The body of terror victim Ezra Schwartz arrives at Ben-Gurion Airport, to be flown for burial in his native US. (Moti Karelitz/ZAKA Tel Aviv)

Ezra Schwartz

Terror victim Ezra Schwartz, a US citizen. (Courtesy)

The State Department was quick to slam Israel for giving an allegedly light punishment to an officer who beat and bruised a Palestinian-American teen during an anti-Israel riot, while ignoring the brutal murder of an 18-year-old US citizen in Israel by Palestinian terrorists.

It took more than 24 hours for the US State Department to issue a statement condemning the murder of 18-year-old American citizen Ezra Schwartz, who was among three innocent people brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on Thursday in an attack in Gush Etzion.

Schwartz, a popular teenager known for being compassionate and fun-loving, was on a gap-year program in Israel at Yeshivat Ashreinu in Beit Shemesh after finishing high school studies at Maimonides high school in his native Massachusetts. At the time of the shooting, he and his peers had just delivered food packages to IDF soldiers serving in the area.

“A terrible sense of mourning has fallen upon the yeshiva,” Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel’s rabbinic director, stated.

Hundreds of friends tearfully accompanied Schwartz’s body to Ben-Gurion Airport Saturday night. Burial took place Sunday in his hometown.

US Urges Calm on ‘All Sides’

Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, did not mention the US victim’s name in his statement following the attack.  Rather, he urged “all sides” to calm the situation, saying: “We condemn these terrorist attacks against innocent civilians in the strongest possible terms. As we’ve made clear, we remain deeply concerned about the situation and continue to urge all sides to take affirmative steps to restore calm and prevent actions that would further escalate tensions.”

Memorial ceremony for terror victim Ezra Schwartz

Friends and family mourn terror victim Ezra Schwartz at a ceremony at Ben-Gurion airport before his body was returned to the US for burial. (Moti Karelitz/ZAKA Tel Aviv)

Several media sites noted the State Department’s deafening silence, not only in this case, but regarding several other deaths of US citizens in Israel as a result of Palestinian terror, such as Richard Lakin, who was stabbed to death on a Jerusalem bus on October 27; Eitam Henkin, who, together with his wife, was shot to death in the presence of their four children on October 6; and three Americans brutally murdered in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood exactly a year ago.

In contrast, just hours before the attack that killed Schwartz, State Department spokesman John Kirby, in a statement to the press, denounced the punishment meted out Wednesday to the Israeli police officer who beat a Palestinian-American teenager during violent, anti-Israel riots, saying it was not harsh enough.

“We were disappointed to learn that the Israeli police officer who severely beat American teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir in July of 2014 was spared prison time by an Israeli court yesterday. Given the clear evidence captured on videotape of the excessive use of force, it is difficult to see how this sentence would promote full accountability for the actions of the police officer in this case,” Kirby declared.

US ‘Closely Engaged’ with Palestinian-American Teen

In May, CNN reported that in the previous month, “White House National Security Council staffers recently took the unusual step of meeting in the West Wing with Tariq Khdeir.”

“The US government has remained closely engaged with Tariq and his family since his return from Jerusalem,” a White House official told CNN at the time. The family was planning a summer visit to the eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, a hotbed of anti-Israel violence, and wanted reassurances that Tariq would be safe from Israeli retaliation, despite the fact that Israel had already confirmed that they would not lay charges against him.

John Kirby

US State Department Spokesman John Kirby. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, following publicity on several news sites pointing to the seeming lack of interest in Washington to the tragic murder of Schwartz, posted on Twitter early Friday evening:

“As Shabbat begins, we mourn with the family and friends of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen murdered yesterday in a terrorist attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and with the families of the other victims of yesterday’s attacks. May God bring them comfort.”

Kirby, during the daily Department of State briefing on Friday, also issued a statement on Schwartz, but only after direct questioning on the incident, and he would not label the murder as a terror attack. Asked whether he had “anything more to say” about it since Thursday’s statement, Kirby responded:

“I don’t have anything additional to say. Obviously, the Secretary was deeply saddened to hear of the death and we’re, obviously, concerned by it. And we’re going to continue to monitor the situation and the circumstances as best we can. And our hearts and prayers obviously go out to the family.”

He was further pressed with the question: “You do – and I know you don’t like to play the – or get into kind of name calling, but you do think that he was killed in what was a terrorist attack, right?”

“I don’t think that I’m in a position to characterize the circumstances right now. But again, we’re mindful of what happened. The Secretary sends his deepest thoughts and condolences to the family. I don’t have…”

QUESTION: “Right, but you don’t think it might have happened in some kind of a robbery gone bad or something, do you? You believe that it wasn’t just a – was it just a run of the – I don’t want to say run of the mill – a criminal act? Because it’s certainly not being looked at that way.”

Kirby: ‘Thank You for Prompting’

KIRBY: Yeah, thanks. This is what I was looking for. Yeah, thank you for prompting. We do believe the – about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts, who was murdered in a terrorist attack on Thursday while in Israel to pursue his studies. Again, we extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and community as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events. The Secretary is also concerned about the five other American citizens who are victims of the attacks and wishes each of them a full and complete recovery.

“We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks. These tragic incidents underscore the importance of taking affirmative steps to restore calm.”

Further into the discussion, Kirby said he was “not aware of any direct communication with the Palestinians” over this issue and has no information on what the victim had been doing at the time of the murder or where it took place.

He did say that construction of homes for Jews in eastern Jerusalem isillegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements, including construction, planning, and retroactive legalizations.”

Petition Urges Obama to Acknowledge Murder

Meanwhile, a new petition is demanding that the US government “publicly acknowledge Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American citizen from Sharon, MA, was murdered by a terrorist.”

US President Barack Obama has so far remained silent on the issue.

The petition also urges the Obama administration to rebuke the Palestinian Authority for falsely claiming that an Arab victim of the same attack was killed by Israeli fire.

To view the petition, click here.

By: Terri Nir, United with Israel

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Source: United with Israel