Second Jewish Man Convicted in Assault of Arab Driver in Tel Aviv Suburb Last Year

Bat Yam resident faces up to 14 years in prison, and while other defendants admit racist motives, prosecutors accept defendant's claim he thought the victim had committed a terror attack and was trying to stop him

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
Jewish mob attacking Said Mussa during riots in Bat Yam, Israel, on May 24, 2021
Jewish mob attacking Said Mussa during riots in Bat Yam, Israel, on May 24, 2021Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

A Jewish resident of the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam was convicted on Thursday over his role in an attack on an Arab motorist last year during Israel's May war with Hamas and other Gaza militant groups, which spilled into a wave of violence in Israel too.

The defendant, 32-year-old Ya’akov Cohen, was convicted in a plea bargain of infliction of serious bodily injury, which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, as opposed to 20 years in prison for the crime he was initially charged with.

The plea agreement does not provide for a specific prison term and prosecutors said they do not expect that it will shorten the prison sentence.

Cohen is the second person of 10 adult suspects convicted in the brutal assault on Said Moussa of Ramle, who was 33 at the time. Moussa was pulled out of his car by a mob of right-wing Jewish extremists and severely beaten on May 12 of last year.

Said Moussa, at his home in Ramle, on January 4, 2022

Cohen has argued he thought Moussa had committed a terror attack. The prosecution accepted this claim, dropping any reference to racist motives from the case against Cohen.

Two juvenile defendants whose names are barred from publication admitted in plea agreements to assaulting Moussa and of committing an act of terrorism by seriously injuring him.

One of the two juvenile defendants also admitted to incitement to violence and racism and unruly conduct out of racist motives resulting in harm for calling for attacking Arabs and for throwing a bottle at an Arab-owned restaurant. The court is expected to convict them shortly based on their admissions.

Cohen’s indictment alleged that he threw a glass at Moussa’s car, kicked the car and that after pulling the Arab man out of the car, kicked him on his body. When Moussa was being taken to an ambulance on a stretcher, Cohen is alleged to have tried to attack him again but was restrained by someone else.

Most of the indictment against Cohen alleges that actions were taken by the entire mob. At a sentencing hearing, Cohen’s lawyer, Shmuel Flishman, who was appointed by the Public Defender’s Office, said his client admits to inflicting serious harm as part of a group, but it should not be construed as admitting the others’ roles in the assault.

The first defendant convicted in the case, Lahav Nagauker, went with a group of dozens of others to the site of the attack near the Bat Yam seafront promenade with the intention of damaging Arab-owned businesses. He and the others gathered outside an Arab-owned restaurant, which they then vandalized amid calls of “death to the Arabs.”

After Moussa happened onto the scene, dozens participated in the attack on him and his car, dragging him out of his car and punching him and throwing objects at him and apparently rendering him unconscious.

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