Palestinian teen's name added to Israeli memorial, riling families on both sides

By Jeffrey Heller
Palestinian teen's name added to Israeli memorial, riling families on both sides

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has added the name of a Palestinian teen to its "Monument to the Memory of the Victims of Terrorism", upsetting the youth's parents and a group representing families of slain Israelis with both demanding his name be removed.

Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Khudair, according to a murder indictment, was burned alive in July in Jerusalem by three Israelis avenging the deaths of three Jewish teenagers killed by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank a month earlier.

Both incidents drew world attention and Israel, citing a nationalist motive for Khudair's death, swiftly declared the Palestinian youth a "victim of terrorism", enabling his family in occupied East Jerusalem to receive Israeli state stipends.

His accused murderers are still on trial, and the case has largely faded from public attention.

But it resurfaced in an outpouring of bitterness on Tuesday, the eve of Israel's annual Remembrance Day for soldiers and civilians killed in decades of conflict, when state-owned radio reported that Khudair's name had been officially inscribed on the stone monument in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery.

The Almagor Terror Victims Organisation, a group founded in 1986 and representing the families of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks, demanded the government remove the plaque honoring Khudair.

"(Khudair's) name on the memorial debases the memory of all the other fallen people," Yossi Tzur, an Almagor member whose 17-year-old son was killed in a Palestinian suicide bombing in 2003, told Israel Radio.

"He is not part of the Israeli ethos. He is not part of the sacrifice our children made at the altar for the sake of Israel's establishment and existence," Tzur said.

Khudair's parents told Reuters they had not been consulted by Israel about adding their son's name to the memorial, which lists more than 4,000 people.

"We can't accept that his name be included among soldiers who killed his relatives in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank," said Khudair's father, Hussein.

His mother, Suha, said her son was "a Palestinian martyr, and not Israeli", and their family felt shamed.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli authorities as the clock ticked down to the start of Remembrance Day after sundown on Tuesday.

Israel regards the monument as an important national symbol, and Pope Francis visited the site during a Holy Land pilgrimage last May.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich)