Parents relieved at conviction of settler who burned their son alive

Yosef Haim Ben David, in handcuffs, is escorted out of an Israeli court in Jerusalem on 19 April after being found guilty of the 2014 kidnap and murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair.

STR EPA

The parents of Muhammad Abu Khudair expressed relief on Tuesday after an Israeli court in Jerusalem convicted the ringleader of the 2014 kidnapping and murder of their 16-year-old son.

After months of deliberations, the judges rejected an insanity plea from Yosef Haim Ben David and ruled that the 31-year-old West Bank settler “understood what he was doing and was in full control of his actions,” when he killed the boy, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported.

In February, two Israeli minors were sentenced for their roles in the killing of Muhammad Abu Khudair, but at the time, the teen’s mother and father, Suha and Hussein Abu Khudair, expressed anger at what they saw as lenient sentences.

During the trial, the youths had testified that the three defendants had spent hours looking for a Palestinian child to kidnap and murder. They found Muhammad outside a mosque near his home in occupied East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood.

They abducted him and beat him unconscious in the back of their car while they drove to a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem. They testified that they smashed Muhammad’s head with a crowbar before burning him alive.

The two minors had downplayed their responsibility, claiming Ben David had incited the crime as vengeance for the murder of the three Israeli teenagers who had been kidnapped and killed while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank weeks earlier.

But the judges wrote that while Ben David was the instigator, the two minors “enthusiastically joined him and were highly willing participants.”

After Tuesday’s verdict on Ben David, Suha said she felt “relieved” and hoped that the killer would be given a life sentence – the maximum allowed – in exchange for taking her son’s life.

Ben David is scheduled to be sentenced on 3 May.

Still, the Abu Khudair family’s impatience with the grindingly slow legal process remains evident.

“In every court session he [Muhammad] is burned again, as we were hoping that he [Ben David] would be sentenced more quickly without procrastination or chances to escape the sentencing,” the slain boy’s father told the Ma’an News Agency.

“We knew from the beginning that he was not crazy but rather a liar. It hurts us very much. The trial lasted too long, this is the 35th hearing,” Hussein Abu Khudair added. “Every time we see him our blood boils.”

Muhammad’s parents also told Ma’an they hoped that Israeli authorities would demolish Ben David’s home – as is frequently done to relatives of Palestinians Israel accuses of attacks.

However under Israel’s two-tier justice system, such punitive demolitions are carried out by Israel exclusively against Palestinians and never against Jews.

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For anybody who cannot see the 16-y.o. boy as a victim but rather see him first or only as a "Palestinian," ask yourself what would be fair if this was your child or friend it happened to. A conviction seems just though I want to see how the sentencing turns out.

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.