Settlers spit on Abu Khdeir family as they exit court; alleged killer refuses to enter plea

Israel/Palestine
on 25 Comments

Today was more difficult than most trips to the Jerusalem District Court for the grieving family of the late 16-year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was abducted and then burned to death in a nationalistic crime by Israeli right-wingers in July, just before the summer war in Gaza. Aside from an early winter rain, and slow progress in the murder trial, settlers spat on them as they exited the courthouse.

On the sidewalk a scuffle followed the Abu Khdeirs on their way home. Approaching their car, settlers recognized them; for Abu Khdeir relatives’ faces have become synonymous with the on-going unrest in Jerusalem. The Israelis, a group of religious-nationalist youth, were also in court that day, but for an altogether different case .They allegedly accosted Palestinians. “They came after us,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir, 27, a cousin of the deceased. He stated that one of the Israeli-nationalists “spit on my cousin and then he said to the police, see the Arabs…”

To Palestinians “Mohammed” conjures more than the name of the prophet. He is a child killed by vigilantism and racism cultivated by the state of Israel, a symbol of the unchecked violence Palestinians experience from anti-Arab extremists that was manifested last summer by throngs of rightists youths explicitly “hunting” for Arabs. And his death carries over to the more recent killings of four Palestinians in Jerusalem who were gunned down for the attempted killing, actual killing or suspected killing of Israelis.

Abu Khdeir’s alleged murderers were in court today for a second pre-trial. All three defendants were supposed to enter pleas. In the session the self-proclaimed ringleader of the group, Yosef Haim Ben-David, 29, refused to cooperate. His lawyer told the judge he could not give a statement on guilt on behalf of his client, as was the case in the last pre-trial in October. Today, the delay was because Ben-David is no longer speaking.

The two accused minors pleaded guilty on the charge of abducting Abu Khdeir from outside of his Shuafat home in East Jerusalem, but pleaded not guilty on the charge of murder. They claim that in the spirit of the moment Ben-David alone poured lighter fluid down the kidnapped youth’s throat, doused him in the chemical and then set him alight.

Relatives of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Jerusalem District Court, November 17, 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Relatives of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Jerusalem District Court, November 17, 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Jerusalem District Court, November 17, 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Jerusalem District Court, November 17, 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Outside of the hearing room, camerapersons were kept at bay behind blue metal barricades, the kind that are used by police to block streets during riots. Just under a dozen journalists crammed into a corridor. The arrivals and departures were recorded: The family of the defendants entered first, then the Abu Khdeirs. The state prosecutor followed, warmly greeting Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir. But the real draw of the day was Ben-David who again appeared unkempt in court. His black hair was uneven and multi-directional, tucked under a religious skullcap. His beard appeared spotty, yet strong. He sported a black tracksuit with red and gray trim, and his staple of courtroom attire: neon yellow crocs worn over thick gray socks. White tzitzit (religious trims) hung from his waistline.

The hearing itself lasted about thirty minutes. With two pleas delivered, and one withheld, what filled up the rest of the court’s time were procedural matters. The judge scheduled one more motion before the presentation of evidence. The state’s attorney will meet with representatives for the three defendants (they each have separate lawyers) in December to cap the number of witnesses. As of now the prosecution has a hefty list of 113 persons ready to give testimony. The actual trial will not begin until January.

Additionally, the results of an independent mental health review that Ben-David’s lawyer had asked for in the last meeting were not submitted, or rather they were not brought up at all.

When the pre-trial closed, the two minors and Ben-David walked handcuffed with police escorts towards a rear stairwell. One of the accused youths crouched with his head inside his sweatshirt, preventing a glimpse of his unknown face. The identities of the accused youths are sealed because they are minors.

But Ben-David, he strolled. His gaze was stoic, locking eyes with media workers.

