Israeli Charged With Attacking Bedouin Lifeguard in Southern City Told Police He 'Hates Arabs'

Indictment says lifeguard refused to let suspect go to kiddie pool with cigarettes and alcohol ■ 'I can’t stand seeing an Arab next to a Jew in our vicinity,' suspect says

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The swimming pool in Sderot, Israel, August 4, 2019.
The swimming pool in Sderot, Israel, August 4, 2019. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

A Bedouin lifeguard was violently assaulted at Sderot’s municipal pool last week by a man who hurled racist insults at him after being told he couldn’t bring cigarettes and alcohol to the kiddie pool, according to the indictment filed in the case.

The lifeguard also said the pool’s manager refused to let him call the police to complain about the assault.

“I hate Arabs and he’s a son of a bitch,” the alleged assailant, Aviad Dahan, later told the police, according to the indictment filed in Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court. “I can’t stand seeing an Arab next to a Jew in our vicinity.”

>> Read more: ‘Under-policing’ is bigger concern for Arab Israelis than ‘over-policing,’ study finds

The attack occurred last Tuesday, when A., a 19-year-old Bedouin from Rahat who regularly works as a lifeguard at the pool in Ofakim, came to Sderot to fill in. He said this was the first time he had ever worked at the Sderot pool, and he was only supposed to be there for two days – Tuesday and Saturday.

At about 3 P.M., Dahan, a 34-year-old Sderot resident with a long criminal record that includes jail time, arrived at the kiddie pool holding a cigarette and a bottle of beer.

The lifeguard, who asked that his full name not be used, told Dahan that the pool didn’t allow beer and cigarettes near the kiddie pool. Dahan refused to listen and said that if he didn’t shut up, he would get him fired. But the lifeguard didn’t give in, telling Dahan it was his job to enforce pool rules.

Dahan then got out of the pool and threatened the lifeguard, saying, “Be careful. You don’t know me. Don’t tell me this again, because you don’t know what will happen to you.”

He grabbed the lifeguard’s arm and tried to pull him out of the pool area. Then he began punching the lifeguard in the head and chest, bruising his chest and neck and knocking him back against the fence, causing abrasions on his back.

Other swimmers restrained Dahan, allowing the lifeguard to flee. But Dahan got loose and chased him, punching him again.

While punching him, Dahan shouted, “You stinking Arab, come to me outside, I’ll kill you.”

At one point, Dahan’s wife, Nofar, slapped the lifeguard as well. However, she wasn’t indicted.

Dahan repeated his racist statements when questioned by the police. “I’ll tell the judge too,” he said, according to the indictment. “I hate Arabs and he’s a son of a bitch. If he messes with my mind a little, I really will give him a punch in the face. I can’t stand seeing an Arab next to a Jew in our vicinity.”

The lifeguard told Haaretz that this incident, coupled with the fact that “management sided with” Dahan, led him to refuse to come to work on Saturday.

“The manager there didn’t want me to call the police and tried to get me back to work, telling me everything would be fine,” he said. “He didn’t give me a chance to call the police.”

The person who finally did call the police, the lifeguard said, was another lifeguard. “She wanted to go home because of the incident, because she was afraid, but the manager didn’t let her,” he added.

Dahan was arrested and quickly charged with assault causing bodily harm and threatening violence. Police said Dahan denied hitting the lifeguard but testimony from other people at the pool refuted his claim.

Police also asked that Dahan be jailed until the end of his trial. The court will consider that request on Monday.