The U.S. government responded swiftly to the news of the murder of an Arab teenager, calling the act “despicable and senseless.”
On Tuesday, July 1, the dead body of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir was found in a heavily wooded area of Jerusalem.
Abu Khdeir, who has been described as either 16, 17 or 18 years old, had been allegedly pushed into a car at 3:30 in the morning in a neighborhood in Jerusalem. He was reportedly waiting there for friends who had gone off to buy food.
It is now the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, and observant Muslims eat large meals before daybreak as they will be fasting all day until nightfall.
Some media outlets and social media activists immediately blamed Israelis, or even, specifically,”settlers” for the death and described it as a revenge killing in response to the murder of the kidnapped Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, or at least reported that was what was believed to have happened. Mahmoud Abbas, the acting leader of the Palestinian Authority, was quoted as not only blaming Israeli “settlers,” but accused them of “killing and burning a little boy.”
Others more slowly have been reporting that the murder may have been either a rivalry killing by one faction of Arabs against another, or an honor killing for shame the boy allegedly brought on his family. Israeli authorities condemned the murder swiftly and resolutely, and asked all citizens to respect the rule of law and, further, to do everything possible to contribute to bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
Secretary of State John Kerry used engaged, emotional language to describe his response to this murder, saying it was “sickening” that “an innocent 17 year old boy” was “snatched off the streets” and that “his life [was] stolen.”
Kerry noted that “a number of Israeli and Palestinian officials” have condemned the murder. He also pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “has been emphatic in calling for all sides ‘not to take the law into their own hands.’” The two paragraph statement ended with the standard trope of calling on both Arabs and Israelis to prevent further acts of violence. Kerry urged officials on both sides to protect the innocent and respond to violence “with reasonableness and restraint, not recrimination and retribution.”
The full statement follows:
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the despicable and senseless abduction and murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir. It is sickening to think of an innocent 17 year old boy snatched off the streets and his life stolen from him and his family. There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people.
The authorities are investigating this tragedy, a number of Israeli and Palestinian officials have condemned it, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been emphatic in calling for all sides “not to take the law into their own hands”. Those who undertake acts of vengeance only destabilize an already explosive and emotional situation. We look to both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent acts of violence and bring their perpetrators to justice. The world has too often learned the hard way that violence only leads to more violence and at this tense and dangerous moment, all parties must do everything in their power to protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not recrimination and retribution.