat up Tarek Abu Khdeir were musta’arabin, or undercover officers who try to look like Palestinians. The musta’arabin were wearing masks and were stationed “everywhere in the alleyways.”

      Lily Tomlin was right. That one went straight to the heart and gave love a bad name, as the song says.

      Well, at any rate, I’m cynical enough to note the “hang time”, that is how long it takes for certain people to say that “musta’arabin” are a Palestinian invention.

      • tree
        July 9, 2014, 11:55 pm

        Well, at any rate, I’m cynical enough to note the “hang time”, that is how long it takes for certain people to say that “musta’arabin” are a Palestinian invention.

        Hang time of two hours and 42 minutes for the post from wes below.

  5. chocopie
    July 9, 2014, 3:09 pm

    They were disguised as Palestinians and they attacked Tarek far from where street clashes were taking place. So they could not have mistaken him for one of those deadly stone-throwers. Sounds more and more like he might have been targeted specifically because of his connection to Mohammed. (Annie suggested this in another thread)

  6. lysias
    July 9, 2014, 3:19 pm

    I wonder if U.S. media would be interested in interviewing this Georgetown graduate student.

  7. justicewillprevail
    July 9, 2014, 3:42 pm

    So arrogant and drunk with their own power, they don’t even bother lying convincingly – they just think just by saying so, that somehow the gullible world believes them, even when a simple check disproves their transparent lies. This is what makes any observer sick with disgust at their contemptuous attitude not just to their victims, but to everybody else. It also betrays their complete confidence that they can do what they like, to whomsoever they like whenever they like, with complete impunity. Power corrupts, absolute power breeds monsters. Here they are, as in all branches of the Israeli state and its Orwellian apparatus.

    • Citizen
      July 10, 2014, 5:30 am

      @ justicewillprevail
      It’s actually has been for a long time very reasonable for the Israel government to blatantly lie to the world about its own activities because the pattern is the American media will simply parrot whatever Israeli PR spews. The American public was never much informed of Baruch Goldstein (or the USS Liberty, or Rachel Corrie, etc), but this time around the main media is getting competition from alternative news sources on the internet and the prevalence of cell phone cameras and video equipment in private citizen hands. Israel government is very much concerned about its image; they essentially tell their folks that what’s bad about the Tariq news is that it allows diversion from the simple fact Israel is a light to the world.

  8. joer
    July 9, 2014, 3:44 pm

    This video pretty much encapsulates 70 years of Palestinian history in three minutes: Someone is standing in his own back yard. Suddenly, he is attacked and has the shit beat out of him by heavily armed soldiers, and then dragged to prison for being a terrorist. The rest is commentary.

  9. wes
    July 9, 2014, 6:37 pm

    Barghouti says

    “that the people who beat up Tarek Abu Khdeir were musta’arabin, or undercover officers who try to look like Palestinians”.

    “the guys in the video try to look palestinians”

    what yah mean “TRY” to look like palestinians

    they are palestinians

    • tree
      July 9, 2014, 11:51 pm

      Ah, the same brilliant mind that said he couldn’t identify Tareq in the beating video because he couldn’t see his face, thus implying that it wasn’t Tareq that got beaten, now tries a new tack, and tells us that he can positively identify the masked beaters as Palestinian, who somehow managed to convince Israeli police that they were Israeli policemen and could arrest Abu Khdeir after beating him senseless and have him end up in an Israeli jail.

      For DaBkr, who somehow missed the “Jews don’t do that” meme, despite its prevalence, this example from wes is just another version of it. Its all “Pallywood” to them because “Jews don’t do that”.

      • wes
        July 10, 2014, 12:11 am

        Tree says

        of course tarek got beaten,but was he the guy in the video,thats all i am asking

        The barghouti said the israeli,s were dressed like arabs,but the guys in the video are dressed like iranians so i am confused.
        which is it arabs israeli,s or iranians.
        you tell me ….off yah.

        you should watch the videos of egyptian police beating people to get an idea of how beatings differ between the two countries

        in iran they just use a bagwami,2 hits and you,re gone.

      • Annie Robbins
        July 10, 2014, 1:14 am

        but the guys in the video are dressed like iranians so i am confused.

        well, since they drug the boy off to the russian compound it’s unlikely the cops were iranian unless they were iranian jewish israelis. whoever they are they work for the state, and israel is not denying that.

      • tree
        July 10, 2014, 1:44 am

        The important words are the last three… “I am confused”. Kind of sums it up for wes.

        Photos of IDF (hint, wes, that means Israeli) mista’avrim:

        link to militaryphotos.net

      • Citizen
        July 10, 2014, 5:08 am

        Yeah Deis Yassein was Pallywood too. Some good news. Local TV news channels in Tampa Bay area are breaking news about Tareq’s beating. And, on Twitter, trending under hatch tags #bringtariqhome. and #BringTariqHome

      • Citizen
        July 10, 2014, 5:18 am

        And as the Tariq news spreads across the USA, Israel spokes folks are saying Tariq was not just watching a protest about his cousin’s ghastly death by Israeli thugs, but Tariq was throwing molotov cocktails at Israel defense forces. Hasbara teeming bots all over the place. link to abcactionnews.com

  10. bilal a
    July 10, 2014, 3:09 am

    They should call the ADL:

    The picture adorning @ADL_National's annual report. What a diverse civil rights group. pic.twitter.com/f0DHTCuPNx— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) July 9, 2014

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