Jewish groups link Arab teen’s death with revenge before investigation completed

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs logo. Credit: Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

( Some Jewish groups have publicly linked the death of Arab teen Mohammad Abu Khudair to revenge for the recent murder of the three Jewish teens, before the completion of an Israeli police investigation into how Khudair died.

Khudair was found dead in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“The circumstances of his death remain uncertain, but it appears that Mohammed was not a party to nor instigator of the tragic events of recent days and weeks. But he now has paid the ultimate price regardless,” Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) President Rabbi Steve Gutow said in a statement Wednesday.

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said, “We are shocked by the news today (Wednesday) of the apparent abduction and murder of an Arab teen and the suspicion that this horrid act may be motivated by those seeking vengeance for the deaths of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach.”

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick said Thursday, “When I learned that an Arab teen was murdered in Jerusalem, apparently in retaliation for the murder of three Jewish teens, my mind went immediately to the words of Torah we will read in a few weeks: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’ This admonition, perhaps the essence of Jewish values, is part of a legal framework prescribed in the Torah that resonates to this day—a vision of a society ruled by laws, not vengeance, and of ‘equal justice under law.’”

The Anti-Defamation League said it “strongly condemned a possible revenge killing of an Arab teen from East Jerusalem, along with an alarming surge of incendiary calls for revenge by some Israelis, which have followed the discovery and burial of the three Israeli teens abducted by Palestinians.”

Among the Jewish groups, the JCPA—which did not immediately respond to a request from for a clarification of its statement—seemed to receive the most criticism for its remarks.

“Why was the Jewish Council compelled to issue this statement within less than 12 hours after news broke and without any investigation by Israeli National Police?” asked Helen Freedman, executive director for Americans for a Safe Israel, in an email. 

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press, noted that the JCPA “put out a public statement less than 24 hours after the [Arab teen’s] death was discovered” and that the group “presented itself as judge, jury, and sound system with a verdict of guilt for Israel.”

“Why the rush? It took the JCPA three days to condemn the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers. Perhaps that was due to an abundance of caution—one would not want to falsely accuse anyone. If so, why the different standard here?” wrote Marcus. 

The U.S. government was also quick to imply that the Arab teen’s death resulted from a revenge attack.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday. 

In addition to the potential motive of revenge, Israeli police are reportedly investigating the possibility that Khudair was murdered by members of his own family in an “honor killing” because he was gay.

Posted on July 3, 2014 .