While the investigation is ongoing to find the culprits responsible for abducting, killing and burning a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem two days ago, police are not stating if the crime was “nationalistic” or “criminal,” which is code for whether the perpetrator is Israeli or Palestinian. According to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 17, who was thrown into a vehicle Tuesday around 4:30 am and found dead and brutalized within an hour in a field in the western edge of Jerusalem, the police are looking at relatives. Yet all of Shuafat, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where Abu Khdeir is from, is sure settlers conducted a retaliation murder for the deaths of the three kidnapped Israeli youths Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah.
“They want the family to get the boys for questioning,” said Walid Abu Khdeir, the deceased’s uncle. “We refused this. If you want them come and capture them,” he continued. Police also released false information that Mohammed was gay, leading Israeli media to pick up the story as a crime of passion from an imagined homophobic family member. (Richard Silverstein re-caps here.)
To Palestinians, the murder was clearly carried out by settlers because two days before Mohammed was abducted another Palestinian youth in Shuafat was almost kidnapped. Ten year-old Mousa Zalum managed to escape with rough bruising on his neck. His family called the police, but no one responded.
In the intervening days, groups of teen-aged Israelis roamed the streets of Jerusalem with the stated goal of “looking for Arabs.” They draped themselves in flags and marched through Jerusalem’s shopping district usually abuzz with some Palestinians, especially during the holiday season of Ramadan. They chanted “Death to Arabs!” and “a Jew has a soul, an Arab is a son of a bitch” (this slogan rhymes in Hebrew).
By the third night of “Death to Arabs!” marches the Israeli police were finally on patrol. They stopped the youths from entering parts of the city and kept them at bay from a group of anti-price tag Israeli mourners (Israelis grieving for the three kidnapped youth, but not grieving and calling for the death of Arabs).
The funeral for Mohammed was expected to take place on Thursday, but was delayed by the family who were pressing for a more thorough medical exam. The holdup came from Mohammed’s father who was dissatisfied with the autopsy that concluded today without leading Israeli officials to finger settlers as the murders. Mohammed’s father spent most of the morning at a Jerusalem hospital with the body, later with mourners at the mosque next to his home.
Three blocks away, clashes were on-going from the previous night. Central Shuafat was trashed from the hours of rocks versus sound grenades and bullets that has come to define confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths. The light rail bus shelter was charred last night, the glass splattered along the tram line. There are checkpoints too, erected at every entrance into Shuafat allowing only residents, journalists and United Nations workers to enter.
After Friday noon prayers, Mohammed will be buried in a cemetery near his home in Shuafat. Police will continue to investigate the murder, but to his family—and all of Palestinian Jerusalem—their son was a victim of a gruesome hate-crime. The local Fatah council in Shuafat has called for a two-day strike.
Mohammed’s death also sparked a wave of protests in nearly every East Jerusalem neighborhood last night. The almost 24 hours of clashes were note-worthy because of not only their duration, but Israeli police used live-fire on the Jerusalem residents and Israeli citizens. The remainder of the eastern part of the city was also reeling from nearly 12 hours of continued clashes between hundreds of Palestinian youth and Israeli police that subsided after daybreak.