Muhammed Abu Khdeir’s name has been added to the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, the national cemetery, as Israel gears up to observe a day of mourning for fallen soldiers and victims of terror.
On Tuesday, Abu Khdeir’s name also showed up on the government’s online database of terror victims, next to an Israeli flag overlaid with a picture of the Blood of the Maccabees flower, which has come to symbolize the country’s fallen. The database is compiled by the National Insurance Institute, Israel’s social security agency, which determines who qualifies for the stipends allotted to terror victims.
Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks begins Tuesday evening and will last until Wednesday evening, when it will fade into Independence Day celebrations.
In an apparent revenge attack in early July 2014, three Jewish Israeli men allegedly abducted the 16-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, beat him with tire irons and burned his corpse in a forest outside the city.
Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein, said that he wasn’t informed of the move to include his son on the memorial, and that he opposed it. In an interview with Ynet, he said that all he wanted was for his son’s killers to be punished. “That’s the most important thing to me — not the honor bestowed on my son,” he said. “My son is gone. My son was burned and we burned along with him. I want justice, not honor.” Hussein Abu Khdeir also noted that his son was not an Israeli citizen.
The Defense Ministry recognized Abu Khdeir as a “victim of hostile action” — the ministry’s term for Israeli civilians killed in conflicts with the Palestinians and Arab states — a few weeks after the attack, when suspects were arrested and details of the case came to light.
“We will not allow Jewish terrorists from our midst to disrupt the fabric of the many different communities in the state of Israel, and to harm innocents just because they are Arabs,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said after the attack. “We must battle the perpetrators [of such actions], and those who deploy them, with an iron fist.”
Members of Almagor, an Israeli organization for families of terror victims, fumed at the news, claiming that Abu Khdeir’s alleged killers were mentally ill, not terrorists.
“We are demanding that those responsible for this remove his name,” Ron Kerman, a bereaved father from Haifa, told Israel Radio Tuesday morning. He said he had visited Mount Herzl on Monday with others from Almagor, and that he was shocked to find Abu Khdeir’s name on the monument.
Members of the organization said that if authorities refused to remove Abu Khdeir’s name, they would take it down themselves.
Kerman said that those responsible for adding the name to the monument had “lost their way,” and that the inclusion of Abu Khdeir on the list of “those murdered by enemies of Israel will not stand.”
He argued that Abu Khdeir’s name did not belong on the monument because he was killed by lone murderers in a random attack — not as part of a concerted effort to destroy the State of Israel.
Yosef Haim Ben-David, the prime suspect in Abu Khdeir’s killing, has claimed that he is not mentally fit to stand trial, while two other suspects in the case have denied responsibility.
Ben-David, 29, was indicted for murder last summer. He told police that he had decided to take action after watching the funerals of three Israeli teenagers killed by Palestinians in the West Bank several weeks earlier: Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach.
Rami Elhanan of the Parents Circle — Families Forum, a grassroots organization for bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families, defended the decision to add Abu Khdeir’s name to the monument.
Elhanan’s 14-year-old daughter was killed in a terrorist attack in 1997, and her name also appears on the memorial board.
“It’s an honor,” Elhanan said, for Abu Khdeir’s name to be added in proximity to his daughter’s. He said it was the only way to end the “cycle of violence and revenge.”
Elhanan accused Almagor of perpetuating that cycle. “They’re using their bereavement to make new bereavement,” he said.
Earlier this week, over 100 families of terror victims sent a letter to the defense minister in an effort to thwart a joint Palestinian-Israeli memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv.
“The ceremony is a provocation that degrades Memorial Day and the memory of the fallen,” read the letter. “We are shocked by the fact that the Israeli government allows a joint memorial ceremony for our enemies who took part in murdering and harming our children… and for our children living in Israel, killed simply for being Jewish.”
The joint memorial ceremony will take place as planned on Tuesday evening.
Correction: An earlier version of this report stated that Abu Khdeir is the first Arab victim of a deliberate Jewish attack to be added to the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial. This is incorrect. The memorial also lists other Arab victims including Michel Bahut, one of four people killed when off-duty soldier Eden Natan-Zada opened fire inside a public bus in Shfaram in 2005.