Police on Thursday denied allegations that officers stood idly by as a mob of young members of Lehava – a Jewish extremist group known for its racist ideology and violent attacks – beat three Arabs youths in downtown Jerusalem a week ago.
Lehava propagates the dogma of the late Jewish Defense League founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated by an Arab in New York City in 1990 after his radical Kach Party was outlawed in Israel for inciting racism.
According to witnesses of last Thursday’s attack, some 30 Lehava followers were marching near Zion Square shortly after 8 p.m. when they spotted Majdi Abu Taya, 19, of Silwan, shopping near Ben-Yehuda Street with two friends.
One witness, who requested anonymity out of fear for his safety, told Haaretz
that the Arab teens were quickly targeted and heckled.
“I saw three Palestinians surrounded by the Lehava guys who shouted at them and cursed them,” the witness said.
“I’ve been in the square for three years, and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. It’s systematic.
They engage in provocations to get the victims to react, and then they’ll say it’s self-defense.”
A video of group members – wearing black Lehava T-shirts, surrounding the Arabs, shouting at them and chasing them – obtained by Haaretz
and posted on YouTube corroborates the witness’s account.
When the Arab teens run to police officers patrolling nearby Jaffa Road to seek protection, the video shows an officer stopping the mob from attacking them. However, the Jewish teens can be seen continuing to shout at the three young men.
Soon thereafter another chase proceeds, and the video ends.
“The officer asked for our ID cards but he didn’t help us or do anything, they continued to beat us right next to the cop,” said Abu Taya. “So we fled.”
Other witnesses told Haaretz
that the officer stood idly by as the mob chased the three men down the street, at which point Abu Taya became separated from his two friends, who sought refuge at a nearby construction site.
When Abu Taya was cornered, he said the beating began, which resulted in his being hospitalized in stable condition.
A Jewish teen who volunteers as a paramedic and saw the assault said he was hit on the head by a Lehava member when he attempted to intervene.
Two days later, he said, he filed a complaint at an area police station and was informed that there was no information about the attack.
“The on-duty officer tried to find a complaint or even an emergency call, but they found nothing, as if nothing had ever happened,” he told Haaretz
Police on Thursday confirmed that the attack took place, but denied allegations that an officer stood by as the Arab teens were chased and one was badly beaten.
“Police units were called in and arrived at the area quickly to search for the suspects who already fled the scene and three youngsters were found in the area but did not agree to file a complaint,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
“However, an investigation has been opened into the incident and police are looking into what happened.”