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Tariq Abu Khdeir goes to Washington — and finds surprising support

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Tariq Abu Khdeir testifying in Washington

Tariq Abu Khdeir speaking on Capitol Hill

A lawyer representing Tariq Abu Khdeir said Friday that “there is a lot of support” from officials in Washington for the 15-year-old and his family.

“Clearly, there is not as much support as there would be had Tariq been an Israeli-American child who was attacked by Hamas,” Hassan Shibly, an attorney and executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, told me. “Nonetheless, we’re beginning to see change.”

Members of the Abu Khdeir family and Shibly traveled to the nation’s capital to appeal to American officials to seek justice for Tariq, a U.S. citizen, and their Palestinian relatives in the West Bank.

The Palestinian-American teenager was arrested without charge and beaten by Israeli policemen after being detained in occupied East Jerusalem on July 3. Two weeks later, about fifty members of the Abu Khdeir family were arrested without charge just after midnight on July 17, less than 24 hours after Tariq returned to the United States.

Shibly said that the family has met with Congressional staffers, the State Department and members of the White House National Security Council. Some staffers, he said, were moved to tears by Tariq’s story.

Tariq Abu Khdeir appearance was crowded by Hill staffers

Tariq Abu Khdeir appearance was crowded by Hill staffers

He said the family has four requests for the American government: to ensure that the officers involved in Tariq’s beating are “brought to justice so as to ensure that this never happens again”; to secure the release of his relatives “wrongfully arrested in retaliation” for what Shibly described as the family’s decision to publicize Israeli cops’ vicious assault on Tariq; to condition US aid to Israel on equal treatment of “all people in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank”; and to “ensure all people have basic due process rights and protections.”

He pointed out that these four points are a priority for the family over financial compensation.

“Nonetheless, as his legal team, we are exploring all legal options to fully hold those officers accountable and to compensate Tariq’s family for the emotional and physical suffering that they’ve been through,” he added. “Both to assist them and to ensure that Israel recognizes the gravity of the crime, because often without financial penalties people do not take things as seriously.”

Only one police officer has been reprimanded for beating Tariq, despite the fact that multiple people took part in the attack. His punishment was a 15 day suspension.

Shibly said that Israel’s refusal to hold security forces accountable for abuses against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs is prolonging the conflict.

Tariq, a resident of Tampa, Fla. who will start tenth grade this fall, told Mondoweiss that he is still in physical pain.

“My ribs still hurt and I still have a lot of headaches,” he said on Friday, at the end of a day in which he told his story dozens of times.

Hassan Shibly, Tariq Abu Khdeir and Tariq's mother Suha, Capitol Hill, August 1

Hassan Shibly, Tariq Abu Khdeir and Tariq’s mother Suha, Capitol Hill, August 1

As part of the outreach, Tariq, his mother Suha Abu Khedir, and Shibly participated in a panel for Congressional staffers held Friday at 2 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building. The panel, which took place in a small conference room, was so well-attended that organizers decided to repeat the hearing at 3:30. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) attended the entire panel, and was sitting on the floor.

At the hearing, Tariq recalled how he was in an alley among a crowd watching a demonstration when Israeli police set upon the group. He said after the police fired rubber bullets, he jumped a fence and ran to escape danger. Officers eventually caught up with him, bound his hands with a ziptie, and beat him unconscious.

“Three of my cousins were arrested with me – Kareem, Mahmoud and Mohammed,” Tariq said. “They’re still in jail because they are not American.”

“What happened to me is a small taste of what Palestinians go through every day,” he said.

Suha, who was once nearly overcome with emotion talking about her son’s beating, said Israeli police restricted her access to Tariq while he was in the hospital. She also said they taunted her and her relatives, boasting that Mohamed Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s 16 year old cousin kidnapped and fatally immolated by Israeli Jewish civilian extremists on July 2, “was just the first” and that 300 Palestinians would be killed in revenge for the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in June near Hebron – a crime widely believed to have been committed by two rogue Hamas members.

