Jul 8, 2014

Update to the beating of Tariq Abu Khdier: A Way Out of Darkness

Yesterday I posted about the savage beating by masked Israeli police of 15 year old American-Palestinian, Tariq Khdeir, cousin to murdered teen, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Why do I mention the fact that the police were masked? Because the 'blaming of the victim' continues with police assertions that Tariq was wearing a keffiyeh, the traditional symbol of Palestinian nationalism - and the common protection worn by Palestinian youth against Israeli tear gas. None of this explains why a 15 year old child, who had clearly been subdued, was beaten again and again and again without restraint.

The first instance of 'blaming the victim' came with the suspicions planted that the boy's murdered cousin, Mohammed,  may have been gay, insinuations that immediately went viral over Israeli channels.

Here is an excellent article at The Jewish Daily Forward about The 'Pinkwashing' of Mohammed Abu Kdeir: It suggests that part of the motivation for the rumors, besides pinning a motive on the family for the murder, may also have been to contrast the 'homophobic Palestinians (bad) with the very liberal Israeli attitude towards LGBT people (good). Mohammed's father was questioned for six hours after the discovery of the body as police attempted to get him to admit this was an honor killing. 

But back to the beating of 15 year old Tariq Abu Khdeir. Would we even be discussing this case if Tariq were not an American citizen? As it is, the video of the beating has gone viral and caused widespread outrage in the US and Palestine. Does anyone remember the brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 and the widespread riots in 1992 that occurred when the four police officers were first acquitted? I still remember Rodney's plaintive cry urging restraint in a news conference while the riots raged: Can we all get along?

This case is taking on similar proportions, as the common Israeli brutality to Palestinians on a daily basis (including, it should be added, the abduction and murder of young teens) has now been exposed in a way that cannot be shoved under the carpet - simply because the victim was a US citizen and, most importantly, because the incident was caught on video. 

Here is a poignant photo posted of young Mohammed before his case went worldwide:

It turns out that Mohammed's story - and the gruesome photos of his burned torso - have gone viral over the airwaves and nearly obliterated the preceding story of the three murdered Israeli teens. This fact has occasioned a great deal of outrage, as well, on the part of those invested in an image of Israel as a just and democratic state. Why does one murdered Palestinian boy, and a beaten cousin,  take precedence over three Israeli teens who were first murdered by Palestinians. And so the cycle of blame continues round and round and round. 

Palestinians say this 'happens all the time,' particularly the beatings they sustain. There is a great deal of bluster and denial coming forth from Israeli spokespersons at the moment in reaction to this claim, but this is a case that will not go away. It looks to be a watershed moment for US-Israel relations. The boy has been placed under house arrest - with no charge - and fined - for no reason given. The family and his mother especially, are furious and are demanding compensation from the Israeli government. 

In yesterday's posting, however, I was much too glib about the effects of Tariq's beating. Here is the professional opinion of an American neurologist:

He needs an immediate return to the US for appropriate comprehensive neurological work up – his loss of consciousness as well as his chronic headaches
and occasional disorientation suggest the possibility of significant issues. 

Tariq's family claims he was in the back garden of his Uncle's Jerusalem backyard when he was attacked. Given the fact his cousin, Mohammed's charred body had not yet been released to the family, there is some speculation that the attack was premeditated as a way of putting pressure on the family to 'admit' the death of Mohammed was an 'honor killing,' due to his being gay. In any event, the attackers did not count on a video going viral. 

For full coverage, see Mondoweis

And yet, there is a way out of the madness, and it is being shown by the families of the Israeli and Palestinian teens.

The families of murdered Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel and murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir are drawing comfort from an unexpected source: each other.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat took to Facebook on Sunday to write about an “emotional and special telephone conversation between two families that have lost their sons.” He said that during his visit to the Fraenkel family home, he had a chance to speak to Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s father, and express pain at the “barbaric” murder of his son.
Barkat then suggested that Abu Khdeir speak to Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of Naftali Fraenkel who recently told the press that “the life of an Arab is equally precious to that of a Jew. Blood is blood, and murder is murder, whether that murder is Jewish or Arab.” The two men took Barkat’s advice and comforted one another by telephone.
In a separate visit organized by Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, chair of the religious council of Gush Etzion, Palestinians from the Hebron area showed up at the door of the Fraenkel family, looking to comfort the bereaved.
Asked why they had come, one Palestinian said, “Things will only get better when we learn to cope with each other’s pain and stop getting angry at each other. Our task is to give strength to the family and also to take a step toward my nation’s liberation. We believe that the way to our liberation is through the hearts of Jews.”
He later said that the visit went very well from his perspective. “They received us very, very nicely. The mother [Rachel Fraenkel] was incredible.”
“I see before me a Jewish family who has lost a son opening the door to me,” he added. “That’s not obvious. It touched my heart and my nation.”
The Palestinian visitors also mentioned an initiative spearheaded by Jews and Muslims to transform July 15, the Jewish fast day known as 17 Tammuz, into a joint fast day for people of both religions who wish to express their desire to end violence in the region.