Israeli President Shimon Peres traveled to an all-Muslim Arab town in Israel to express his “shame and outrage” over the brutal racist beating last Thursday of an Arab youth by a gang of two dozen Jewish teenagers.
During the attack last Thursday night in Zion Square, about two dozen Jewish youth surrounded Arab teen Jamal Julani, 17 (pictured above with mother), and began beating him, kicking him even after he fell to the ground, unconscious. Apparently the group was looking to assault any Arab they encountered after a girl in their gang said she was raped by a group of Arabs.
“I am full of shame and outrage at what we witnessed over the weekend in Jerusalem,” Peres said from the Arab town of Majd ek Karum in the northern Galilee. “Jamal Julani was beaten up for no reason other than because he is an Arab. This is an intolerable incident of violence that we must uproot from our midst. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and every effort must be made to bring Arab and Jewish youth together.”
In a nation sensitive to every perceived and real ethnic slight between Arabs and Jews, Peres knows the beating could have the potential to explode into a far bigger conflict.
Meanwhile, a 15-year-old boy who was in the gang said at his remand hearing that he would assault the Arab boy again because he deserved it.
“Yes, I was there,” said the boy, who police suspect was the first of the group to strike the victim. “He insulted my mom. So I caught him and beat him. I hit him and I hope he gets it again. I hope he dies. You can’t go by Damascus Gate without getting stabbed. So why do they come here? I beat him and I’d beat him again.”
Deputy police commander of the Lev Habira station Ronen Avniely provided a recap of the incident, saying police believe one of the teenage girls in the group incited the rest of her group to attack Arabs by speaking about a sexual assault she endured at the hands of Arabs.
“They were looking to hurt an Arab,” Avniely said.
The lawyer for the girl said she denies inciting the gang.
Avniely said he got a number of different accounts about what happened from the teenagers, with some of them even claiming that Arabs were harassing them. Eyewitnesses on the scene saw the Jewish teenagers beat Julani nearly to death.
There are a total of nine people being investigated so far, including two females. Police detained four suspects Monday morning, and four others were being remanded, including a 13-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy, a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl.
In addition, one 19-year-old Jerusalem resident arrested on Saturday afternoon was remanded Sunday at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Israel’s Education Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, said he has instructed educators to discuss the brutal beating with students as they return to school next week.
At a conference held in Jerusalem ahead of the new school year, Sa’ar said, “This is a very serious event, both in terms of violence and racism. The high number of teenagers that participated in the incident adds to that concern. The education system must and will put out an educational and ethical statement on the subject. which will be sharp and clear.”
Police have created a special investigative team to look into the incident and expect more arrests in coming days.
Police also said Julani had a heart defect, which could have contributed to the distress he experienced after the attack. When paramedics arrived on the scene, Julani no longer had a pulse and they had to use CPR and defibrillators for more than 10 minutes before his pulse returned. He was taken in critical but stable condition to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, where he is now conscious and no longer connected to a respirator or in intensive care.
Julani’s parents, from the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras el-Amud, told Israel Radio that their son was a “victim of terror.” They called on police to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice with the same intensity that they would if the victim were Jewish.
A crowd of 200 people demonstrated on Saturday night in Zion Square to show their disgust with the incident.