Coming as it did on the heels of the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teens, the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, was assumed to be an act of revenge. Whether the six men arrested Sunday in the crime turn out to be ultra-nationalist fanatics or mere thugs, they have brought shame to Israel and to Jews everywhere.
The allegations with regard to the brutal killing of the young Abu Khdeir are horrific. They bespeak actions that are totally outside the bounds of a society of laws and justice. Israel is treating this case with the severity it deserves — from the quick arrests to charging the six under the law for suspected terrorism. And, to his credit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not wait to condemn the murder. Instead he made clear in a phone call Monday to the boy’s father that “we denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being.”
The murder of Abu Khdeir has done more than take a life and rob family and friends of a loved one. It has also put Israeli lives — and Arab lives — at risk by providing a pretext for the riots in East Jerusalem that could be the beginnings of a third intifada.
While there can be no excuse for the Abu Khdeir killing, and we certainly offer none, Israel’s detractors have been quick to use the crime to paint Israeli society with a broad brush, even as they attempt to ascribe the kidnap and murder of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach to the workings of a fringe element of the Palestinians. That’s not right.
In any nation, there will be those who wrongly take the law into their own hands. But the strength of the rule of law can be seen in how a community, a government and a country respond to the illegal actions of the few. In the moments following the Abu Khdeir murder, Israelis expressed outrage, concern, remorse and consolation. By comparison, in the days following the disappearance of the Israeli teens, Hamas endorsed the kidnapping, Palestinians adopted a three-fingered salute for victory, and one Palestinian newspaper ran a cartoon heralding the capture of three Israeli mice.
If peace is ever to come to the troubled region, it will be in the spirit of Naftali Fraenkel’s uncle, Yishai Fraenkel, who last week telephoned Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir. The two men spoke not of recriminations and vengeance but instead consoled one another.