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Unequal Justice

July 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Just over a year ago, 16 year old Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir went missing. Police brought in Mohammed’s family for questioning, planting a rumour that he had been murdered by the family in an honour killing. However, it was three Israel settlers that had taken Mohammed from the front steps of his house.

His badly charred body was discovered on 2nd July 2014. They had beat him, forced him to drink gasoline and burned him alive.

For days after his funeral, protestors rioted on the streets of East Jerusalem calling for justice and change. Just days later Israel began its military offensive over Gaza. The outbreak of “Operation Protective Edge” led to what some described as the strongest and most sustained uprising by the city’s Palestinian residents in a decade.

From Mohammed’s abduction until the Gaza ceasefire was brokered some 56 days later, around 727 people from East Jerusalem had been arrested and it is believed 260 of them were under 18- most are accused of throwing stones and partaking in the protests. One of these was Mohammed’s cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian-American teenager from Florida. He was beaten and arrested, all of which was captured on camera, sparking international outcry.

East Jerusalem, supposedly the capital of a Palestinian state, was annexed by Israel and declared its undivided capital in 1980. They constructed a wall around it and enforced a strict system of permits, blocking access for many West Bank Palestinians.

Since then the Israeli government has embarked on a “Judaisation” project, demolishing endless Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a growing number of Israeli settlers- a bid to stamp the city as the capital of Israel and rid it of its Palestinian identity. Frustrations are always simmering and frequent clashes between Palestinian youths and heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers are turning the holy city into a battleground.

To mark the one year anniversary of Mohammed’s death, hundreds took to the streets in East Jerusalem once again. Israeli soldiers injured eleven Palestinians as they suppressed the march. Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s father, called the murder trial of his son’s three alleged killers as a public relations stunt and “farce” in a statement outside Jerusalem District Court.

Yousef Ben David, 30, and two teenagers who cannot be named as they are underaged – face trial for the kidnap and murder of Mohammed. The two teenagers told the court on June 3 that Ben David had pressured them into carrying out a hate crime in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank weeks earlier.

Last year, Ben David, a resident of the West Bank settlement Adam, admitted to setting Mohammed alight in a police interview. This year, however, he refused to testify in court and his legal team has argued that he is insane and unfit for trial.

In contrast, the two men accused of killing the three Israeli teens, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, have faced a different kind of treatment. While they were still just suspects, the Israel Defense Forces demolished their homes in the middle of the night. They were then killed in an apparent shootout. The Shin Bet said that the two suspects, were hiding in a house in the West Bank. Israeli forces approached the house with an excavator vehicle and fired a rocket at the house, according to Palestinian reports.

While Mohammed’s killers have been afforded a trial to determine their guilt or innocence, and their houses remain intact, the killers of the three Israeli teens have had their family homes demolished and been killed before even making it to court. The treatment of these two incredibly tragic cases once again highlights the dual standards of justice for Israeli’s and Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.