During the wee hours of Wednesday morning, 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir was forced into a car by two men near his home in Shuafat, an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem. He was then killed, set on fire and left in a forest.
After identifying the body and giving a statement to the police, his father spoke to the media.
“The settlers killed my son, they kidnapped him and killed him,” he told Time magazine, displaying a photo of the two suspects on his cell phone, from footage caught by the surveillance camera of an adjacent shop.
His assertion that Israeli “settlers” had committed the crime was made before any facts were established by forensic examiners or police investigators. The assumption behind the charge was that Muhammad’s murder was a revenge attack committed by frenzied Jews responding to the abduction and slaying of Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel.
As soon as word got out about Muhammad’s murder, Arab residents of east Jerusalem began to riot. Some young men proceeded to pelt Israeli police with rocks and Molotov cocktails; others smashed and torched lightrail stops, burning tires in the middle of the street. It was an eruption of violence that spread to the Beit Hanina neighborhood and continued for days.
Though the funerals of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali had just been held the previous day – amid increasing rocket-fire into Israeli towns from Gaza, and retaliatory strikes by the IDF – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made it his first order of business on Wednesday morning to issue a statement condemning Muhammad’s “despicable murder” and vowing to “uncover” who was behind it.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, declared: “This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn. This is not our way and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice. I call on everyone to exercise restraint,” Israelis from across the political spectrum reacted similarly, rushing to denounce “price tag” actions committed by Jews. Some went as far as Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, who blamed Israeli society as a whole for the murder.
“The gangs of Jewish ruffians man-hunting for Arabs are no aberration,” he wrote. “Theirs was not a one-time outpouring of uncontrollable rage following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped students. Their inflamed hatred does not exist in a vacuum: it is an ongoing presence, growing by the day... nurtured in a public environment of resentment, insularity and victimhood.”
Naftali Fraenkel’s grieving uncle, who transcended the political fray, nevertheless said, “If a young Arab man was murdered for nationalistic reasons, then it is a horrifying and disgusting act. There is no distinguishing blood from blood. Murder is murder, whatever the nationality or age may be. There is no justification, no forgiveness and no atonement for any murder.”
No such outpouring of outrage was heard from the Arabs in Israel or the Palestinian Authority when the Israeli boys were found dead, however. On the contrary, when they were abducted, Palestinians accused Israel of staging the event for propaganda purposes, and Left-leaning Israeli commentators initially focused on everything from the irresponsibility of people who hitch-hike to the larger issue of whether Jews should be in the West Bank altogether.
Meanwhile, Arab Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi even justified the abduction, denying that the kidnappers were terrorists.
“They are people who don’t see any way to change their reality and are forced to use these means until Israel will wake up a little, until Israeli citizens and society will wake up and feel the suffering of the other,” she said.
This was nothing compared to the reaction of the mother of one of the two prime suspects in the kidnapping.
“If he did [it], I will be proud of him,” she told Israeli Channel 10. “I raised my children on the knees of the [Islamic] religion. They are religious guys, honest and clean-handed, and their goal is to bring the victory of Islam.”
She also criticized the PA security forces for assisting in the search for the teens.
“May Allah take revenge on them... [for] helping the IDF,” she said.
It is this attitude – not “restraint” – that Arabs throughout the Middle East are literally imbibing with their mothers’ milk.
It is this attitude – not the so-called “occupation” – that spurs Hamas to fire missiles at Jewish nursery schools.
It is this attitude, just as rampant in the PA as it is in Gaza, which is being instilled and cultivated in Palestinian children by their parents and educators, while Israeli children are taught to yearn for peace.
There are exceptions to the rule in both societies. Israelis who commit crimes against Arabs are shunned by all but a tiny minority.
They are held legally accountable by the police and the courts. They are held morally accountable by a majority of the public.
Arabs in the PA and Gaza who commit crimes against Jews are lauded by all but a tiny minority. They are assisted by police and the courts. They are rewarded financially by the authorities and boosted socially by a majority of the public.
When Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s killers are apprehended by the Israel Police, they will be brought to justice, whether they are Jews or Arabs – and whether their motivation was nationalistic or criminal. And Israelis will mourn both his passing and the horrific manner of his death.
No matter what emerges from the investigation, however, the Palestinians will turn him into a martyr to exploit his memory as an additional weapon in their war against Israel.
The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the ‘Arab Spring.’