Shibly pointed out that the whole ordeal has deprived the family of the opportunity to mourn the loss of Mohamed. Tariq, who talked about the last time he saw Mohammed, before embarking on a trip to a bakery to break Ramadan fasting, described his murdered cousin as “the first friend I made in Palestine.”

Talking more about “what Palestinians go through every day” at the panel were author and freelance journalist Laila El-Haddad; Sunjeev Bery, the Middle East and North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA; and Brad Parker, staff attorney and international advocacy officer at Defence for Children International – Palestine.

El-Haddad, a resident of Columbia, Md. who is originally from Gaza, took part in the briefing despite having that morning “learned my tax dollars killed eight members of my family in southern Gaza.” She mostly described Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza, and dispelled the myth that its latest offensive is directly related to Hamas. Israel first blockaded the coastal enclave for three months between the “so-called Israeli withdrawal” in 2005 and the election of the Islamist party, she pointed out.

“The status quo is designed to crush the will of the Palestinian people to live,” she said.

Parker detailed how three-quarters of the roughly 700 Palestinian children arrested annually by Israeli security forces are subject to physical abuse.

“Tariq’s case is horrific, but it’s not exceptional,” he said. He described how the Israeli government gives legal cover to its abuses by subjecting Palestinians in the occupied territories to military law.

“There’s even a charge for dishonoring an Israeli soldier,” he said. “It’s a legal system designed for control under occupation” Israeli settlers, meanwhile, are under Israel’s civil law.

Bery highlighted, among other issues, the fact that non-violent protest in Palestine is, in fact, illegal under military law 101. The law, in effect since 1967, states that gatherings of 10 or more people are forbidden unless expressly permitted by the IDF. He highlighted the case of Murad Shtewi, a community organizer from Kufr Qadum, who, Amnesty concluded, was arrested for organizing demonstrations against Israel’s apartheid regime.

Rep. Ellison, who also attended an event that evening featuring Tariq, Shibly, Phyllis Bennis, Noura Erakat, and Lt. Col. Ann Wright (Ret.), told me that “briefings like this are critically important.” The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, who recently wrote an op-ed calling on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, said he believes more people on Capitol Hill would sympathize with Palestinians if they were aware of their treatment at the hands of the Israeli government.

Josh Ruebner, the national advocacy director for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, intoned that, increasingly, officialdom in Washington cannot claim ignorance. At the evening event on Friday – at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant chain owned by Iraqi-American artist and activist Andy Shallal – Ruebner marveled at the fact that organizers of the briefing, which he moderated, “had to turn away congressional staffers.”

“It gives me a little silver lining of hope,” he said.

Sam Knight

Sam Knight is a co-founder, reporter, and editor for The District Sentinel -- a news website founded in Dec. 2014 to report on Washington and US policy for the left. Follow him on Twitter: @samknight1.

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19 Responses

  1. annie on August 3, 2014, 4:05 pm

    thank you sam, very much so.

    • just on August 3, 2014, 5:03 pm

      ditto, Annie.

      I have spoken many, many times to staffers of my Congresspeople and Senators. Only last week, a local staffer and I spoke on the phone and I expressed my views. She began to cry when I my voice broke and said to me, I know what’s going on, but I can’t do anything.

      I told her that all that I wanted her to do was to tell my rep how I felt in spite of the money and pressure that might lure him in another direction.

      • adele on August 3, 2014, 6:57 pm

        Thanks for sharing that with us. I have the feeling Just that there is a groundswell of empathy and understanding that is just going to overflow. All the images, all the first-hand accounts, it is all becoming too too much to deny that Palestinians have been suffering an unbearable injustice.

  2. chocopie on August 3, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Glad to hear that this issue is getting some attention in Washington. Tariq and his family deserve a lot of credit for speaking out. It’s shocking to hear that so many of his extended family members were arrested in retaliation for the family going public.

  3. a blah chick on August 3, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Keep the waters troubled.

