Mohammed Abu Khedir

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The effect Israel’s recent military incursion has had on one family

Author – Eman Bare – Contributor

Sentiment echoed the world over. / Maha Malik

Sentiment echoed the world over. / Maha Malik

This summer marked an escalation in violence that ravaged the Middle East, claiming thousands of lives and injuring so many more. From the terror of ISIS, now IS, to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli settlers, and the call for violence and revenge from Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, the Middle East claimed headline after headline.

The story of one young boy in Gaza deserves to be told, not because his life is more valuable than any other Palestinian, or Israeli, but because of the manner in which he was brutally killed and the way the Israeli government, as well as media outlets around the world, handled his death.

The death toll in Gaza during the six-week siege was over 2,000 lives, mostly civilians, with thousands more injured. Mohammed Abu Khedir was 16 years old when he was killed. Let’s understand what that means: he was in grade 10, he was younger than every U of R student, he was a son, a brother, a cousin, and a young boy with dreams. He had the right to live. He has the right to have his story told, so that we can understand that there are thousands of others like him, who have been killed because of an oppressive state employing illegal settlements and blockades.

In June, I interviewed the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khedir, and Tariq Khedir. Mohammed was kidnapped, beaten and set on fire by Israeli settlers, where as Tariq, Mohammed’s younger cousin from the United States, was beaten by Israeli police while he was visiting his family in Gaza. The reason this story is being written now is because of how emotionally exhausting the thought of transcribing this interview was. What would you do if your younger cousin was burned alive, and your other little cousin beaten to an unrecognizable state? These thoughts sat with me for weeks and months, and I could not escape the thoughts that we as Canadians, particularly our government, were dehumanizing Palestinians to the extent that we were blaming them for their own deaths. We are responsible, because we choose ignorance. Our understanding of history is so temporary and short, that we cannot truly understand any conflict. We blame the oppressed instead of the oppressor and we justify colonization and apartheid.

This is the aftermath of Mohammed’s death on his family and the updates on his trial as told by his cousin, Wedad, whose name was changed at her request to protect her identity.

“The situation in Gaza is unbearable to watch, it’s unbearable to see what’s going on there. It’s like watching someone shoot fish in a barrel. They are surrounded, there is no way for people to come in an aid them and all [the Israeli’s] are doing is bombarding them. They have no defense. They have homemade rockets. “

“I believe that we will never truly get justice for Mohammed. To begin with, [Israeli authorities] never tell us what’s going on. They never give us any information that we can hold onto, or be comforted with. If a child is killed here in the U.S., you know the names of the killers and what is going on. [The Israeli government] don’t release any information and when they do, it’s little trickles that you can barely understand. They told us that there were six suspects that had collaborated and three that had actually abducted and killed him. They said they had let three of the six go because they did not commit the killings, the conspired but they had not actually done the killing. So they just let them go free, so then they told us that the other three were minors, and therefore they were going to be more lenient with them and now they are trying to give them a way out.”

“It’s blatant racism. It’s blatant favoritism of an Israeli suspect over a Palestinian. If a Palestinian had even come close to something of what had happened to my cousin [Mohammed], they would be killed. Look as far as the three Israeli settler boys…those boys…we don’t even know what happened in their kidnapping and death. And what did they do for them? For the suspects, they completely demolished their homes. They say that Israel is a democracy….in America, if someone was guilty of a kidnapping or murder, would they demolish their home? No. Do they get rid of their entire family? No. But in Israel, they demolished the entire home of people they had suspected [of a crime], because they were Hamas members and therefore they were the ones who had committed the crime.”

“Now, for my cousin, for those men that they had caught in conspiring and committing the abduction….they are not going to erase their houses or bulldoze their houses. We don’t even know who they are, they want to keep it as quiet as possible and that sends the worst kind of message because that means ‘go ahead, do what you want to Palestinians, they don’t have the same rights…their blood isn’t as valuable as an Israeli Jew. So if you want to murder them, if you want to abduct them…go ahead.”

“I’ve said it from the beginning, the Israeli government as well as the army leaders were calling for vengeance (after the Israeli settler’s bodies were found), they were enticing the crowds they continued to call for vengeance. The people went into a frenzy. The Israeli people started rioting on the streets and called for ‘Death to Arabs.’ They said that they would make our month of Ramadan, our holiest month, into a bloody month. And they did. They ruined our holy month for us.”

Although a ceasefire has been reached, and it seems life will return to normal for Israelis and Palestinians, one must ask are we normalizing occupation by allowing things to return to how they were before the uprising in Palestine/Israel. In the political warfare of the Middle East, are we turning a blind eye to justice and deciding some deserve it more than others? For too many families in Israel and Palestine, like the family of Mohammed Khedir, life will never return to normal.

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