The murder trial is part spectacle. Journalists came, in part, to log Ben-David’s moves. The settler from Adam is mounting an insanity defense, authentically or otherwise. In his first court appearance, Ben David announced that he is “the messiah.” Since then no one has heard him speak except for occasional mumbling noises he made during his last court appearance in October.

“He looked me in the eye and he didn’t take his eyes off of me. That was scary,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir, of the accused’s October appearance in the justice hall. Yet this time, Ben-David avoided eye contact during the hearing, staring off into space, unresponsive to his own name.

However, weeks ago state mental health officials reviewed Ben-David and deemed him of sound mind.

“He’s not crazy! He’s not crazy,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir emphatically. “He planned to kidnap and murder a kid. If you read the whole deposition he talks about exactly what he did,” she said referring to a play-by-play confession Ben-David gave to police before the hearing started. He even led them on a reenactment tour. “That’s the craziest thing that I’ve heard. ‘That I’m crazy, but I can plan.’”

Yosef Ben-David, 29, accused ringleader in the murder and abduction of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Yosef Ben-David, 29, accused ringleader in the murder and abduction of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Allison Deger)

After his July indictment, in chilling detail Ben-David recounted the facts of the crime. He said one of the minors choked Abu Khdeir. He admitted to beating him with a metal pole. Then he said the three of them poured gasoline on him and Ben-David fired up the lighter. “We were hot and angry, and decided we’d burn something of the Arabs’,” he told police. The confessed even showed remorse in the policing questioning—albeit remorse tinged with racism and notions of Jewish supremacy, telling his interrogator after the crime he told the other defendants: “We had a purpose but this is not for us. We were wrong. We are merciful Jews. We are human beings.”

Ben-David also admitted that days before Abu Khdeir was abducted he and one of the indicted minors were responsible for a failed kidnapping of seven-year old Mousa Zaloum who was nearly grabbed off of the same street where the three found Abu Khdeir. That child’s mother struck the kidnappers ultimately chasing them away. The police were called. Nothing happened. Then a few days later Abu Khdeir was taken.

The stakes are high for Ben-David. If he’s found guilty of the gruesome murder and abduction he will be issued a mandatory life sentence. Alternatively if he succeeds in a presentation of not being criminally liable due to insanity, he will be ushered off to a mental hospital and released upon regaining his health. That could happen in as little as a six-months stay in a psychological ward. But in some sense, the state is already being harsh with him. It implemented a Mandate-era law that forbids the presence of lawyers when questioned, only employed for Israeli-Jews once or twice in Israel’s history according to the lawyer for the victim’s family.

Family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Photo: Allison Deger)

“It’s sadness and it’s anger; it’s mixed feelings when you hear people talking about Mohammed,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir. Her family is a national exhibition, of unattainable justice. There was a media circus this summer when Abu Khdeir’s cousin, Tareq Abu Khdeir, 15, was brought in front of cameras for the first time after Israeli police beat and arrested him. CCTV footage showed the younger Abu Khdeir as he slipped out of consciousness from blows to the head by border police during protest in the wake of his cousin’s killing.

“After Mohammed, everything just exploded,” said cousin Amsam Abu Khdeir. Following her relative’s murder, Shuafat, once a quiet leafy Palestinian suburb of Jerusalem, descended into constant chaos. Palestinians demonstrated around the clock for nearly a week over the police’s ineptitude and crackdown. Her family endured an investigation that fingered Abu Khdeir’s father, rather than looking into the killing as a nationalistically motivated crime by Israeli-Jewish settlers. The police even distributed false claims that the youth was murdered by his family because he was gay. Border authorities also stationed themselves outside of the family home, firing tear gas into the mourners tent.

“Actually, there’s a lot of tension. There’s a lot of police cars everywhere,” continued Amsam Abu Khdeir, describing how Shuafat has remained embroiled in clashes between Palestinians and the authorities. “Every 10 meters you see soldiers, or police rather,” she said.  Just last week, police called Amsam Abu Khdeir’s father and uncle and told them the memorial banner bearing Mohammed’s face was illegal and must be taken down.

