Israeli police arrested two teenage girls on Monday in connection with a brutal and apparently unprovoked attack on Palestinian youths in Jerusalem last week, bringing the total number of Israelis arrested for the hate crime to seven.
“Two 15-year-old girls were arrested today, in addition to the five youngsters already arrested,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told Agence France-Presse. “One of the girls incited the teenagers to attack the young Arabs by saying that she had been attacked by Arabs in the past,” Samri added.
It is unclear what punishment the perpetrators will face; suspects have been brought before magistrates for detention hearings and acting Jerusalem police chief Menachem Yitzhaki has launched a special investigation of the incident.
The attack, which occurred in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, a bustling late-night entertainment area, was witnessed by hundreds of onlookers who failed to intervene.
Witnesses described a Jewish mob chanting “Death to Arabs” and other threatening slurs. “We were walking and suddenly maybe 50 Jews came toward us, shouting ‘Arabs, Arabs,'” attack victim Mohammed Mujahad told Haaretz.
Mohammed’s cousin Jamal “tried to run,” but was “hit in the chest and he fell, with his head on the ground,” Nuaman Julani said.
Police arrived quickly and dispersed the mob.
Jamal Julani, 17, remains hospitalized in serious condition as a result of the assault. Emergency responders found him unresponsive, without a pulse and unable to breathe. Resuscitation measures were performed for several minutes before he was rushed to a nearby hospital, Haaretz reports.
One witness recounted what she saw in Zion Square on her Facebook page:
“Today I saw a lynching with my own eyes in Zion Square, the center of Jerusalem. Dozens of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly…”
“When one of the Palestinians fell to the floor, they continued to kick him in the head, he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then [the attackers] fled and the rest gathered in a circle, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.”
“When we returned to the area… two teens stood there who did not understand why we wanted to give a bottle of water to the cousin of the victim. ‘He is an Arab, and they don’t need to walk around in the center of the city, and they deserve it because this way they will finally be afraid.'”
The Israeli government condemned the attack, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a combination of “racism and violence.”
“In the state of Israel we will not tolerate racism nor the combination of racism and violence,” he declared.
But racism is deeply rooted in Israeli society. Israeli Arabs, while technically citizens with equal rights, are often treated as second-class citizens in their own country. They face widespread employment discrimination, even though they often hold advanced university degrees. One in five Israelis is an Arab, yet it took 59 years before an Arab was appointed to the Israeli cabinet.
A 2011 study commissioned by Israel’s Courts Administration and the Israeli Bar Association found that Israeli Arabs are given jail sentences more frequently than Jews convicted of the same crimes.
Israeli Jews cannot legally marry Arabs, be they Muslim or Christian.
These examples concern Israeli Arab citizens; there is far more racism and discrimination against Palestinian Arabs, who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing, illegal occupation, apartheid, economic strangulation and continuous colonization for more than 60 years.
In a 2007 survey conducted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, 75 percent of Jews surveyed said they would not want to live in the same neighborhood with Palestinians, and 74 percent of Jewish youth agreed with the statement that “Arabs are unclean.”
More than 90 percent of both the land and population of what is today Israel was Arab less than a century ago before Zionist colonization, terrorism and Jewish ethnic cleansing resulted in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.