JERUSALEM — When Issa Abu Khdeir drove a relative to the airport last month, police arrested two sons and him and ransacked their Jerusalem home.
Abu Khdeir, 58, said his family might have been targeted because they offered their home as a press center for Tariq Khdeir, 15, a nephew whose beating last month by Israeli police was captured on film. The youth, who lives in Tampa, Fla., was visiting relatives in East Jerusalem with family members at the time.
Abu Khdeir was released from jail after five days. His son Mohammed, 19, who holds U.S. citizenship, remains incarcerated.
The U.S. State Department has expressed concern that the arrest of Mohammed Abu Khdeir wasn’t reported to American authorities, as protocol dictates. More than 30 members of the extended family have been arrested since early July, and the State Department says Israel may be targeting the family.
In a text message, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said “anytime a suspect is arrested and it is discovered that he or she holds foreign citizenship, a report is sent to the authorities of the relevant nation.”
But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said this week that “members of the Khdeir family appear to be singled out for arrest.”
The Abu Khdeir family shot to international prominence when Jewish extremists abducted and murdered 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, also a relative of Issa Abu Khdeir, on July 2. The attack was an apparent revenge crime for the murders of three Israeli teens whose bodies were discovered in late June.
After Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s charred body was discovered in a Jerusalem forest, residents of his Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem rioted for days, before and after his funeral. The protesters damaged a police station and hurled firebombs and stones at police officers.
Samri said police had arrested 601 people suspected of disturbing public order in Jerusalem and had filed 190 indictments.
“We don’t sort out the arrests according to family names,” she said. “Whoever is involved in disturbances is arrested.”
Lea Tzemel, the attorney for 19-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, along with 11 other members of the family in detention, said police in Jerusalem ordinarily tolerated some protests, especially after crimes with a “national” motivation, meaning between Israelis and Palestinians.
“You could expect that the police would take into consideration the murder of Abu Khdeir,” Tzemel said. The Palestinian protesters “saw the child who was murdered and they went wild. But the response is extremely repressive.”
Cheslow is a McClatchy special correspondent.