The hearing comes at a time of growing discomfort for Palestinians with Israeli policies. This week, the Israeli knesset is considering a law that would state, “the State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting on Sunday. The law would also strike Arabic as one of the state’s national languages.

The Abu Khdeir family has witnessed another unequal application of Israeli law. On Monday, Netanyahu called for the sealing or demolition of the homes of six Palestinians who are alleged to have killed or tried to kill Israelis. The Abu Khdeir’s have been calling for weeks for the demolition of the homes of the defendants in their son’s case, to no avail. “Everyone knows that they [the defendants] are monsters and they are killers. They murdered my cousin in cold blood,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir.

After weeks of trial delays, her frustrations are peaking. “At least to give them prison for life– I don’t know what to say,” she said. “Actually I hope they are burned alive like my cousin.” Such sentiments are heard commonly these days in Jerusalem, on both sides of the conflict.

 

25 Responses

  1. just
    November 18, 2014, 10:17 am

    thanks for this comprehensive report, Allison. these guys are terrorists who hunted Palestinians.

    why did the settlers spit on the family??? that defendant and his attorney are ‘crazy like a fox’.

  2. seafoid
    November 18, 2014, 10:20 am

    Ben-David is all alone in court. None of the senior politicians who incited him to carry out a proper Zionist response of revenge on innocent Palestinians were to be seen after the deed was done.

    Any sign of David Lau in court ?

    link to haaretz.com

    “Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau: “The Jewish people around the world are shaken by the despicable murder. The teenagers that were martyred for their Jewishness join a long chain of our people’s holy and pure who were murdered throughout the painful history of the Jewish people.”

    Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud): “The despicable kidnapping and murder of the students cannot go by in silence, and the those responsible in Gaza must pay the price. The government of Israel must declare a war to the death on Hamas, which is responsible for the murders, and return to the policy of [targeted] assassination.”

    9:02 P.M. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) called for an all-out military assault aimed at the total destruction of Hamas. “This tragic ending must also be the ending of Hamas! The nation is strong and ready to absorb [attacks] for the sake of a mortal blow against Hamas. … [W]e have to destroy the homes of Hamas activists, wipe out their arsenals everywhere, and stop the flow of money that directly or indirectly keeps terror alive… make the entire Palestinian leadership pay a heavy price.”

    Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri: “Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal, may God avenge their blood. All the nation of Israel is mourning tonight with the three bereaved families who showed us in the last two weeks what Jewish faith and strength are.”

    link to haaretz.com

    “The kidnapping of the yeshiva students elicited a wave of public sympathy with the families, but also calls for revenge, largely among the extreme right. All these incidents heat up the atmosphere between Jews and Arabs, in the territories and also within Israel. It’s no coincidence that police announced on Monday that they were putting units in all regions on high alert. Such an atmosphere can fuel incitement, turbulent demonstrations, violent clashes and attacks on Arabs within Israel proper. Based on past experience, it’s possible to predict with a high degree of assuredness that there will be further arson attempts at mosques and assaults on Palestinian property in the territories, in the context of what are known as “price tag” attacks. ”

    link to electronicintifada.net
    “Incitement on Instagram
    Many users are also using the photo and video sharing service Instagram. Here are some examples of calls for violence posted to the hashtags #bloodforblood, #bringbackourboys and #thembloodmyblood.
    The first image of a row of coffins draped in Palestinian flags is accompanied by a caption that says: “This is what we should do to Gaza!!! Clear Gaza and take it back!!!” ”

    None of those instagrammers are with Ben David. No, he’s on his own.

    • amigo
      November 18, 2014, 11:08 am

      The attack on the Synagogue in West Jerusalem is all over the news in Europe. RTV 1 is repeating it every 15 minutes.We even had to endure comments from Bennet raving on about Palestinian incitement and terrorism.Not at word about the 11 yr old Palestinian girl blinded by the IDF or the 1 2yr old boy shot just two days ago.The death of the Palestinian bus driver is getting some press but the Israeli claim that he committed suicide seems to be sticking.

