Hebrew media review

Outrage and disgust

The Israeli press spares no ink condemning Abu Khdeir’s death and voicing disgust that Jews committed his murder

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Friends and relatives of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teen found dead in the Jerusalem Forest, mourn in the family home in Shuafat, East Jerusalem, on July 2, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Friends and relatives of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teen found dead in the Jerusalem Forest, mourn in the family home in Shuafat, East Jerusalem, on July 2, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The arrest of multiple suspects in the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir rocks the Israeli press, in large part because they are Jewish. The headlines in Monday morning’s papers reflect disappointment, shame and shock.

The murder of the 16-year-old boy from Shuafat, a neighborhood north of Jerusalem over the pre-1967 Green Line, was done as an act of revenge against Arabs, Haaretz reports. The six suspects taken into police custody on Sunday were all Jewish residents of Jerusalem and its surrounding towns, and some of them are minors. Three of the six were allegedly involved in an attempted kidnapping of another Palestinian child a few days before Abu Khdeir’s murder, and admitted as much to Israeli authorities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted by the paper saying the Israeli justice system would “exhaust the full severity of the law against those who committed this horrific crime which is deserving all condemnation.”

“The place of such murderers is not in Israeli society,” he said.

Haaretz’s editorial bashes not only those responsible for the murder of Abu Khdeir, but the culture of violence and hatred in Israel against Arabs that it says has become pervasive and must be changed.

“Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not ‘Jewish extremists,'” the paper says. “They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of ‘the Jewish state’: Those for whom every Arab is a bitter enemy, simply because they are Arab; those who were silent at the Beitar Jerusalem games when the team’s fans shouted ‘Death to Arabs’ at Arab players; those who call for cleansing the state of its Arab minority, or at least to drive them out of the homes and cities of the Jews.”

The paper calls for a cultural revolution (faux pas on terminology, no?) focused on “raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse.”

“The term ‘Jewish extremists’ actually seems more appropriate for the small Jewish minority that is still horrified by these acts of violence and murder,” Haaretz’s editors jab.

“Savagery in our midst,” reads the headline on Yedioth Ahronoth. It reports that the police say the six suspects in custody are “savage and vengeful” Jewish Israelis aged 16-22. According to the police, three are suspected of carrying out the actual kidnapping, aided by the other three. The perpetrators snatched Abu Khdeir, then took him to the Jerusalem Forest, beat him, poured gasoline on him, and set him alight.

The paper features a co-written op-ed by outgoing President Shimon Peres and President-elect Reuven Rivlin appealing to both sides to cease the spiraling violence.

“A national struggle doesn’t justify acts of terrorism. Acts of terrorism don’t justify vengeance. Vengeance doesn’t justify destruction, looting and ruin,” they write. “Even in the face of anger and frustration, violence and pain, an alternative is possible. We need the alternative.”

They refer to the three slain Israeli teenagers and the Palestinian teen killed last week collectively as “our children” and say that in the State of Israel there is no discrimination “between blood and blood.”

“We call on each and every one of us — Arab or Jewish — to stop. It’s time to choose a common path. It’s time to find what unites rather than divides us. It’s time to believe we can live here together, in this land. We have no other option, we have no other country. It is time to prevent the next bloodshed. It’s in our hands,” they say.

In Israel Hayom, the front page headline on the story of the Abu Khdeir slaying reads, “The murder and the shame” with the tag “Israel united in condemnation.”

The paper’s columnist Dan Margalit condemns the murder of Abu Khdeir and those involved, but takes the opportunity to bash the Arabs for not doing likewise with the killings of Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach. He calls the suspected murderers of Abu Khdeir “despicable creatures” and says the fact that “the parents and/or teachers were ultimately the ones responsible for the perpetrators’ arrant lack of humanity can’t even mitigate our revulsion in the slightest.”

He questions, however, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s “limp condemnations” of the triple murder of Israeli teens, “contrary to the Jewish leadership’s explicit statements” against the murder of Abu Khdeir, and the Palestinian leadership’s rattling of sabers on hearing of the Palestinian teen’s death.

“Condemnation doesn’t equate consolation. It is a tool used to gauge how leaders relate to murder. Israeli Arabs in the Galilee may have admitted to murdering Shelley Dadon, but what sort of official reaction, if any, did we hear from Balad or the heads of the Arab municipalities? A whimper and nothing more,” Margalit writes.

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