Family & supporters of Tariq Abu Khdeir unhappy with Kathy Castor

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Jul 14, 2014 at 3:30 PM

Tariq Khdeir met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week.
  • Tariq Khdeir met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American high school student from Tampa who was brutally attacked by Israeli police forces over a week ago while observing a protest in response to his cousin's murder, remains under house arrest in East Jerusalem today. But Khdeir has not been charged with any crime, and family members and others in Tampa's Arab-American community are unhappy that Congresswoman Kathy Castor hasn't called for the teen's release.

The youth was in the Middle East on vacation two weeks ago when his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Israelis in what was suspected to be a revenge killing, coming as it did after the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank that shocked Israel.

"Senator Nelson and Congresswoman Castor have a duty to issue immediate and unequivocal statements condemning the brutal beating of one of their constituents by the police forces of a nation that receives billions of our tax dollars," said Hassan Shibly of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in a statement released Sunday night. "Their public silence thus far gives the impression that they put the interests of Israeli police officers above that of American citizens."

A spokesperson for Congresswoman Castor sent an email to CL Sunday night that says the Tampa-based Democrat is working with the Khdeir family, and that Castor "agrees with the U.S. State Department position announced last week expressing dismay at reports that Tariq Khdeir was severely beaten while in police custody, strongly condemning any excessive use of force, and urging a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force."

And while the State Department has come out in support of Tariq, friends and family members of the Tampa teen are hoping for the same statement from their local member of Congress. In a conversation with CL, Shibly was more outspoken in his criticism, saying that "we have no doubt that if this was a Jewish-American student abducted by Hamas, we'd get a public statement."

Meanwhile, a distant relative of Khdeir says that Castor's chief-of-staff, Clay Phillips, was rude and inconsiderate to her when she spoke with him in Castor's Washington D.C. office last Tuesday.

Tamara Essayyad is a second cousin of Tariq Abu Khdeir (Tariq's father is her cousin). As an attorney living in Washington, she said family members called her last week to see if she could get in touch with Castor's office directly about Khdeir. She said that when she called on Thursday, July 3, the office was already closed for the holiday weekend. She received a call back late Monday afternoon, July 7, from a staffer who initially told her that the Khdeir family did not live in the congresswoman's district and thus was not her constituent. 

"That's news to us," Essayad said she responded. She then made sure that the address was accurate and called the office again, where a staffer apologized and acknowledged that Tariq was a constituent. She told a staffer she would come in to the office, and did so last Tuesday at noon to meet with Clay Phillips, Congresswoman Castor's chief-of-staff. It did not go well.

Essayad says she walked into Phillips' office with a copy of the New York Times in her hand, and he immediately "ripped it out" of her hands.

"Shocked and appalled does not even begin to describe what I was feeling," she said about how the meeting began. She says that after she identified herself, Phillips did all the talking for the first five minutes and was "very aggressive" in his speech. "I told him to tone it the hell down," she told CL on Sunday night.  "How dare you speak to me this way?" she said she told him. (On Monday Tamara Essayad emphasized that while she had made that comment to CL in an interview Sunday night, she in fact did not use the term "tone it the hell down" directly to Mr. Phillips).

But Phillips' tone noticeably changed for the better, she said, when she pulled out her cellphone, indicating that she was going to call Tariq's parents. But it really wasn't much more productive. "Have you called the embassy? Have you called the Consultate?" Essayad says she asked Phillips. "What  has she done?" regarding the Congresswoman's response.

But Essayad says Phillips was noncommittal. "I asked, 'Is it because he's not an Israeli-American? Because he's a Palestinian-American? You are our representation.’ But he said, 'We're not going to talk about it."

Essayad says the conversation only lasted 10 minutes, and ended when Phillips said that "the family has to get an authorization." But Essayad says once she suggested she call Tariq's parents right then and there, Phillips stood up and led her out of his office, slamming the door.

"It was horrendous," she recalls.

"They've issued statements about manatees. They've issued statements about healthcare. But they haven't issued anything on this," Essayad says about press releases that have come out of Congresswoman Castor's office over the past week. "I'm obviously appalled that Tampa has such representation."

CL reached out to Phillips today for comment, but he had not responded as of early this afternoon.

