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Will the immolation murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir be the tipping point?

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Mohammed Abu Khdeir

Mohammed Abu Khdeir

A camera is pointed into a dark room. The shutter clicks, the flash goes off. Among the smiling faces appears a ghost. It is clear, omnipresent and frightening. Israel’s apartheid is bare for all to see. This time even the most ardent apologists will have a hard time explaining why Netanyahu is not sending IDF troops to rampage through the town or settlement from which the suspected Jewish killers of 16 year old East Jerusalem resident Mohammed Abu Khdeir came or why Israel is not demolishing their families’ homes with the blessings of Israel’s Supreme Court as was done to the Palestinian suspects’ families.

The immolation murder of 16 year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir can become Israel’s Rosa Parks moment or what the Sharpeville Massacre was to South Africa. Those incidents, which are known as momentous tipping points and are etched in history books, became famous because they crystallized the injustice and racism of the oppression. So glaring is the disparity in value that Israel attaches to Jewish versus non-Jewish life, so salient is the uneven treatment of the perpetrators, that a complete collapse of the Zionist narrative is at stake and years of advocacy may wither because of a single emblematic event.

While the murder of Abu Khdeir by Jewish nationalists made international headlines, it is worth remembering that there have been many such killings before, some on a much larger scale (notably the gunning down of 29 unarmed Muslim worshippers in Hebron in 1994 by Brooklyn-born settler Baruch Goldstein). But with the Arab teenager’s murder taking place in such close proximity to the murder of the three Jewish teenagers, Gil-Ad Shaer (16), Eyal Yifrah (19) and Naftali Fraenkel (16), and Israel’s hysterical response to those murders, the obvious unavoidable question arises: why is Israel’s government not demolishing the homes of the suspected Jewish terrorists’ families? This question is already being asked by Slate writer William Saletan and Haaretz writer Amos Harel who assured his readers, tongue-in-cheek, “it appears that the houses of the Jewish murder suspects’ families will not be demolished”. Obviously, nobody in Israel expected that to happen.

In a way, Israel’s government is a victim of its own hubris and political ambition. When the three Israeli teenagers disappeared, it could have treated it as you would any disappearance case by coordinating the investigation with Palestinian police and security forces as there was no evidence that it was anything beyond an individual initiative  (that, of course, did not prevent Netanyahu from blaming Hamas and bombing Gaza), most likely a reprisal for the Beitunia killings a few weeks earlier. Instead, Netanyahu’s extreme-right cabinet decided to use the full might of its army to mete out collective punishment and wreak havoc on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, killing nine of them and arresting hundreds. By doing so it also exposed the fiction that is the “Palestinian territories” and confirmed what everybody knew: that Israel is the lone sovereign between the Jordan river and the sea, where different sets of laws govern Jews and non-Jews. They did not expect that only a few days later they would be facing a simple question: if these are effective anti-terrorism measures, why are they not using them against Jewish terrorists?

Israel’s discriminatory nature has come to the fore in the most unambiguous manner. This is why this gruesome murder must be hushed and whisked away through the back door until it is forgotten. This is why Israel’s police, courts and government will be in cahoots with each other to make that happen. A self introspection is not on the agenda, even though it should be: a 16 year old was burned to death by Jews, with all the symbolic meanings.

The first attempt to railroad the story was a nasty rumor that blogger Richard Silverstein traced to its source: Israel’s police. The rumor attributed the murder to “family honor killing due to the victim’s homosexuality” – a calumny that had no factual basis. This slander of the victim was eagerly embraced by the Israeli public, already conditioned to believe the worst about Palestinians, including that Palestinians kill their own children to score PR points against Israel. Thus the victim’s family was honored with a double slap in the face as Israel’s police was not only dallying with the investigation and trying to dismiss it as a family feud (even though it occurred at a time when marauding Jewish gangs were seeking “revenge” on Arab bystanders) but also demonized Palestinian society for murderous homophobia. When it became clear that several CCTV footages exist that caught the kidnapping of the teen on tape with the car’s license plate and the murderers’ faces clearly visible, Israel’s police had no choice but to arrest the Jewish suspects.

