The Jerusalem District Attorney’s office indicted six Jewish teenagers on Wednesday in connection with a savage beating of an Arab man on September 5. Ibrahim Abu Taa, 28, from Wadi Joz, underwent surgery for a broken ankle and injuries sustained in the attack at Shaare Tzedek Hospital. The teenagers, all Jerusalem residents, are between the ages of 14 and 16.
Abu Taa went to a club in the Talpiyot neighborhood on September 5 with two Jewish friends from his work at the Mamilla hotel, where he is an accountant. According to parts of the indictment made available to the media, just after midnight, the trio drove to the Katamonim neighborhood to bring their co-worker home because she was very drunk. At the beginning of Rabbi Tsadok Street, Abu Taa’s friend stopped the car and Abu Taa got out with the girl because she was vomiting.
A group of teenagers came up to Abu Taa and the girl and asked them what they were doing in the neighborhood. They replied that everything was under control and asked the group to leave them alone, but the group refused, continuing to ask questions. At one point, an argument broke out between the two sides and one of the teenagers slapped Abu Taa. He got back into the car with his friend and they drove down the street to the girls’ house.
When they got out of the car to bring the girl inside, the group of teenagers again surrounded them. One of the teenagers asked Abu Taa’s coworker if Abu Taa was Jewish. When he replied yes, the teenager said “Arabs cannot be here.”
“At this point the defendants began to choke and to push the complainant and to use their fists to hit him all over his body, while the complainant pleaded with the defendants to stop hitting him because he hadn’t done anything,” the indictment stated. “As a result of the pushing and the hitting, the complainant fell to the ground and the defendants surrounded him and continued kicking him all over his body, and all of this was racially motivated, due to the fact that the complainant is Arab.”
Police said that the teenagers used a metal rod to beat Abu Taa’s leg. As a result of the beating, Abu Taa suffered a broken ankle, which required surgery, lacerations on his left elbow, and bruising. During the assault, Abu Taa’s wallet fell out of his pocket. One of the teenagers picked it up and took out NIS 350 and $200 in cash and divided it up between him and another defendant.
The six were indicted for aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm and two of the teenagers were also indicted for theft of the money from Abu Taa’s wallet. However, the state attorney stopped short of indicting the teenagers for racism, which for adults can carry an additional 10 year prison sentence.
Abu Taa is still hospitalized in Shaare Tzedek and will undergo additional surgery on his ankle after complications arose from the first surgery. Nearly a week after the attack, Abu Taa was calm and even philosophical about the ordeal and the teenagers who beat him.
“I don’t hate them because of this, it hurts a lot, but I don’t hate them,” he said. “I want to tell them that I hope they’re really sorry and now they can think that they should never do this. There’s nothing good from this,” he said.
Abu Taa said he would now think twice about going to hang out in Jewish areas, and would probably only go if accompanied by other Arab friends. “All my life I’ve been with Jews, I know them, and I know that all people are not the same,” he said.
He added that until he became the victim of a racist attack, he would have never believed the racism was so strong in Jerusalem that it could explode into violence so easily. “It’s hard for me to talk about it… It’s a shock for me that there are people who behave this way,” he said.
“I didn’t see [the racism] myself, I just heard some stories that happened here and there,” Abu Taa added. “It’s scary, but these stories are still just beginning. Maybe its possible still to stop them and find a solution,” he said.
On Wednesday, lawyers for the youth said that although their clients were connected to the event, it was a simple fight between teenagers and not a racially-motivated attack. “I don’t think that every exchange that happens between a Jew and an Arab is a racial exchange,” lawyer Yehuda Shoshani said outside the courtroom.
“My client is very sorry and apologizes to the person who was hurt and his family and everyone that was hurt by this story,” said lawyer Ehud Kaatabi. “There was an argument between them, but it’s not about the fact that he’s Arab,” he added. “It’s almost Yom Kippur, and we ask for his forgiveness and pardon from all Israeli Arabs that were hurt by this story.”
The attack against Abu Taa comes exactly three weeks after the brutal beating of 17-year-old Jamal Julani in Zion Square, when the Ras el-Amud teenager was attacked by a group of a dozen Jewish youths chanting racist slogans. Eight youths and one adult were indicted in connection with the attack.