The full text of Sunday's email to CL from spokesperson Marcia Mejia reads as follows:

Our office is assisting the Kdheir family. Congresswoman Castor agrees with the U.S. State Department position announced last week expressing dismay at reports that Tariq Khdeir was severely beaten while in police custody, strongly condemning any excessive use of force, and urging a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.

Israel’s Justice Ministry announced that it was conducting such an investigation last week, and subsequently that it is leaning toward indicting the police officer responsible for excessive force. However, the investigation as to the entire series of events revolving around the protest has not concluded.

In this volatile time, Congresswoman Castor urges peace among peoples and accountability for those who target innocent youth for vengeful purposes.

On Friday a group of activists marched in front of the Federal building in downtown Tampa calling for Tariq Khdeir's release from house arrest in Israel.

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Nothing new here. There are two tiers of Americans. Unfortunately for Tarek, he doesn't have the right name, skin color and/or religion to be the right American.

report 54 likes, 11 dislikes   
Posted by Martin Bashir on 07/14/2014 at 4:58 PM

Oh, and besides, Congresswoman Castor can't offend an Israeli over an American. That would ruin her career. God bless America- the land of the free and home of the brave.

report 40 likes, 8 dislikes   
Posted by Martin Bashir on 07/14/2014 at 5:00 PM

America, where everyone enjoys freedom of speech (so long as the speech isn't critical of Israeli policy; because then, you're labeled anti-Semetic).

report 40 likes, 9 dislikes   
Posted by Martin Bashir on 07/14/2014 at 5:02 PM

This teenager was not involved in any protest, why do we perpetuate such falsehoods?

report 19 likes, 4 dislikes   
Posted by Alvi Goldberg on 07/14/2014 at 8:29 PM

That's the wrong message to send all the other American Muslim kids who need to know their country and elected officials represent them too and care when they are mistreated. This case even has video evidence. Shameful and I am sure hurtful to this young boy. I'm sure they know they are putting politics above doing the right and honest thing. Glad they aren't my politicians.

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Posted by Ambar Sohail Qureshi on 07/14/2014 at 11:16 PM

Tariq was not involved in a protest. He in the area for a family wedding.

report 19 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by George Nasser on 07/15/2014 at 12:12 AM

*was in the area

report 7 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by George Nasser on 07/15/2014 at 12:13 AM

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2885: 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir is Beaten - His Reunion with His Mother - Body Language Tells

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Posted by Dr. Jack Brown on 07/15/2014 at 2:54 AM

I'm very disappointed in Congresswoman Kathy Castor's inaction thus far. I voted and supported her during her campaign. I even went to her victory party.

report 15 likes, 2 dislikes   
Posted by Muslim B Ali on 07/15/2014 at 3:27 AM

If you were not there you cannot make a statement as tho first hand, PERIOD. The very critical question on these issues,...WHAT ARE THESE 'PARENTS' DOING ?????????..SENDING THESE CHILDREN INTO HARMS WAY? common sense people, common sense. Under the very laws that are in place : child endangerment stands.

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Posted by Laurie Hicks on 07/15/2014 at 7:21 AM

QUESTION: What kind of parents send their kids on holidays in areas known for their violent behaviour?

RESULT: He was hanging out with rock- and Molotov-throwing friends...

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Posted by Susan Victoria on 07/15/2014 at 8:29 PM

Americans fails to understand, you cant break the law in a foreign land and expect to utilize those 6th amendment rights and principles of habeus corpus. Look at Amanda Knox and Kenneth Bae. They broke the law in a foreign land and they had to get private intl attorneys to fight their battles.

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Posted by Melissa T. on 07/16/2014 at 2:03 PM

Same thing I said S. Victoria. He got the beating bc he was in on the action. Cutting electric wires and throwing rocks. Americans see him as a minor, IDF see him as a threat.

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Posted by Melissa T. on 07/16/2014 at 2:04 PM

Wow, paid hasbarah trolls out in force. He broke no laws, he was just standing there, this is borne out by camera footage. The Israeli racist thugs beat him and they kept beating him long after he had collapsed, there's no doubt about that.

report 8 likes, 3 dislikes   
Posted by CJ Canton on 07/16/2014 at 11:44 PM

@Laurie Hicks and Susan Victoria: he was visiting family who live in Jerusalem, if that is bad parenting then presumably anyone who visits Jerusalem (including Jews of course) is guilty of reckless negligence! Is that what you're claiming?

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Posted by Deirdre on 07/17/2014 at 6:12 AM
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