Once again, on Thursday, a familiar scene unfolded in which dozens of Jewish youths, some members of the group Lehava, violently attacked three young Palestinians on the streets of downtown Jerusalem. In an effort to get away in the middle of the attack, the three Palestinians ran to a policeman who is permanently stationed on Jaffa Road. From a video clip published by Haaretz, one can see the policeman did not prevent the continued violent attack, which ended with one of the Palestinians, Majdi Abu Taya, admitted to the hospital. It’s not hard to imagine what would have happened if the situation had been reversed, if Jews were the ones seeking the help of a policeman after being attacked by Palestinians.
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This incident follows dozens of other cases of attacks against Arabs in downtown Jerusalem in recent years. Arab taxi drivers, passersby, restaurant employees – all of them have been attacked late at night and have recounted nearly identical stories. It starts with their being identified as Arabs, continues with cursing and pushing and sometimes ends in the hospital with serious injuries. And the police’s apathy to these incidents is nothing new.
In August of last year, Ishaaq Abu Jabneh, a taxi driver, was severely attacked and his leg and arm crushed. As on Thursday, then too police passing by decided not to intervene, and as in other incidents, the investigative file was closed a short time later without any real investigation.
This apathy comes from the upper echelons. About a year ago, lawyers from the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism met with Jerusalem district police commander Yoram Halevy. After they laid out their concerns regarding police inaction, Halevy asked if they knew how many Molotov cocktails had been thrown in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood.
When the approach of the top police brass is to view the Palestinian public in the city as a kind of collective group that bears responsibility for every stone and Molotov cocktail thrown, and to view the role of the police as acting only to protect the Jewish public, it’s no wonder that police in the field don’t lift a finger to protect the victims of these attacks. When that is the approach, it’s also hard to be surprised at investigators’ lack of motivation to pursue the cases.
The violence on the streets of Jerusalem is a direct result of the continuing and unhindered activities of Lehava, a racist and violent organization. Every Thursday and every Saturday night, dozens of activists from the organization, dressed in black shirts, meet in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, and for hours, they turn downtown Jerusalem into a dangerous area for Palestinians. It’s time for the police and prosecutor’s office to act decisively against the organization and its adherents and actively defend all citizens regardless of their identities, through vigorous investigation of the recent attacks and by filing indictments for incitement and encouragement of violence.