Then came a second diversion by the same law enforcement arm which seems to take on itself a PR agency’s role in crisis management, well aware that they have Hasbara* kryptonite on their hands: a gag order was prematurely lifted on the investigation of the murder case of 19 year old Jewish victim Shelly Dadon from two months earlier. The murder has been solved, claimed the police, and the Arab suspect is in custody. Even though the two murders are unrelated and it is not clear that the murder of Shelly Dadon was politically motivated, the release of this information at the same time and the announcement of a joint press conference for both cases was understood by all observers as a politically motivated attempt to deflect the focus from Abu Khdeir’s murder and to create a “balance”.

Israel’s current escalation and assault on Gaza should be viewed in the same context – a cynical attempt to distract and make the Abu Khdeir immolation lynching story disappear from headlines and memory (and to a lesser extent the brutal beating of his American 15 year old cousin Tarek by Israel’s Border Police). While assaulting Gaza’s defenseless population, Israel’s government will find itself back in its comfort zone where it will be able to take control of the narrative by having obsequious Western media outlets and politicians parrot its preposterous claim that it is “defending itself”. They will also repeat the hackneyed “what would US/UK/Canada do” line, ignoring the fact that Gaza is an open air prison for dispossessed Palestinian refugees under Israel’s control. An escalation along the northern border cannot be precluded. This is what happens when you suffer two devastating PR blows in one week.

Will the subterfuge work or will history remember the immolation murder of 16 year old Mohammed Abu K’deir as Israel’s Rosa Parks moment, the moment when Israel’s apartheid could no longer be denied? Only time will tell.

* Hasbara, meaning “explanation” in Hebrew, is how Israel refers to its propaganda efforts.

Aaron Turgeman

Aaron Turgeman is an Israeli-American and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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23 Responses

  1. Citizen on July 11, 2014, 10:09 am

    Maybe. Here’s a list of organized protests around the world against Bibi’s turkey shoot solution to his palestinian problem:

  2. Sumud on July 11, 2014, 10:51 am

    I’m not sure there will ever be a single tipping point in this scenario.

    Outside the US, Israel’s massacre in Gaza 2008/09 and the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010 resulted in universal condemnation, but inside the US, Israel’s Ministry Of Truth And Puppies is powerful, well-resourced and they fight extremely dirty. It’ll probably be a slower cumulative end for Israel rather that one big thing.

    Unless the settlers in the IDF mutiny and attempt a mass killing of Palestinians in the West Bank, a growing possibility.

  3. seafoid on July 11, 2014, 11:03 am

    I think it’s more of a slow burner. Israel still plays the civilized card vs the barbarian savages but its bad faith shines through to people who follow the news. There won’t be one defining event- just a slow loss of belief, similar to the fall off in church attendance. Israeli society will help the process along as it goes deeper into nihilism.
    The collapse of the power of the catholic church in Ireland is a good guide as to how things are likely to pan out for Israel.

  4. ckg on July 11, 2014, 11:03 am

    I noticed Steven Erlanger’s article in the NYT today mentioned that the oldest suspect in Khdeir’s murder “takes psychiatric medication.” I am sure we will hear much, much more about this.

    • Kay24 on July 11, 2014, 11:22 am

      Bingo! There is the strategy for the defense, and the world will see yet another brutal Israeli criminal get off lightly. Right now all that outrage that comes from it’s leadership, regarding this gruesome murder, is eye wash to impress the world and fool it into believing they are dong something about it.

      • a blah chick on July 11, 2014, 12:11 pm

        In fact they are all getting pysch evaluations.

      • ckg on July 11, 2014, 2:44 pm

        I found this in the jpost about the Abu Khdeir murder:

        According to sources, the young men suspected of the [Abu Khdeir] murder belong to a family affiliated with the Sephardic Shas party. At least one of them was described as a delinquent youth who lived on the fringes of the haredi community.

        Asked about the young man, one resident said that “everybody knows that he’s crazy. The guy is just nuts. The whole family is nuts.” The grandfather of one of the suspects told Yediot Aharonot that his grandchild was disturbed and that he “could destroy worlds if he did not take his pills.”

      • lysias on July 11, 2014, 6:03 pm

        There is of course a strong case to be made that Hitler was mentally ill. Is there anybody who claims that that excuses what he did?

      • ckg on July 11, 2014, 8:38 pm

        lysias–I think the proponents of this ‘psycho killers’ narrative don’t care if it excuses or absolves the three remaining suspects for what they did. Rather, they hope that it absolves Israeli society for what they did.

