With each day that goes by the murder of Mohamed Abu Khdeir becomes ever more bestial. Haaretz reports (Hebrew print edition only so far) that before he was burned to death he was doused with gasoline and forced to drink the fluid. No doubt, the killers wanted him to burn from the outside and inside:
According to Palestinian public prosecutor, the findings of the autopsy were that Abu Khdeir was struck on the head and then burned to death: there were signs of ash in his lungs showing that he was alive when his body was incinerated. The police investigation determined that the youth was forced to drink the gasoline used to set his body alight.
A rabbi in a settlement in Samaria has even spoken for hanging the suspects for their crime. But that avoids the real heart of the problem: punishment isn’t the answer. Solving the root causes of the conflict with justice and compromise from both sides. That’s the way to end this insanity. Unfortunately, Israel and Palestine have become places that Martin Luther King said are blind and toothless: “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”
Let us not allow Israel to get itself off the hook with pious platitudes and denunciations of the crime. That does not absolve them of guilt. This is a crime of the entire nation. Not just the lunatic killers. The entire nation should do teshuvah for this horrific act. If there isn’t massive soul-searching it will only confirm the inhumanity of both the nation and the Zionist nationalism on which it was founded.
I wrote a post two days ago that suggested that Abu Khdeir’s death was a martyrdom. He is a shahid (in Hebrew, a korban-literally “sacrifice”) in the finest sense of the term. No matter how scared and beaten down he was, his suffering makes him and his cause noble. His immolation purifies his soul and blackens those of his killers. There is only one way to understand this horrific crime. If we choose to see it in the terms his killers wanted, then we give them a moral victory. I will deny them that at all costs.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.