Originally published at MintPress News.
JERUSALEM — One year after a 16-year-old Palestinian was kidnapped from his home in Jerusalem and burned to death by Israeli settlers, his family and neighbors haven’t found peace, and justice seems even more elusive.
In the early morning of July 2, 2014, Mohammed Abu Khdeir was waiting for friends when he was kidnapped near his home. Witnesses and surveillance video showed him being forced into a car. His scorched and beaten body was found soon after in a nearby forest; Abu Khdeir had been burned alive by Jewish extremists.
Many saw Abu Khdeir’s brutal death as retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, who were buried just the day before. But even the mother of one of the slain Israelis decried the death of the Palestinian, telling the media, “There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder. There is no justification and no atonement for murder.” The killing further inflamed the already high tensions between the people of Gaza and the occupying army in the lead up to the summer’s brutal war, during which Israeli forces killed thousands of civilians.
Although a group of men were charged with the killing, two of the primary suspects are being treated for mental illness and all three entered an insanity plea in court, leaving many Palestinians questioning whether justice had been served. “From the very first day of the investigation I said that they will either say that the killers are crazy, or they will set them free,” Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein, told the Guardian as the court case developed.
For the suffering family, not much has changed one year later. “Mohammed was burned once. Me and his mother are burning every day,” Hussein Abu Khdeir told Ynet News last week, adding: “Sadly, despite the murder, we’re still seeing racism and the state doesn’t do anything. It cheers on the racists and continues their criminal acts.” The Abu Khdeir family asked for nonviolence during public commemorations of the anniversary but, as so often happens, police were determined to try to provoke a reaction.
According to International Middle East Media Center, Israeli police massed as hundreds of Palestinians marched nonviolently on the forest near an illegal Jewish settlement where Abu Khdeir’s body was found, using tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters to try to provoke violence. After the march, mourners gathered at a massive memorial service featuring both Muslim and Christian members of the community and a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament.
Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, the Palestinian observer to the United Nations, marked the anniversary with a letter to the head of the world body. It reads, in part:
We hold the Israeli Government responsible for this crime and the culture of impunity in which Israeli settler have so vilely and continuously assaulted Palestinian civilians, and we join Mohammed’s parents in demanding accountability for the killing of their child and demanding justice for him and for all the Palestinian children that have been brutally killed by the occupying forces and settlers in the name of this illegitimate and belligerent occupation.