Last week the doleful siren cried the beginning of Yom Hazikaron (“Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Jewish Victims of Terrorism”), signaling the most controversial iteration of this annual memorial day. What made this year’s commemoration “different” were not the 67 valiant Israel Defense Soldiers killed last summer during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and 35 additional soldiers who died this year due to injuries, nor the Jews around the world killed for the “offense” of being Jewish, who were categorically not chosen “at random.” It was the inclusion of a young Arab boy brutally murdered for no other reason than being an Arab.
Israel’s Defense Ministry recognized Muhammed Abu Khdeir as a “victim of hostile action,” adding his name to the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial on Yerushalayim’s Mount Herzl, the national cemetery. His name also appeared on the government’s online database of terror victims, next to an Israeli flag overlaid with a picture of the Blood of the Maccabees flower, the floral symbol of victims of war and terror.
Why was the name Muhammed Abu Khdeir included among the terror victims of the Nation of Israel? Last summer, after the kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish teenagers — Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach — by Arab terrorists associated with Hamas, 16-year-old eastern Yerushalayim resident Muhammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped in Yerushalayim and brutally murdered by three Israelis.
This was the lone vigilante murder committed by Israelis as vengeance for the kidnapping and murder of the three Jewish teens.
Though Abu Khdeir wasn’t the first Arab to be included among “The Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial,” it was the first time controversy arose. Proving politics makes strange partnerships, representatives of the two opposing sides came forward to denounce the decision. The victim’s father, who was neither informed that his son’s name would be added to the memorial nor wanted it included, demanded that his son’s name be removed from the list of terror victims and the memorial. It was. Members of Almagor, an Israeli organization for families of terror victims, were enraged by the decision to include Abu Khdeir’s name on the memorial, threatening that if authorities refused to remove Abu Khdeir’s name, they would take it down themselves.
Abu Khdeir’s murder shocked the nation for its wanton cruelty. Figures across Israel’s political spectrum immediately, vehemently — and correctly — denounced the brutal slaying of Abu Khdeir as anathema to Jewish values. Israel’s then-President Shimon Peres said, “If a Jew kills, he will be [brought before] the court like any other criminal. There is no privilege, the law is equal to all and all are equal before the law. On that there is no compromise.” Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon went a step further, stating, “These debased murderers don’t represent the Jewish people or its values, and they must be treated as terrorists.”
Though I wholeheartedly agree that all are equal under the law and with describing the murderers as “debased,” I ask: Does the vicious nature of the murder change the status of the murderers to terrorists, as Yaalon contends? Respectfully and intensely I disagree with this assertion by the defense minister and the position of the State of Israel in including the name of Muhammed Abu Khdeir among our fallen. Politics and passion spoke; not law or logic.
Terror, by definition, is the intention to create an ongoing state of fear, panic and dread. These tragically misguided Jewish boys are guilty of a revenge-inspired heinous murder, not of a campaign to terrorize the Arab residents in Israel’s borders. The segment of Arabs within Israel who daily attempt to kill Jews with knives, guns and, of late, cars, are attempting more than murder; they are attempting to create chaos, fear and dread among Jews. Daily, Jewish drivers are assaulted by rocks thrown or shots fired by Arabs; cars come careening at Jews waiting at bus stations; soldiers and chareidim, the most recognizable Jews, are regularly stabbed around the Old City. This is terror, fomenting apprehension of not being able to live one’s life normally. The Arab murderers are terrorists; they kill Jews like they throw a rock in the water — not merely for the first circle but for all the concentric rings that ripple out from the murder.
The killers of Abu Khdeir were monsters looking for revenge; they killed a single Arab to slake a thirst for blood, not thinking of the act’s repercussions. That is all. That is far too much. They should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, sentenced within the fullest extent of the law.
Ironically, the three Jewish murderers of one Arab boy will almost assuredly and deservedly get life sentences with virtually no chance of parole, while one Arab who murdered three or more Jews will almost certainly be freed in a prisoner release long before the sentence is served. Justice is not served.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his amazing wife and two wonderful children. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.