Friday, as Americans all over the world celebrated our country breaking free from the shackles of tyranny and oppression, one Tampa Bay community prayed in sobering silence for a 15-year-old Tampa high school student, Tariq Khdeir. Tariq, a U.S. citizen, spent the Fourth of July unconscious and severely beaten in an Israeli jail.
The recent surge of violence between Palestinians and Israelis first hit close to home in the Tampa Bay area last week when Tariq’s cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped, beaten and burned alive by Israeli extremists in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
The violence and clashes between Palestinians and Israelis comes in the wake of the kidnapping and death of three Israeli settler teens: Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel. No one has been charged or held responsible for their deaths despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserting, “Hamas terrorists carried out Thursday’s kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. We know that for a fact.”
Tariq was on his way to his cousin Mohammed’s funeral when he was attacked, suffering injuries so horrific that he was in the ICU overnight. He was visiting Palestine from Tampa for summer vacation.
As a Palestinian-American raised in the United States, the seemingly never-ending Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused my family and me frustration, sadness and grief. For us, it has never been a far-away conflict between two people who will never get along, but a sad reality of Palestinians suffering from the realities of occupation and Israelis misunderstanding the effects of their policies on a people desperate for a solution in a destitute situation.
The news of Tariq’s beating and incarceration should anger every one of us, as an American citizen now lies in agony at the hands of Israeli officials. This conflict is now in all of our backyards. The recent and tragic deaths of both young Israelis and young Palestinians are a sobering reminder of the brutality of this conflict.
This type of needless violence should be condemned, and the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As Americans, it is time that we stand up to injustice in every form that it takes and begin to think constructively about an end to this conflict. Just as the Founding Fathers were tired of the oppressive British regime, the Palestinian people are tired of living under an occupying regime that is slowly whittling away at what land the Palestinians have left.
Americans must understand that a potential solution is as much in the hands of our elected officials as it is in the hands of Israeli and Palestinian leadership. The wounds remain constantly fresh — the beginning of the healing process between these two communities is well overdue. Both sides have blood on their hands. The healing process will only start when there is accountability, justice for those who have suffered, and an active commitment to international laws.