First Verdict Handed Down in May anti-Arab Mob Violence in Tel Aviv Suburb

20-year-old Jewish man gets a year in prison over incitement and racist violence in Bat Yam attack that left an Arab driver in seriously wounded

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
The attack on Said Moussa in Bat Yam, in May.
The attack on Said Moussa in Bat Yam, in May.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

A 20-year-old Jewish man from central Israel was sentenced on Wednesday for one year in prison over his part in a mob attack on an Arab man last May, during the latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

Lahav Nagauker, who lives in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, admitted in August to his involvement in the attack on Said Moussa in his city, amid a wave of Arab-Jewish violence across the country. Moussa was pulled out of his car and attacked, leaving him in serious condition.

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This is the first verdict handed down in the case.

He was convicted in a plea deal of incitement to violence, racist incitement disorderly behavior with racist motives and damaging a vehicle. On top of prison time, he received half a year of probation and will be required to pay compensation of 2,000 shekels ($650) to the owner of a restaurant damaged during the attack.

Two of the most serious charges in the original indictment against Nagauker – incitement to terror and theft with racist motives – were removed as part of the plea deal. If tried for these offenses, his punishment would have been much more severe.

Lahav Nagauker during his sentencing on TuesdayCredit: Moti Milrod

Judge Benny Sagi of the Tel Aviv District Court said in his ruling that the responsibility of the court is to “examine concrete actions he carried out, and in order to determine his sentence it is not possible to make do with viewing him just as a part of the group of rioters that arrived at the scene.”

Sagi said he took into account that Nagauker was not a member of the WhatsApp groups in which the calls for violence were organized, and arrived at the scene only after the riots in the area began. The judge also accepted the defense’s claims that Nagauker only joined the crowdand did not lead them.

Sagi also remarked that it was doubtful Nagauker’s contribution was not meaningful enough to igniting the passions. “The defendant is a young man of 20, who lives on the margins of society, far from being a central, important or well-known figure,” ruled the judge.

However, Nagauker was involved in the attack on Moussa from the beginning. During the evening on May 20, he arrived along with dozens of other people to the promenade in Bat Yam with the intent of harming Arab-owned businesses. In a message in a WhatsApp group opened for that purpose, he wrote: “If we’ve already started it, we don’t need to be afraid to finish it.” After sending the message, he crowded along with others across from a restaurant owned by an Arab. They caused damage to the restaurant and shouted “Death to Arabs.”

While the mob beat Moussa, who just happened to be passing by, Nagauker damaged Moussa’s car along with other people. Later, when Moussa was laying on the road, Nagauker spat on him.

A few minutes after the attack, Nagauker told a team from the Kan News public broadcaster at the scene that he had come out into the street to confront Arabs. “We went out into the streets to fight with the Arabs, to show them that they can’t send rockets here,” he said. “We will beat them and if necessary, murder them too. Little children are dying because of the rockets; I am willing to be arrested.”

Dozens of people participated in the attack on Moussa, punched him and threw objects at him. But even though the incident had been documented in video clips and photographs it took the police time to arrest and file indictments against the participants in the attack.

An indictment was filed 12 days after the incident against only three of the participants. However, after an analysis of the pictures conducted by Haaretz found that it was possible to identify the faces of about 20 of the active participants in the attack, indictments were filed against seven more people.

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