  4. Cliff on August 3, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Nothing will change.

    The Jewish Establishment won’t allow it.

    Then there’s the Anti-Semitism Industry/Holocaust Industry which will continue to emotionally blackmail non-Jews and Jews alike for expressing sympathy for Palestinians.

    If Zionism is under any kind of meaningful scrutiny or will potentially face any kind of meaningful repercussions for it’s excess and amorality, the Jewish Establishment will attack in full force.

    Whether by careerists, Islamophobes, or Zionists parading around as impartial observers.

    This is how our political culture works. Every year is an election year. Everything thing we say in public must be calculated.

    There is no honesty. No sincerity.

    Whether it’s in Palestine or here, the war is on-going. Whether it’s a war of ideas or a war against a civilian population – the Zionists will always ZERG their political opponents.

    That’s what tribal politics is about. We are dealing with a nation of lunatics.

    While we waste our time avoiding being called anti-semitic (unjustly) – they continue to lie, cheat, steal and murder outright.

  5. ckg on August 3, 2014, 5:05 pm

    Yes, thank you Sam. I am somewhat confused about this point:

    “Three of my cousins were arrested with me – Kareem, Mahmoud and Mohammed,” Tariq said. “They’re still in jail because they are not American.”

    Maan News reported on July 4,

    The detention of six people from Shufat was also extended.

    Mahmoud Abu Khdeir, 16, Mohammad Abu Nie, 15, Karim Abu Khdeir, 23, Amer Hassan, 32, Shawish Fathi, 22, and Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, who was brutally beaten by Israeli police during his arrest, will remain in custody until Monday, July 7.

    (A later court report states that Shawish Fathi was not arrested in Shufat that night but elsewhere in East Jerusalem.)
    The State Department has confirmed that Mohammad Abu Nie is a U.S. citizen and has acknowledged a report that he was beaten.

    So I think his cousin Mohammed must indeed be a U.S. citizen, but he’s still in custody because he didn’t reveal that. And what is his status now?

  6. Kay24 on August 3, 2014, 5:51 pm

    I am glad that young Tariq had the opportunity to tell his story and bring attention to what is happening there. He is indeed lucky he is American. His family of his young cousin who was killed in the most gruesome way, will never get justice.
    Nor will the hundred of other young kids who have been kidnapped at night, thrown in jails and abused.

  7. In2u on August 3, 2014, 6:22 pm

    “there is a lot of support”

    Let’s see if that support turns to something meaningful and enduring…

  8. W.Jones on August 3, 2014, 6:39 pm

    Ruebner marveled at the fact that organizers of the briefing, which he moderated, “had to turn away congressional staffers.”


  9. Denis on August 3, 2014, 7:50 pm

    That a meeting like this would be packed by Congressional staffers is one of the most hopeful news details I have heard in a long time. But how the hell can their elected bosses keep supporting this butchery 100%?

    This kid’s mom, Shua, is so peaceful and calm. She is wonderful. She loves that boy. My blood pressure drops 10 points just looking at her picture. And then it rebounds when I think about what the West Bank Kheiders are going through. Don’t forget the IDF/IOF ransacked their house soon after the American cousins left Israel.

    I would like to raise a mixed political/semantic question: When a psychopath Zionist advocates genocide of the Palestinians, and when that position is published by a leading Zionist news outlet, are they including American-Palestinians like these folks?

    I mean, when you think about it, when the NY Haredi nut-case, Yochanan Gordon, and the toxic Knesset racist, Ayrley Shaked, and the pestilential Israeli academic, Mordechai Kedar, and the Times of Israel all call for genocide of Palestinians — aren’t they also calling for this Tampa family’s extermination?

