Israeli Mayor Threatened to Sue City Resident Following Criticism Over Jewish-Arab Tensions

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Lod Mayor Yair Revivo speaks at a city council meeting, in April.
Lod Mayor Yair Revivo speaks at a city council meeting, in April.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Lod Mayor Yair Revivo threatened to sue a city resident who criticized him during a conference in the Knesset on Monday.

Malek Hassouna, whose son Moussa was killed during the intercommunal riots in Lod in May, has filed a police complaint about the threats.

In a recording obtained by Haaretz, Revivo can be heard threatening to sue Hassouna, adding, “I’m going to make sure they take all your assets from you” by seeking a lien on his property via the suit. He also warned Hassouna that “you’re entering a minefield here.”

On Monday, Hassouna spoke at a conference on victims of police brutality during protests against a war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip that erupted simultaneously with the riots. “Yair Revivo is responsible for the incitement in Lod,” Hassouna charged. “When Yair Revivo leaves Jews and Arabs in Lod alone, they’ll live just fine.”

What Revivo specifically threatened to sue over, however, was Hassouna’s claim that the mayor had said “all Arabs are against the Jews.” Revivo denied making the comment.

Malek Hassouna at the family's mourning tent after his son's death, Lod, in May.Credit: Bar Peleg

“I’ll file suit against you for 10 million shekels [$3 million],” Revivo told Hassouna. “That same day, I’ll obtain a lien on all your land. Don’t mess with me, Malek. I’m telling you, I’m going to ensure they take all your assets from you.”

Hassouna said he had had three conversations with Revivo since that conference, which was organized by Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh. During those conversations, he said, the mayor cursed him and threatened his life – a claim the Lod municipality denies.

In the recording, Revivo also threatened to make use of the city’s legal powers to harm Hassouna financially. “Everything we’ve done for you, forget about it. All your lands are going to the city,” he said.

Hassouna proposed that the two meet with President Isaac Herzog when the latter tours Lod. Both men are slated to participate in the visit, though Hassouna was included over Revivo’s objections, at Herzog’s insistence. But Revivo refused. “I don’t want to see you, you hear me?” he said.

At the conference, Hassouna also said he would “pay $1 million if anyone brings me a single video of an Arab attacking a Jew in Lod.”

In fact, however, there were several such attacks, including the one in which Yigal Yehoshua was killed when rioters stoned his car. Eight Arabs have been charged in that attack, including six from Lod.

Police have arrested four Jews as suspects in Moussa Hassouna’s death, but all have been released. Police said they wouldn’t file murder charges, given the suspects’ claims that were trying to keep an Arab mob from breaking into Jewish homes.

Moussa “didn’t do anything, he was just a bystander,” his father said at the conference. “Is murder called ‘self-defense’ in Israel? Why didn’t they shoot him in the leg?"

In response to Revivo’s threats, Odeh asked Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev to intervene. The police are already “persecuting” Hassouna, he wrote, and “Revivo’s threats are a direct continuation of his persecution of the Hassouna family, and of the institutionalized racism and incitement against Arab citizens. Arab and Jewish residents of Lod deserve to live in security, dignity and equality.”

Revivo said in response that “for 10 weeks, I’ve suffered a wave of wild incitement” and “baseless, unbridled lies. As a result, the defense establishment has deemed me Israel’s most threatened mayor .... This incitement must stop. Dealing with the violence and incitement must top the priorities of the police and justice system.

“It’s inconceivable that Malek Hassouna accused me in the Knesset yesterday of being responsible for the rioting and incitement in Lod or, heaven forbid, for his son’s death. I’m also a human being, and things are sometimes said in anger, as happened during our conversation.

“I have warned him time after time to stop lying, and that the 10-million-shekel lawsuit I’ll file against him will result in a lien on his land .... Anything else that was said and wrongly understood I regret and take back.

“I want to see Lod returning to the good old days of a shared life of peace and brotherhood. The city of Lod is important to us. Let’s gird our loins and march the city into a better future, with God’s help.”

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