“Here lies my brother”: Short video recalls life of murdered Palestinian teen

In this new video, friends and family remember Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian fatally shot by Israeli occupation forces six months ago, and talk about what his loss means to them.

It opens with Abu al-Thahir’s nine-year-old brother Omar visiting his big brother’s grave. “Here lies my brother, the Israeli occupation killed him,” Omar says.

Muhammad Abu al-Thahir was a brilliant soccer player who used to train his younger brother.

“My brain cannot function when I think of him,” Omar says.

The short, moving video titled Here Lies my Brother is produced by Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCI-Palestine).

His mother speaks of the family’s ongoing agony. “I weep sometimes when I’m alone or at night or when I see Muhammad’s belongings,” she says.

She keeps and refuses to wash the trousers he was wearing.

“A father’s life after he loses his son continues, yes,” Muhammad’s dad says, “but I feel this constant pain, this strange, horrible ache that’s impossible to describe.”

Ambitions destroyed

The night before he died, Muhammad and his father went up on the roof of their house. The teen pointed toward nearby Birzeit University and told his father that he wanted to study journalism there.

“Through media and journalism,” his father recalls Muhammad saying, “I can send a message to the world that there’s a people here that is carrying out legitimate resistance to the occupation and I can ask the world to help us end the occupation.”

Muhammad’s friends miss him too, reminiscing about the picnics they used to go on together and the volunteer work Muhammad did cleaning up the local cemetery and neighborhood streets.

A picture of Muhammad now hangs above the door of his high school, which has been renamed in his honor.

Killed in cold blood

Muhammad Abu al-Thahir was shot and killed with live ammunition fired by Israeli occupation forces on 15 May in the West Bank village of Beitunia.

About an hour before Abu al-Thahir was killed, another teen, Nadim Nuwara, was fatally shot in almost exactly the same spot. A third boy, Muhammad al-Azzeh, was shot in the chest, but survived.

There had been protests in the area, near the Ofer military prison, marking Nakba Day – the commemoration of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

But shortly after the killings, DCI-Palestine released security camera footage which shows that both boys were shot from long range and neither could be considered any conceivable threat to Israeli occupation forces.

Israel at first vehemently denied that any live ammunition had been used. But in November, Israel charged a Border Police officer with the “manslaughter” of Nuwara and of concealing his use of live ammunition.

Six months after his death, no one has been charged in the killing of Abu al-Thahir, prompting DCI-Palestine to launch its online campaign “No More Forgotten Lives.”

The fact that anyone was charged in Nuwara’s death – albeit for a reduced charge of manslaughter instead of murder – is extremely rare in itself given the almost blanket impunity Israeli soldiers are granted to kill and maim Palestinians.

“My son Muhammad was not the first or the last in this series of killings that the Israeli occupation is carrying out on our children,” the teen’s dad says. “Israel never accepts responsibility for its crimes and denies all wrongdoing while the rest of the world sits with arms folded.”

That’s a harsh reality that only makes the agony of Muhammad’s loss greater.

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As his father says, Muhammad was neither the first nor the last casualty of Israel's occupation. And nothing can bring him back. But maybe if Americans, and Jews around the world, took the trouble to watch this video -- with its wrenching illustration of the business-as-usual brutality that is the marrow of the occupation -- they might think twice about supporting the crimes that unfold every day in Palestine. To borrow a phrase from Phil Ochs, there are too many martyrs -- and far too few who even know their names.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.