      I would not be surprised if Israel set up these murders at the synagogue.Why else would the police with total haste arrest the Family of the two so called killers if only to prevent them from possibly claiming the two were used as fall guys. This stinks to high heavens.Nietanyahu would do anything to get another Intifada going.

      • John O
        November 18, 2014, 1:22 pm

        I have to say the brief report on the BBC Radio 3 (their classical music station) news a few minutes ago was very careful to give the context, including the raising of tensions by Jewish extremists over the Al Aqsa/Temple Mount.

      • bilal a
        November 18, 2014, 11:30 pm

        re: synagogue atrocity

        1) the victims are all non Israeli born, American and British
        2) they are religious ultra orthodox who have emnity for netanyahu
        3) was the policeman killed on entry? if not, the synagogue was unguarded
        4) evidently the synagogue is known to be mainly english speaking , and yards away from the place where the Palestinian was kidnapped

        very tragic, complete violation of law of war protecting non combatants, houses of worship.

        and unusual in that all the dead, minus the policeman, are American and religious.

  3. Kay24
    November 18, 2014, 10:33 am

    They are adding insult to injury. They are indeed wicked and without a soul. This poor family has not only lost so much (in the most violent way), been harassed, been the target of hatred, and now at the time of pain, been spat on so viciously.

    Of course, this will not be reported by the zio media over here. They are all trying to outdo each other showing outrage for the brutal murders in the synagogue today. Palestinians deaths are of no consequence.

    • Pippilin
      November 19, 2014, 2:22 pm

      “Wicked and without a soul.” Indeed. How can a society filled with so much hate long endure?
      As long as the US pays the bills and Germany holds on to its guilt-complex.
      I wonder how many Israelis saw this image of the dead Mohammed abu Kdeir; would it have struck a note of horror in them? The hate is so sick and strong that I doubt it.
      [GRAPHIC~ed.]
      link to cintayati.wordpress.com

  4. RobertB
    November 18, 2014, 11:05 am

    US Policemen Visit Israel to Learn New Strategies and Methods:

    By teleSUR

    November 187, 2014

    “Chicago officers attend the third Homeland Security Conference in Tel Aviv to learn on cyber-crime and counterterrorism from one of the most questioned police corps in the world.

    Police officers from Chicago, Illinois, in the United States, which is one of the countries with the most militarized police corps, visited Israel, which has one of the most repressive security agencies, to learn “cutting-edge policing strategies and technologies.”

    The public security officials attended the Third International Homeland Security Conference held last week in Tel Aviv.

    The U.S. delegation was led by the Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who spoke at the conference, according to the Jewish United Fund (JUF), which sent the officials to Israel.

    Several areas were addressed during the conference, including cybersecurity, emergency preparedness, counterterrorism and critical infrastructure, such as ports, airports, trains and pipelines.

    Both countries have recently been under the radar for the repressive and violent methods that their police corps use against their population.”

    Hmmm…Who is the zionist mayor of Chicago…???

    link to informationclearinghouse.info

  5. seafoid
    November 18, 2014, 12:10 pm

    in the spirit of the moment my ass

    link to electronicintifada.net

    “Prior to the kidnapping, hundreds of Israelis rioted in Jerusalem, chanting “death to the Arabs” while assaulting Palestinians in what have been labeled “lynch mobs.”
    This came on the heels of direct incitement from Israeli government officials and politicians, who have been calling for revenge following the discovery on Monday of the bodies of the three Israeli teens.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed “revenge” on behalf of “the entire Jewish people” against the “human animals” who killed the teens, adding with no evidence that “Hamas is responsible, Hamas will pay.”
    On the more extreme end, former Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari released a video statement imploring Israel to “transfer the pain to the cruel enemy” by transforming “Ramadan into a month of darkness.” These sentiments were echoed by the Israeli public on social media, where calls for genocide against Palestinians are common. “

  6. weiss
    November 18, 2014, 1:28 pm

    And yet another reason why I am Ashamed to be Jewish.

