Palestinian Charged With Jerusalem Hate Crime for Throwing Coffee at Jewish Passerby

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Police officers at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, two days ago.
Police officers at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, two days ago.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office on Monday indicted 19-year-old Mohammad Swilam of East Jerusalem with causing severe bodily harm, attempted assault as a hate crime and invasion of privacy after he threw hot coffee in the face of a Jewish passerby at Damascus Gate. His 17-year-old friend, who filmed the attack and posted the video on TikTok, was charged with invasion of privacy and persuading another person to commit severe bodily harm. The assault became one of the incidents that led to the violent riot in central Jerusalem on Thursday night.

According to the indictment, Swilam tried twice to throw coffee at Jewish pedestrians. The third time he threw the coffee at a man who appeared to be ultra-Orthodox while his friend filmed it. The victim suffered first-degree burns to his face and neck and was taken for medical treatment. The minor was also charged with assault as a hate crime in another case, in which he hit a man and tried to knock his kippa off his head.

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The prosecution asked that both suspects be held in custody until the end of proceedings against them, but the Jerusalem District Court ordered them held for three days.

Public defender Nael Zahalka, who is representing Swilam, said: “We are at the beginning of the judicial process and we have not yet received all the material from the investigation. It’s important to note that this is a young man who is dealing with psychological problems and is known to the mental health services. In light of his condition, we will ask the court to send him for a psychiatric examination.”

Attacks on Jewish pedestrians in East Jerusalem continued on Monday, as did attacks on Arabs in West Jerusalem. Two Palestinians were arrested at Jaffa Gate after they attempted to attack two police detectives disguised as ultra-Orthodox Jews. On Monday night, residents of East Jerusalem's Isawiyah neighborhood said that there was an attempted attack on two 12-year-old boys by Jews, and in the Abu Tor neighborhood, Jews complained that stones had smashed the front door of their home. On Monday morning a Palestinian minor was arrested for assaulting a Jewish man on the light rail on Shivtei Yisrael Street. The man was not injured.

Also on Monday, two Arab municipal workers were assaulted by two young Jewish men on Hillel Street in downtown West Jerusalem. One of the victims was hospitalized after being kicked in the head. During the assault, one of the assailants pulled out a knife and threatened to stab one of the municipal workers. Police called to the scene arrested the two Jewish men and their detention was extended on Monday.

“Two guys jumped the workers from behind and started hitting them and cursing. Municipal workers are attacked almost every day. A lot of workers have stopped coming [to work] because they’re afraid. They say, ‘it’s not worth it to die for 250 shekels,’” said Amar Abadin, the foreman of the men who were assaulted, referring to their daily wage.

A video clip that surfaced on Sunday shows a group of young Jewish men throwing stones at a car on Bar-Ilan Street after they identified the driver as Arab. The driver fled the scene uninjured.

On Sunday night, 12 Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones or assaulting police officers in the Damascus Gate area. Clashes between the police and hundreds of young Palestinians persisted on Monday, although to a lesser extent than on the previous days. The clashes began after hundreds of young Palestinians celebrated the police decision to remove the barriers that had been closing off the steps at Damascus Gate. The young men shouted nationalistic slogans and waved Palestinian flags. In response to the raising of the flags, the police forcibly removed the young men from the steps, but did not put the barriers back up. 

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