Earlier this month, fifteen-year-old Tariq Abukhdeir, a US citizen from Tampa, Florida, was savagely beaten by undercover Israeli police in the Shuafat neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem. The attack was caught on video, showing Israeli police repeatedly kicking and punching Abukhdeir in the face and head as he lay handcuffed on the ground.
According to the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, Abukhdeir was arrested without charge and denied urgently needed medical attention and access to his family for five hours. He was released on bail after three days in Israeli jail and placed under house arrest before returning to Florida on 16 July.
On 5 July, the US State Department called “for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” in Abukhdeir’s beating. However, in previous instances of Israel injuring and even killing US citizens, the United States has pressed similar demands, only to have Israel thumb its nose at its benefactor.
History of attacks
Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old activist from Olympia, Washington, was run over and killed by an Israeli soldier operating a militarized Caterpillar bulldozer as she nonviolently attempted to prevent a Palestinian home from being demolished in the Gaza Strip on 16 March 2003. Although the Israeli government promised the United States a “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation into her death, the State Department informed the Corrie family that the Israeli investigation did not meet these standards.
But instead of taking up her case, the US government left the family to its own devices, counseling the Corries to “use the Israeli court system” to seek accountability. The case is now on appeal at the Israeli high court, after a lower court ruled against the Corrie family, blaming Rachel for her own death.
On 5 April 2003, Brian Avery, a 24-year-old activist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin by Israeli soldiers who fired machine guns from an armored personnel carrier.
Tristan Anderson, a 37-year-old activist from Oakland, California, suffered permanent brain damage after Israeli forces shot him in the forehead with a high-velocity tear gas canister as he observed a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin in March 2009.
Furkan Doğan, an 18-year-old Turkish resident born in Troy, New York, was killed aboard the Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean Sea on 31 May 2010 as a flotilla of international activists attempted to break Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip and to deliver humanitarian goods. The United Nations’ General Assembly Human Rights Council found that Doğan was killed by Israeli naval commandos in an “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution,” shot five times, including a shot to his face at “point blank range.”
According to documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) through a Freedom of Information Act request, State Department officials were promised by the Israeli foreign ministry that “each incident” on the flotilla involving US citizens “would be thoroughly and transparently investigated by appropriate GOI [Government of Israel] agencies and that information from those investigations will be made available to the [US government] as soon as they are available.”
CCR concluded, however, that “the Israeli government at every step of the way declined to provide the US government information regarding the investigation,” which was eventually released without “any information about how and under what circumstances Furkan was killed.” Nevertheless, as of February 2013, the Obama administration still had not “conducted its own investigation into the killing,” instead continuing “to defer to the Israeli government’s investigation,” according to CCR.
The same day that Israel killed Furkan Doğan, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz of Potomac, Maryland, participated in a protest against Israel’s attack on the flotilla at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem. An Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister at her face, causing her to lose an eye.
Israel’s pattern of injuring and killing Americans has drawn a woefully inadequate response not only from the White House, but from Congress as well, and is symptomatic of the broader impunity the United States affords Israel to commit systematic and egregious human rights abuses against Palestinians and anyone standing in solidarity with them.
A resolution introduced in 2003 by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) called for a US investigation into Rachel Corrie’s killing and garnered 77 co-sponsors but died in committee. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a resolution in 2010 merely calling on the United States and Israel to “intensify their cooperation in determining the circumstances” of Tristan Anderson’s injury; it gained a paltry four co-sponsors.
A US Senate report accompanying a 2011 appropriations bill would have required the State Department to report on actions taken “to conduct thorough, credible and transparent investigations” of these and other incidents in which US citizens were harmed by Israel; however, this reporting requirement was rendered moot since Congress failed to pass separate appropriations bills that year.
It is atrocious enough that the US government has failed in its most elemental duty to advocate for justice for those of its citizens injured or killed by Israel. This disgraceful position is even more scandalous given that the weapons used to injure or kill these Americans was, definitely in some and potentially in all of these cases, provided to Israel by the United States as part of its more than $3 billion per year military aid package. Thus, ironically, the US taxpayer is funding the Israeli military to injure and kill US citizens with US weapons with the US government failing to hold Israel accountable for its actions.
Last month, after US forces apprehended Ahmed Abu Khatallah — suspected of involvement in the attack on State Department and CIA installations in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans — President Barack Obama declared unequivocally “that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans.”
It is high time for the United States to end the double standard that affords Israel impunity to injure and kill Americans and to see that justice is done for them.
Josh Ruebner is the author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace and Policy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.