Monday, July 14, 2014

What we know about the suspects in the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir

There’s an important article in Haaretz, published on July 8, which hasn’t yet been translated into English, about the suspects in the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The story is much more accurate than previous articles about the suspects, which fingered them as members of La Familia (the racist supporters of Beitar Yerushalayim) or of other racist groups in Jerusalem. Here is some of the important information in the article.

One of the suspects is an adult, while the other six are younger. (Three of the younger suspects have already been released). They are from religious neighborhoods (other articles report that they are from Har Nof in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, and those still in custody are from Har Nof, Beit Shemesh and another community outside Jerusalem which has been identified as Adam - this is where the older man lives). The older man works in an optician’s store in Jerusalem and supports a family. It belongs to a chain with many stores also in Haredi communities. A store belonging to this chain played a crucial role in identifying the bodies of the three murdered Jewish young men. From the article, “The optician’s store in the city Elad only last week had a central role in the identification of the bodies of the three kidnapped Jews, because the workers there provided to the Shin Bet and the police the certain identification of the pair of glasses of Ayal Yifrach, who was a customer in the store.”

They all come from a Haredi background, but have “left the path” of Haredi Judaism, although they still haven’t physically left the community. One of the minors studied in a highly respected Haredi yeshiva high school, but “fell” from the path. He had been expected to be a very successful scholar.

The suspects are related to two very well-known Haredi rabbinic scholars and teachers. To quote from the article, “Straying like this from the path is something known in all three of the communities, but no one anticipated that this straying would include also the burning to death of an innocent boy.”

The father of three of the suspects, who are brothers, is known as a educator in the Haredi Sephardic community. From the article, “In Shas they explain the severe response of the spiritual leader of the movement, Rav Shalom Cohen – who ruled that the murderers are subject to ‘din rodef’ – with horror that comes from his (the educator’s) renown among the community from which the suspects in the murder come, because this is flesh from the flesh of the movement, and also from its Torah elite. The chief rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, also harshly denounced the murder, and even requested to visit the mourning tent of the family of Abu Khdeir (the visit did not occur because of instructions from the Shin Bet).”

From the article, “The other pair of brothers, who are also suspects, grew up and lived in an area which is full of Haredi yeshivot and Torah institutions, and also with stores in which Arabs work. The workers did not speak of harassment, but the owner of one of the stores told about street gangs who every so often would ‘make revolting remarks.’”

Similar articles have appeared in the Jerusalem Post and Ynet, so it is apparent that reporters for these papers have received leaks from the police, and probably already know the names of the accused. The same would be true for the neighbors of those arrested, and for the respected leaders of the Shas and the Sephardic Haredi community. So potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of people know who they are.

Yet the police have not released their names. My assumption is that since there is still a court-ordered gag order, the family of Muhammad Abu Khdeir do not know who has been accused of brutally murdering their son. Why? The suspects in this case have reconstructed the crime for the police. On the other hand, Israel named the supposed murderers of the three Jewish boys long before their bodies were found - and they haven't even found them yet.

A subsequent article in Haaretz, by Nir Hasson, reports that the attorneys for the accused intend to make an insanity plea to get them off - arguing that they were not sane at the time they committed the act. Someone close to the two minors said, "They live at the edge of society, and they are people who do not function." The youths themselves say that their intention was not to kill - things happened that led to burning (Muhammad) and to murder without their intending to. The person close to the minors said that "This was not planned as revenge, this was an occurrence that just happened, and one thing led to another."

I personally cannot imagine how things could "just happen" so that the end Muhammad was so cruelly murdered. I think this was a crime of intention - at the very least they had to find a can and fill it with gas in order to burn him up. The arguments that the person "close" to the minors is making do not prove at all they were not responsible for their actions. These young people grew up in good families and received an education, which I am sure included the prohibition of murder. How could they possibly claim they don't know the difference between right and wrong? This is just an excuse, and I hope the judge does not fall for it.

The indictment of the three should be issued this Friday, if there are not changes at the last minute. Perhaps then the names of the accused will finally be revealed.

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