United by Grief, Families of Slain Israeli and Palestinian Teens Divided Over Gaza

War Destroys Bond Between Fraenkels and Abu Khdeirs

Two Grieving Families: The uncle of Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel (left) and the mother of Palestinian revenge victim Mohammed Abu Khdeir (right) mourn their loss.
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Two Grieving Families: The uncle of Israeli teen Naftali Fraenkel (left) and the mother of Palestinian revenge victim Mohammed Abu Khdeir (right) mourn their loss.

By Daniella Cheslow

Published August 04, 2014, issue of August 08, 2014.

(page 2 of 2)

The Abu Khdeir family issued no comparable public statement condemning acts of vengeance.

Israeli authorities have named two Palestinian suspects in the deaths of the three teens, still at large, whom they are pursuing as the presumed murderers. The nature of their connection to Hamas, which Israel initially claimed ordered the teens’ kidnapping, remains unclear. But Abu Khdeir resists the assumption that Palestinians murdered the three Israeli teens. “No one has claimed responsibility,” he said. Perhaps the three bodies discovered outside Hebron were actually planted there, he mused.

The search for suspects in the murders of the three Jewish teens and the Palestinian youth, respectively, shed light on the vastly different legal systems that operate in Israel and the West Bank. After the three Israeli teens were declared missing, the Israeli army set up a dragnet. Some 400 Palestinians were arrested, many of them activists affiliated with Hamas. Residents of the Hebron area in the West Bank, near where the teens were last seen, were barred from crossing the Allenby Bridge into Jordan. After Israeli authorities identified Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, two Hebron locals, as their two main suspects, the army blew off part of the exterior walls of Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha’s homes. A military spokesman explained that soldiers were “breaching the perimeter” to allow for more thorough searches.

By contrast, when Mohammed Abu Khdeir was declared missing, there was no mass injunction against travel abroad. Police at first cordoned off streets in Jerusalem and searched passing cars. After the teen’s charred body was found in the Jerusalem forest, the police arrested six suspects, three of whom remain in custody. Authorities have not publicly identified two of them, on the grounds that they are minors. The third, Yosef Haim Ben-David, rented a home in the West Bank settlement of Adam, which has not been demolished.

For all this, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, like the three Jewish teens, was named a victim of terrorism, and his family is entitled to a stipend from the state.

At Intel, Fraenkel accepted the fact that a Jewish Israeli had killed Mohammed Abu Khdeir. But he rationalized the disparities in the handling of the cases.

“There is no difference in the people who murdered Mohammed and Naftali,” he said. “There’s a tremendous difference in the way the societies treat these people. If a murderer is not supported, he becomes minority, he is cast aside, and these things die out. Unfortunately this is not the case in Palestinian society.”

For the families of both victims, the police have been a disappointment. The officers who initially answered a distress call from one of the three Israeli teens assumed it was a prank and failed to react promptly. In Abu Khdeir’s case, police received a complaint the day before the murder about an attempted kidnapping of a 7-year-old boy by Israeli Jews — allegedly by the same people who murdered Abu Khdeir. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police set up roadblocks in the area but could not find the would-be abductors. Since then, Rosenfeld said, police have stepped up patrols in the area.

Abu Khdeir says that if the police had apprehended the kidnappers during their first attempt, his son would still be alive.

Suspects in the triple murder of the Israeli Jews remain at large. The trial began July 27 for Ben-David, the alleged ringleader in Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s murder. Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein, is praying for a harsh sentence, even though Ben-David is pleading temporary insanity.

Contact Daniella Cheslow at feedback@forward.com

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