Participants in a march organized by the right-wing extremist group Lehava attacked three Palestinians in downtown Jerusalem last Thursday, according to video footage and testimony obtained by Haaretz. One of the three was hospitalized with mild injuries.
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The Palestinians, all residents of East Jerusalem, ran to find a policeman, who asked the assailants to leave. But beyond that, he did nothing to prevent the assault, in which some 30 people participated.
The Jerusalem police said they have opened an investigation, but that the victims themselves refused to file complaints. However, when a Jewish teen who tried to help one of the victims sought to file a complaint himself, police said they had no knowledge of the incident.
Similar marches by the far-right group have taken place regularly over the past three years, with very little police presence, even though this is not the first time participants have tried to assault Palestinians. During the summer, Lehava holds activities in Jerusalem’s Zion Square twice a week, on Thursday and Saturday nights, and dozens of activists usually participate.
Most of the activists merely hand out promotional material. But others actively look for Palestinians and try to attack them. Despite this, there have been almost no police investigations, much less indictments, on account of such mob attacks in recent years.
Majdi Abu Taya, 19, of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, was shopping in Zion Square with two of his friends last Thursday when Lehava activists spotted them.
“I saw three Palestinians surrounded by the Lehava guys, who shouted at them and cursed them,” said N., who, like all the other witnesses interviewed for this article, asked to remain anonymous. “I’ve been in the square for three years, and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. It’s systematic. They engage in provocations to get the victims to react, and then they’ll say it’s self-defense.”
In a video of the event, Palestinians can be seen surrounded by the far-right Israelis, who hurl curses at them. At a later point, the Palestinians run to a policeman standing next to his patrol car on Jerusalem's Jaffa St. The officer blocked the 30-strong group from reaching the Palestinians, asking the Jewish youths to move away, but they refused to heed his call and continued to curse the Palestinians and provoke them. At this point, the video of the event ends, but according to N., the officer then stopped attempting to prevent the assault.
"The officer asked for our I.D. cards, but he didn't help us or do anything, they continued to beat us right next to the cop. So we fled," Abu Taya said.
N. says that the Jewish youths initially told the officer that the Palestinians had attacked them, urging him to arrest the Palestinians. "They then continued to curse and he asked that they step away [from the Palestinians], but it grew violent again," N. said.
According to other witnesses, the cop did not attempt to call in backup, alert the police or even try to protect the Palestinians, who at this stage fled the scene, followed by the mob. Abu Taya then split up from his friends and was cornered and beaten by the far-right Israelis. Two of the Palestinians managed to hide in an adjacent construction site, throwing rocks at the attackers in an attempt to aide their friend, who was prone and wounded.
A local high-school student who volunteers as a medic witnessed the event: "We saw a group of 30 teens running. But when they came closer we saw that they had T-shirts with 'Lehava' on them and that one of them was an Arab, so we realized it was dangerous to approach." When the teen tried to offer first aid to Abu Taya, he too became a target, suffering light wounds after he was hit with a stone to the head.
Two days later, the high-school student went to a local police station to file a complaint, but according to him the police could not find any record of the event. The on duty officer "tried to find a complaint or even an emergency call, but they found nothing, as if nothing had ever happened," he told Haaretz.