  5. Qualtrough on July 11, 2014, 11:18 am

    I seriously doubt it, unfortunately. Zionists have killed so many children with impunity over the years. The toll is in the thousands now. What’s one more? But suppose there is a tipping point and at some point the state of Israel collapses. Where are those thousands of settlers and other like-minded Zionists going to go since there is no way they would live in a state giving equal rights to all its citizens? I fear the US will have the equivalent of a Cuban community in Florida forever distorting any poisoning any relationship with whatever state succeeds the Israel government and the rest of the region. I guess that would be preferable to the probably far more likely Samson option that hardly anyone seems to be worried about.

  6. Sycamores on July 11, 2014, 11:57 am


    “takes psychiatric medication” not the first time it was used.

    this reminds me of the 50 year old Jewish Israeli man that stabbed a 18 month old African baby at a bus stop in Israel back in January

    Police said the man who stabbed the baby was very drunk and mentally disturbed, and that the incident was not personal or believed to be racially motivated.

    no it’s never racism it’s always a disturbed mental condition, is there a difference.

    • amigo on July 11, 2014, 12:03 pm

      It,s always disturbed (by the terror of being a Jew in Palestine) youths who are mentally deranged and are ordinarily quite normal.

      Palestinian youths are always terrorists and years of occupation and oppression do not constitute a defence.

      More double standards from the Apartheid entity.

    • a blah chick on July 11, 2014, 12:15 pm

      “no it’s never racism it’s always a disturbed mental condition”…if they’re Jewish.

    • ckg on July 11, 2014, 12:18 pm

      And Rabin called Baruch Goldstein deranged.

  7. a blah chick on July 11, 2014, 12:10 pm

    What I find appalling is the level of self righteousness that Israel-apologists engage in. Nearly every one of them crows about how swiftly the suspects were detained and how most Jews condemn the lynching. Also Jews showed their moral superiority by not naming any streets after them, unlike the Palestinians.

    They were not swiftly detained, in fact it took the police several days. And that was with cctv footage, the kid’s cell phone number and witnesses! Not to mention that another kid almost got snatched the day before, so the police should have been on alert. As for the suspects not being shielded unless their rabbis and/or parents walked them down to the station the police had to come for them.

  8. a blah chick on July 11, 2014, 12:14 pm

    Also maybe this would be a good thread to list all the places in Israel named after war criminals. I’ll start with Rabin Square.

  9. Kay24 on July 11, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Well, while the world watches the Palestinian women and children being massacred, Israel slyly shuts yet another murder of a Palestinian kid by their brutal forces:

    “Israeli army closes case on March death of Palestinian teen
    Fatally shot in the hip after passing through a breach in the separation fence by Hebron, military concludes soldier was aiming at his legs.

    The Israel Defense Forces closed its investigation looking into the circumstances of the death of Yusef Abu Aker Shawamreh, 14, who was killed by live fire in March.”

    Yeah soldier was aiming at his legs. Riiiight!

  10. on July 11, 2014, 12:51 pm

    The fact that the houses of the Jewish murder suspects’ families will not be demolished, will summon a strong indictment of the Israeli government. It represents such a dramatic absence of democracy that it will not be forgotten.

  11. a blah chick on July 11, 2014, 1:35 pm

    One of the men who beat his cousin is getting suspended for 15 days. Don’t know what will happen to the other one. And the family says they are suing.

  12. DaBakr on July 11, 2014, 1:42 pm

    r.silverstein attributed the comment to a dubuious and anonymous source that had some connection to the police but in fact, it was r.silverstein that spread the “rumor’ as it was from his anti-Israel blog the rumor was picked up and spread like wildfire. MW was also the site that tried to sprwad rumors that the Israeli police orginazed and planned the 3 Israeli boys murder as a so-called ‘false-flag’ operation. Then they spread other rumors about how the Israeli police won’t find and/or catch any Jewish perps in the Mohammed Khadeir murder. So just be more careful about who you claim is spreading ‘rumors’. Things are bad enough on the ground without the addition of wild speculation and rumors accusing one side of being worse then what the facts can support. And while I will say that the shooting policy of the IDF could datnd a review and change I would also say the militants that throw molotovs and rocks know exactly how to not and how to raise the firing of rubber bullets from soldiers on guard duty.

  13. ckg on July 12, 2014, 1:58 pm

    @DaBakr Richard Silverstein confirmed from independent reporting in Haaretz that Israeli police planted the falsely reported rumor that M. Abu Khdeir was gay.

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