Defense Ministry: No need to demolish homes of Abu Khdeir killers
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Defense Ministry: No need to demolish homes of Abu Khdeir killers

Legal adviser says Jewish terror infrequent, does not require deterrent against future attacks; father of slain teen to take case to Supreme Court

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Police escort Yosef Ben David (in green), one of the Jewish suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Jerusalem District Court on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police escort Yosef Ben David (in green), one of the Jewish suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Jerusalem District Court on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry believes the 2014 nationalistically motivated murder of East Jerusalem teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir does not warrant the demolition of the killers’ homes, according to an official letter seen by The Times of Israel on Thursday.

Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed on July 1, 2014, by three Jewish attackers. The murder came two days after it emerged that three Israeli teens who had been abducted three weeks earlier in the West Bank had been killed by their Palestinian kidnappers. An autopsy found that the 16-year-old Arab teenager had been burned alive.

The Jerusalem District Court has handed down a life sentence, plus 20 years in jail, to Yosef Haim Ben David, found to be the ringleader of the group that murdered Abu Khdeir. The two other killers — both minors — were sentenced to life in prison and 21 years, respectively. But the Abu Khdeir family has demanded the state demolish their homes, as it does for Palestinian terrorists.

In the letter from the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser to the Abu Khdeir family’s lawyer Muhannad Jbara on Wednesday, the ministry argued that because cases of Jewish terror are so infrequent in relation to Arab attacks against Jews, there is no need to establish a deterrent for future Jewish attackers by demolishing the Abu Khdeir killers’ homes.

The Military Commander “should consider the deterrent effect against potential attackers that will be created by the demolition,” the letter said. “Given the scale of the phenomenon of seriously hostile crimes in the Jewish community, the need to implement this [deterrent] power does not arise.”

Muhammad Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)
Muhammed Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)

The letter notes that the murder of Abu Khdeir “shook Israeli society deeply,” and that the security and legal authorities of Israel “worked day and night to locate the men who carried out the hateful act… in order to bring them to judgment.

“Under the current circumstances,” the letter ended, “the appropriate action is to ensure justice is carried out for the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, and not the demolition of homes pursuant to defense regulations.”

Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of the slain Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir, outside his home in East Jerusalem, October 21, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of the slain Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir, outside his home in East Jerusalem, October 21, 2014 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The father of Abu Khdeir, Hussein Abu Khdeir, following the trial of his son’s murderers in February called for Israeli authorities to destroy their homes, in keeping with its policy of demolishing the houses of Palestinian terrorists.

Speaking to the Times of Israel by phone on Thursday, Hussein rejected the Defense Ministry’s decision.

“I will go to the Supreme Court. And if they don’t accept it, then I will go to an international court,” said the father.

“What happened to Muhammed Abu Khdeir is not something small, this was burning. It’s like what the Nazis did,” Hussein Abu Khdeir continued. “I want them to do exactly what they do to Arabs. I won’t accept anything less than the destruction of their three homes,” he said, referring to his son’s three attackers.

The parents and sister of Muhammed Abu Khdeir attend the Jerusalem District Court during the trial discussion on the murder of Abu Khdeir, on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
The parents and sister of Muhammed Abu Khdeir attend the Jerusalem District Court during the trial discussion on the murder of Abu Khdeir, on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jbara, the family’s lawyer, responded: “We maintain that in the recent period, following the increase of attacks by Jews, like against Abu Khdeir, like the Dawabsha home [firebombing in July 2014, which killed three members of the family], like the arson against a coexistence school, like the incident of the shooting in Hebron, there are many voices, including among Jews, that say this side must be deterred as well. And therefore indeed their homes must be demolished.”

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