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Crime News

Was Murdered Palestinian Teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir Gay?

Following Mohammed Abu Khdeir's vicious murder, rumors began to spread on social media that he was killed by his family for his sexual orientation.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Mohammed Abu Khdeir Protest

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teen, was brutally murdered in the summer of 2014 at the age of 16, in an act of revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish Israeli teens weeks earlier. The murder of the four boys — as well as the political fall-out from the killings, which led to the deadly 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict — are examined in HBO’s recently debuted mini-series, “Our Boys.” The shocking crime naturally attracted lots of rumors about why it occurred... including ones about his sexual orientation.

The 10-episode run covers the disappearance of the three Jewish teens and the discovery of their bodies, before delving into Abu Khdeir’s abduction and subsequent murder. As Israeli authorities begin to investigate how Abu Khdeir came to be beaten and burned alive in a forest in Jerusalem, gossip emerged that the teen was a homosexual and was killed because of his sexual orientation, not as a revenge killing.

Such claims were never substantiated, but gained traction in the days following Abu Khdeir’s death. Writer and director Tawfik Abu Wael, one of the three creators of “Our Boys,” was in Tel Aviv when Abu Khdeir was killed and described to Vanity Fair what it was like watching misinformation spread.

“For four days in Israel, they talked about Mohammed as gay, that he was killed [by Palestinians] because of an honor thing,” he said. “People didn’t want to believe that Jewish people could do this.”

The rumors first began to spread on social media — specifically, a post mourning Abu Khdeir’s death that was posted by a page falsely claiming to be the Jerusalem Open House, a local LGBT center, according to 972 Mag.

Elinor Sidi, executive director of the JOH, denied ever making such a post, according to the Washington Blade.

“The name of the Jerusalem Open House was caught up in the murder investigation of Muhammad Abu Khdeir because of a forged statement that was spread in our name through social media,” Sidi said in a news release issued two weeks after Abu Khdeir’s death. “In this statement it was said that Muhammad was gay and a member of JOH, and suggested that his sexual orientation was the motive for his killing by his family.”

“I condemn the use of the JOH in order to interfere with the Shin Bet and police investigation, in an attempt to deflect suspicion away from Jewish nationalists,” the statement continued. “I am outraged by the fact that in 2014 in Jerusalem, being LGBT is still considered as an acceptable and understandable motive for murder.”

In the days after Abu Khdeir’s killing, his loved ones denied that he was murdered by his family.

“Our family is not involved in any disputes and he was a good boy,” Mahmoud, a cousin of Abu Khdeir, told Haaretz. “This is not a family problem. This was a kidnapping and everyone has to know that.”

Six suspects were initially arrested in connection to Abu Khdeir’s death, and three were ultimately charged: Yosef Ben-David and two unnamed minors who are reportedly Ben-David’s nephews. All three were ordered by a judge to pay reparations to the family, and Ben-David and one of the minors were sentenced to life in prison. The final nephew was sentenced to 21 years behind bars.