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Family of Palestinian-American Teen Who Was Beaten by Israeli Police Demand He Be Released from House Arrest

Photo of Tariq Abu Khdeir from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

The family of a fifteen year-old Palestinian-American, who was brutally beaten by Israeli police, have issued a demand to the Israeli government to release Tarek Abu Khdeir from house arrest so that he can return to Tampa, Florida, where he lives.

Video captured on July 3 shows Tariq lying on the ground with his hands cuffed. Israeli police officers pound their fists and kick their boots into him. His feet can be seen as he squirms helplessly on the ground. One of the officers in the video stomps on his head.

By now, he is unconscious. The officer who stomped on his head gets down on his knees and punches him with his fists. Then, a third officer shows up and they pick him up and carry his limp beaten body away. And, as they are leaving the area where they brutalized him, an officer takes his boot and kicks the teen’s head another time.

Tariq was taken to jail where he was held for five hours before finally seeing a doctor in a hospital.

The doctor he saw briefly told him he needed to see a head doctor to treat the potential brain trauma he faces. The Israeli police refused to allow him to receive additional treatment. They would not let his family see him until he was hospitalized.

He was in jail for three days until he had a court hearing. He was fined and put on house arrest pending an alleged investigation into the officers’ conduct.

The scene that unfolds in the video is horrendous and uncalled for yet, as his family points out, the widespread media attention his beating is receiving is only because he is an American.

Suhad Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s aunt, said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, “If he wasn’t a US citizen, he would’ve died in prison and we would have never heard about this just like several other Palestinian children every single day.”

She also contended, “This was not just to try and detain him and arrest him. This was trying to inflict lifelong injury. It was trying to even possibly murder him. Little did they know he was a US citizen.”

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s seventeen year-old cousin, was murdered by Israelis in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens a day before he was beaten. A protest broke out near his family home and he went to see what was happening. Moments later, he was attacked by Israeli police.

“I was standing there watching what was happening and then I heard some people screaming from the left side of me and then behind them I saw two or three soldiers,” Khdeir told The Washington Post in a video interview. He tried to jump a fence near the family home.

Khdeir said, “I fell after I tried to jump the fence and then the soldiers picked me up and slammed me on the floor. And they kept beating me and I woke up in the hospital.” He added that he doesn’t know why they attacked him and hit him so hard.

On “Democracy Now!” Suhad responded to claims from the Israeli government that he had been involved in some kind of violent riot.

“From a distance, he could see the protesting, but he was nowhere near it,” she said. “If there was that many protesters around him, where were they when he was getting beat up? Wouldn’t they have intervened? Somebody would have intervened. And to have all these weapons that they’re claiming, somebody would have definitely intervened.

Tariq’s mother, Suha Abu Khdier, said she is ready to take legal action.

“Because this happens to the Palestinians every single day,” she explained to the Post. “He’s just one of the Americans that happened to be here. That’s why he had the opportunity for all media and for the whole world to hear him for once. But other Palestinians that live here, this happens to them all the time. They never have the opportunity to voice, to talk about it, to show [what they experienced].”

An official from the US Consulate, according to Suha, tried to help the family on day one. He scheduled an appointment to meet with Tariq. However, when he showed up, the guards gave him a hard time and would not allow him to see her son. He fought for three hours and made phone calls to embassy officials before finally he was able to see Tariq.

In a State Department briefing on Monday, spokesperson Jen Psaki said nothing about Israel frustrating the ability of US officials seeking access to Tariq while he was in jail. Psaki said the official attended his court hearing and that officials “remain shocked that he was severely beaten while in policy custody and strongly have condemned that and any use of excessive force.” However, the fact that he was fined and placed on house arrest pending investigation did not seem to be a problem to the State Department.

Beatings of Palestinians by Israeli security forces actually occur with some regularity. From September 2000 to the end of 2011, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported 473 cases to law enforcement authorities in which it suspected violence had been used by security forces against Palestinians. It sent 244 cases “concerning violence by police and Border Police officers” to the Department for Investigation of Police (DIP). In 146 cases, an investigation was ordered but 113 cases were closed without any action whatsoever taken against officers involved.  In only 12 cases were indictments filed.

The “Breaking the Silence” project compiled testimonies from over 30 soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 2005 and 2011. Each shared details of moments when Palestinian children had been brutally beaten.

Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss wrote, “The western press has been shocked by the images of 15-year-old Tarek Abu Khdeir, of Tampa, FL, following his beating by Israeli forces last Thursday in Shuafat, East Jerusalem. Israeli officials have sought to justify the treatment by saying that Abu Khdeir had hurled rocks from a slingshot at Israeli forces. The boy has denied this.”

“This narrative ought to be familiar to the western press. It is a very old script inside the occupied territories when Palestinian boys are suspected of throwing stones, or they are near other children who have thrown stones,” Weiss added.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."