‘Suspects in brutal beating of two Palestinians tied to anti-miscegenation group’

Ten Jewish Israelis are suspected of severely beating two Palestinian men from Jerusalem in a wartime hate crime. Police believe some of the suspects are tied to right-wing anti-Arab group Lehava, Walla reports.

Several Jewish Israeli suspects in the brutal attack of two Palestinians from East Jerusalem on July 25th are connected to anti-miscegenation, anti-Arab group Lehava, according to a report by Walla! News on Monday.

In what Walla! describes as a “near lynch,” a group of about 10 Jewish Israelis from the East Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov assaulted Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz of Beit Hanina with bats and iron rods on a Friday evening during the height of the summer’s Gaza war (known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge). Both men were beaten unconscious and hospitalized in critical condition, only only recently improving to stable condition.

According to the report, the suspects had just left a shiva (Jewish ritual of seven days of mourning) for fallen IDF soldier Staff-Sgt. Moshe Malko, who was killed during an operation in Shujaiyeh in Gaza a few days earlier. From the investigation, it appears they set out looking to take revenge for Malko’s death. One of the suspects admitted in his interrogation that the motive for the assault was hatred of Arabs, according to Walla!. He added that he hates Arabs “just because. They are the enemy.” The investigation also allegedly revealed that several Jewish women who witnessed the beating did not call police, instead encouraging the attackers by screaming “death to Arabs.”

Neve Yaakov is a settlement in East Jerusalem adjacent to Beit Hanina, and the two communities have had violent confrontations in the past, especially since the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2 and the subsequent Gaza war.

Nine of the 10 suspects are not cooperating with police but one of them, a 14 year old, did talk. He reportedly told police that his brother, who was also allegedly involved in the attack, is an active member of anti-miscegenation group “Lehava.” According to the Walla! report, police believe many of those involved in the attack are active members of Lehava, an organization whose stated mission is to combat Jewish intermarriage but in practice engages in rampant and blatant anti-Arab incitement and racism.

Police also reportedly found that two of the suspects had been arrested in the past (more than once) for assaulting Palestinians (neither of them ever served time in jail) and several of the suspects were caught trying to hide evidence and coordinate their stories and alibis. For those who read Hebrew, the Walla! report publishes excerpts from the police’s surveillance and wiretaps of the suspects’ WhatsApp messages and phone conversations.

Severe beatings of Palestinians by Jewish youth, called by some Israeli media outlets as “near lynches,” are unfortunately not a new occurrence. In August 2012, 17-year old Jamal Julani was beaten unconscious in the middle of Zion Square by a group of Jewish youth while dozens of onlookers screamed “death to Arabs.”

Lehava leader Benzi Gupstein – a former Kach member and sworn Kahanist – told Walla! in a comment that Lehava “follows the law.” Police told the news outlet that they are aware of dozens of the organization’s members who are involved in “serious incitement.”

Last month Lehava organized a large protest against the marriage of a Palestinian Muslim from Jaffa to a Jewish convert to Islam. Several years ago, an expose in Haaretz revealed that Lehava was indirectly funded by the government.

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