  10. michelle on August 3, 2014, 10:23 pm

    can’t Palestine sue press charges or something
    against the U.S. for funding these crimes
    isn’t there a law
    can’t the U.N. and other peace centered groups
    come after the U.S. for directly funding Israel
    resulting in these war crimes
    G-d Bless

    • Denis on August 4, 2014, 1:31 pm

      Interesting . . . early this morning (Aug04) The Guardian ran a strikingly large headline to the effect that UK was reevaluating defense contracts w/ GoI. Now, a few hours later, the story is still there but buried in the small-print headlines — ya’ really gotta’ dig for it and anyone who didn’t see the original headline probably wouldn’t do that. Here it is:

      Like the UK, the US also has statutory and treaty provisions limiting how arms sold to GoI can and can’t be used. The primary statute is the Arms Export Control Act. I’ve reviewed these provisions and I can certify that bombing UN schools and refugee centers is not among the permissible uses.

      Given that these are provisions of treaty and federal law one would think they could be enforced by the courts, but it would take a lawyer who is a lot more clever and knowledgeable than I am to figure out how to do that and who has standing. Hostage, you there?

      When it comes to beating up on defenseless populations they have subjugated for decades, GoI comes across as a military powerhouse. It isn’t. The image is 90% facade. IDF’s fearsome tanks, for instance, cannot be built or operated without parts from the UK, US, and other nations. In fact, with no raw materials, Israel has virtually zero manufacturing capability. I doubt that it can even produce a single rifle without importing parts and/or materials. Its only navel threat is its Dolphin class subs, which are supplied by Germany, meaning they supply the parts, too. And so its navy stays forever at the teat of an arms-exporting mother-source. That is doubly true for its air force. As we have seen in the last week, even GoI’s very local genocidal campaigns cannot be sustained without re-supplies from USG. And so it is the arms exporters who are the Palestinians’ real problem.

      But because so many billions of shekels flow back to these mother-sources, unless they are directly and adversely affected by GoI’s insanity, they will never cut off the flow of military milk. There are no principles in this world and no conscience. Every analysis of why governments tolerate GoI’s war crimes must begin and end with: Cui bono?

      • Denis on August 4, 2014, 5:14 pm

        Ha, ha, ha . . . “navel threat.” That would be very fuzzy.

  11. DICKERSON3870 on August 3, 2014, 11:56 pm

    RE: “Shibly said that Israel’s refusal to hold security forces accountable for abuses against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs is prolonging the conflict.”

    THAT REMINDS ME: I wonder how much progress Israel has made in the “thorough and transparent investigation” the US State Department said it expects Israel to make* into the videotaped shooting/murder by the Israeli military of the two Palestinian teenagers during the Nakba Day protests outside Ofer prison in the West Bank back on May 15 (more than 10 weeks ago).

    * SEE – “US to Israel: Investigate killing of Palestinian teens”, by Yitzhak Benhorin,, 5/21/14
    Following release of footage documenting killing of two Palestinians near Ramallah, US State Department spokesperson says US expects Israel to ‘conduct a thorough and transparent investigation’.
    LINK –,7340,L-4521979,00.html

  12. oldgeezer on August 4, 2014, 12:21 am

    I have read this thread several times. I wish I could be pleased with the support he received. I can’t. I hope I am wrong but apart from lip service I don’t expect any concrete action that would actually show support for him or for the many Palestinians that suffer abuse on a daily basis.

    In the meantime Israel has declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza except for Rafah which loosely translates we will not bombard those areas we do not want to bombard. Excluding our tunnel clearing operations of course which will set up the conditions whereby we can blame the Palestinians for our murderous campaign against them.

    • Marnie on August 4, 2014, 7:51 am

      I’m so glad Tariq, his father and mother got out alive. Be strong and be safe –

  13. bpm on August 4, 2014, 7:33 am

    Anybody know if his alleged Congresswoman, Kathy Castor, had any staff present? Despite all the overwhelming evidence, this supposed progressive Democrat, continues to toe the Israeli line, throwing her constituent to the wolves. She is a profile in craven cowardice.

  14. Robert Brooks on August 4, 2014, 10:08 am

    His own congressional rep (Rep. Castor, Dem, Tampa) did virtually nothing to secure his release and made no serious public comment on his arrest and beatng.

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