Arrests Over anti-Arab Hate Crimes in Jerusalem, Yokneam

Four suspected of spraying anti-Arab graffiti, other property damage in Yokneam; another four accused of attacking Arabs in Jerusalem, and coordinating attacks via WhatsApp.

Anti-Arab graffiti at a dental practice in Yokneam
Broken windows and anti-Arab graffiti at a dental practice in Yokneam. Rami Shlloush

Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service this week arrested four suspects of carrying out anti-Arab hate attacks recently in Yokneam. Meanwhile, an indictment has been served against four young people accused of attacking Arabs in Jerusalem.

In the Yokneam case, the four are suspected of spray-painting anti-Arab slogans, damaging a clinic, puncturing car tires and smashing windows. The police say that the suspects, residents of the town aged 25 and 26, and two 16-year-olds from the north of the country, know each other and acted in unison. The remand of two of them was extended until the weekend, and one of the teenagers admitted to damaging the dental clinic of Dr. Khatter Nashed in the city.

The court rejected the police’s request to extend the 25-year-old’s remand for eight days and ordered him released, but the police appealed and his release was postponed.

Attorney Ran Shaham of the Honenu national legal defense organisation said “he absolutely denies that he has any connection to this story.”

Over the past two months, about 10 hate-crime incidents have taken place in Yokne’am. Two weeks ago another suspect was arrested for hate crimes in the town - Adir Yosef, 26. Another remand extension hearing will be held in his case Wednesday. His attorney, Dov Hirsch, denied the suspicions against him.

On Tuesday, it was made public that the Jerusalem Police’s Nationalist Crime Unit had arrested four youths, three of them minors, suspected of forming a gang that attacked Arabs. From the investigation it appears that the oldest detainee, 24-year-old Jerusalemite Haim Gamliel, managed several WhatsApp groups and a Facebook page under the heading “Jews Against Assimilation” in which he called for attacks against Arabs. This week, an indictment was served on the four for conspiring to carry out racist-inspired crimes and assault.

In January an Arab youth was attacked in a neighborhood store in Mea She’arim by three teenagers aged 16 and 17. The incident was recorded by security cameras. The assault, according to the charge sheet, was coordinated by Gamliel via his WhatsApp group in which he called “to deal with” an Arab worker employed by a Jew.

The three, who were arrested a week ago, admitted to the act and told police investigators about the WhatsApp group. During the investigation the police revealed messages posted by Gamliel using a fake Facebook page belonging to “Yossi Cohen.” Among other things, he wrote: “Whoever wants to volunteer or help or knows strong people who want to help in the field of Jews and Arabs and he’s got strength, please send your details.”

Incitement groups against Arabs under the guise of “assimilation” have flourished recently on Facebook. The best known of them belongs to the Lehava organization (a Hebrew acronym for “Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land”). The Reform Movement has documented dozens of examples of incitement to violence and racism on the group’s Facebook page, including specific calls to harm Arabs.