    • just
      November 18, 2014, 6:45 pm

      i’d reserve my shame for those who support the 95% of Israelis that supported the Gaza slaughters, the GoI, the Zionists, and the vicious, racist ‘settler’ movement.

      your religion shouldn’t cause you shame, unless you think that Isr is Judaism.

      it ain’t!

    • talknic
      November 19, 2014, 4:53 am

      @ weiss “And yet another reason why I am Ashamed to be Jewish”

      Uh? Murder and spitting on the parents of the murder victim aren’t Jewish values.

      Jews could have been living anywhere in the Jewish People’s Historical homeland per the LoN Mandate for Palestine, with equal rights, freedom of religion. Sans the Zionist Movement‘s demand for a separate Jewish state, would this type of thing be happening?

      The values of the state the Zionist colonizers demanded are decidedly un-Jewish. The State of Israel is the most divisive issue we have ever faced. Judaism survived thousands of years without a state because being Jewish is a state of mind

      • Mooser
        November 19, 2014, 5:54 pm

        “The State of Israel is the most divisive issue we have ever faced. Judaism survived thousands of years without a state because being Jewish is a state of mind”

        One is put in mind (when, of course, I’m not out of it) of the oft-told story of the wonder-working Rabbi Alces Alcesowitz . Stop me if I told this story before! No, really, I don’t want to bore you… I know I have a habit of repeating myself.
        Okay, so this woman heard that this wonder-working Rabbi Alces Alcesowitz knew the secret of the essence of Judaism, and she traveled far, and endured many hardships, to gain an audience with the Rabbi.
        When she was finally ushered into the Rabbi’s presence….wait, are you sure you haven’t heard this before? Oh, you have? Okay, then, forget it. Anyway, you see the point, it’s not like a glass of tea.

    • Kay24
      November 19, 2014, 8:28 am

      You should not be ashamed to be Jewish, but you should be irritated/angry that many bring shame to the religion, by their horrible actions. Despite Bill Maher’s attempts to tar all Muslims as evil, the majority in the world are able to differentiate the moderate Muslims, from the extremists, who bring shame to their religion.
      The GOI has used Judaism as a tool/convenience to further their greed and bloodthirsty actions.

    • Mooser
      November 19, 2014, 4:49 pm

      Never, ever be ashamed to be Jewish! That, my friend, is what the Zionists want. Being Jewish is no worse than being anything else! Remember, you are just like everybody else, just maybe a little more so. But who can help that?
      Instead, be proud you aren’t a Zionist.

  7. RoHa
    November 18, 2014, 6:07 pm

    Keep it classy, settler guys. Show the world the heights of culture and civility a Jewish State can attain.

    (And the past tense of “spit” is “spat”. It follows the same pattern as “sit” and “shit”.)

  8. JLewisDickerson
    November 19, 2014, 3:55 am

    RE: “He’s not crazy! He’s not crazy,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir emphatically. “He planned to kidnap and murder a kid. If you read the whole deposition he talks about exactly what he did,” she said referring to a play-by-play confession Ben-David gave to police before the hearing started.”

    MY COMMENT: Helter skelter! As much as I sympathize with Amsam Abu Khdeir, I believe it is pretty well established that some people who are quite capable of formulating a plan and successfully implementing it can also fit the criteria for ‘legal insanity’ (making them “not guilty by reason of insanity”). A classic example of this is John Hinkley’s attempted assassination of President Regan.
    That said, instead of claiming he was trying to impress Jodie Foster, Abu Khdeir apparently testified that the plan was to “avenge” the deaths of the three Israeli yeshiva students abducted in the West Bank and (according to Netanyahu’s oft-repeated, vehement, insistent “big lie”) killed by Hamas (i.e., “they needed to be avenged” by hunting for “an Arab victim” and then killing him “as a sacrifice”). Specifically:

