‘Even when the war in Gaza ends, our internal war will continue,’ says Jerusalem Palestinian. Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians have been arrested for rioting, stone throwing, even shooting
Times of Israel
It’s not that Samer Mahfouz was unaware of the nationalistic tension plaguing Jerusalem since the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers on June 12.
But when the 20-year-old water heater technician joined his friend Amir Shweiki at the northern neighborhood of Neve Yaakov on July 25 to search for Shweiki’s lost employee card, the last thing he expected was to be brutally assaulted just for being an Arab.
Seated on a wheelchair outside the neurosurgery department at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, a dark scab still visible on his forehead, Mahfouz told The Times of Israel what had transpired that Friday night.
They had despaired of finding the lost card, and were sitting on a bench not far from their neighborhood of Beit Hanina, sipping water after the long Ramadan fast.
“Around nine thirty a tall man with long hair approached us and asked Amir in Hebrew if he had a lighter and a cigarette. Amir said he didn’t. The man left, and came back about ten minutes later with eight or nine guys, Jews.”
“They didn’t speak to us at all, all we heard them say was Aravim, Aravim (Arabs, Arabs). They didn’t even give us a chance to speak, they just started beating us all at once.”
Mahfouz said he and Shweiki were attacked with baseball bats, metal bars and pepper spray.
“Amir fell down, and they continued hitting him while he was on the ground,” he continued. “I also fell, and they hit us for a long time. We couldn’t do anything. I think Amir must have imagined he is about to die, and so did I.”
Workers clean off graffiti at the Jewish-Arab bilingual school in Jerusalem reading ‘death to Arabs’ and ‘Kahana was right,’ February 7, 2012 (photo credit: Flash90)
Mahfouz began to scream, alerting an Arab neighbor who came outside in his shorts and slippers to see what was happening. “Windows started opening and neighbors were coming down,” he said. The assailants, realizing they were noticed, fled.
The police soon arrived and began investigating Shweiki and Mahfouz, who were lying bloody on the ground. Here narratives diverge; Mahfouz says he had asked for an ambulance which the policemen refused to call. Jerusalem police claim that an ambulance was summoned, but the youths’ families refused to wait and evacuated them independently to an East Jerusalem clinic, and then to Al-Maqased hospital. Having suffered severe blows to the head, they were subsequently moved to Hadassah Hospital.
On Wednesday, three suspects were arrested by police for involvement in the attack. A fourth was apprehended on Thursday. Their detention has been extended until Sunday.
Mahfouz’s story is extreme, but not surprising to those following tensions rise in Jerusalem over the past weeks and months.
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Israel police, told the Times of Israel that the suspects are being investigated to discover whether their motives in the attack were nationalistic or criminal. He noted, however, that violence between Jews and Arabs has spiked over the past weeks in Jerusalem. Most of the fights are “local”, he said, but reflect a rise in political tension across the city.
In parallel, since the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2 likely by Jewish extremists, sporadic disturbances from Arab residents have peaked in the Old City and outlying neighborhoods. Dozens of Palestinians have been arrested for rioting, stone throwing, and even shooting.
The apparently nationalistic murder of Abu Khdeir came on the heals of the funerals of three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, kidnapped and executed by two Hamas terrorists from Hebron who are still at large, Israel has charged.
On July 26, Israeli border police arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian woman in Jerusalem’s Old City who tried to carry out a stabbing attack. “I wanted to stab a solider or policeman over the situation in Gaza,” she said. Another Palestinian youth was arrested on Jerusalem’s tram July 13 with a pocket knife.
Following recurrent cases of Palestinian stone throwing at the tram, the Jerusalem municipality attached a small flying robot to the tram; filming its vicinity and broadcasting the footage to a control center. Service was stopped to the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina during rioting that followed Abu Khdeir’s murder which damaged train tracks and stops, but resumed two weeks later.
Right wing Jewish Nazi teenagers wearing stickers that say ‘Kahana was right’ and ‘Revenge’ seen giving the finger and yelling at Arab women sitting inside the tram in central Jerusalem during a large right wing protest against Arab terrorism, July 1, 2014, in response to the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teens (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)