    We planned to hurt a soul, meaning to kill… to torture him and kill him,” he told police, adding that he wanted his victim “to know that he was about to die as a sacrifice for the Jews that were murdered.” *

    *SEE: “Abu Khdeir murder suspect recounts grisly killing”, by Daniel K. Eisenbud, JPost.com, 8/13/2014

    [EXCERPTS] Chilling testimony from the main suspect in the July 2 murder of 16-year-old east Jerusalem resident Muhammad Abu Khdeir confirmed the brutal homicide was indeed rooted in revenge for the three yeshiva students abducted and killed by Hamas operatives in June. . .

    . . . During his testimony, the alleged ringleader behind the kidnapping and subsequent torture of Abu Khdeir, said he first discussed seeking revenge following the funerals of Gil- Ad Shaer, 16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.

    “We began talking about what happened, about the kidnapped youths, and decided that they needed to be avenged,” he said in his testimony.

    “I was furious at [the killers] while the entire country was silently praying.”

    According to Ben-David, the three then agreed to go on a “human hunt” for an Arab victim.

    “We planned to hurt a soul, meaning to kill… to torture him and kill him,” he told police, adding that he wanted his victim “to know that he was about to die as a sacrifice for the Jews that were murdered.”

    To that end, Ben-David testified that he filled three empty bottles with the gasoline used to burn their victim alive. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – “http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Abu-Khdeir-murder-suspect-recounts-grisly-killing-370911

  9. catporn
    November 19, 2014, 6:25 am

    On this day when yet more Palestinian homes are being demolished, allegedly for attacks in October, the question has to be asked, why weren’t the murderer’s of Abu Khdeir tracked, executed and their homes demolished?

    • a blah chick
      November 19, 2014, 8:23 am

      According to a recent ruling destroying the homes of Jewish suspects would be counterproductive because Jewish on Arab violence is “rare.”

      This brand of collective punishment started with the British mandate. In 1945 they instituted the Defense (Emergency) Regulations which they hoped would help curb the terrorism in Palestine. It allowed for collective punishment and exile as a means of dealing with militants or anyone that was giving the Brits headaches. Everyone in Palestine protested the laws, especially the Zionists, but when Israel became a state they incorporated the regulations into their own security apparatus. Suddenly these laws were perfectly acceptable when applied by Jews against non-Jews.

    • Kay24
      November 19, 2014, 8:29 am

      Good question, and I wish the media would ask that question too.

      • catporn
        November 19, 2014, 11:55 am

        Mainstream publications like the Washington Post or New York Times wouldn’t ask this question, it would be tantamount to admitting that there’s one law for Jews and another, more punitive ideologically driven law for others.
        It doesn’t matter that it’s the truth, admitting it would dispel the ‘democracy’ myth.

  10. eljay
    November 19, 2014, 7:38 am

    >> catporn: On this day when yet more Palestinian homes are being demolished, allegedly for attacks in October, the question has to be asked, why weren’t the murderer’s of Abu Khdeir tracked, executed and their homes demolished?

    Easy: The murderers are Jewish, they live in and support a supremacist “Jewish State”, and they killed a non-Jew. No harm, no foul.

  11. tumblin_tom
    November 19, 2014, 10:01 pm

    So, when has Bibi scheduled these murderers’ home for demolition?

  12. Hester
    November 20, 2014, 2:17 am

    “Ben-David also admitted that days before Abu Khdeir was abducted he and one of the indicted minors were responsible for a failed kidnapping of seven-year old Mousa Zaloum who was nearly grabbed off of the same street where the three found Abu Khdeir. That child’s mother struck the kidnappers ultimately chasing them away. The police were called. Nothing happened. Then a few days later Abu Khdeir was taken .”

    An attempted kidnapping of a child and nothing happened. Truly sickening. If the child had been an Israeli Jew, you can bet that something would have happened.

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