Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday condemned attacks against Arabs over the weekend, saying that Israel will not tolerate racism and violence. Six Palestinians were hurt on Thursday when the taxi they were riding in was firebombed near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, and a group of Arab youths was viciously attacked in Jerusalem's Zion Square, with one left in critical condition.
"In the State of Israel, we are not prepared to tolerate racism; neither are we prepared to tolerate the combination of racism and violence," Netanyahu said. "I have just spoken with Hadassah Medical Organization Director-General Professor Ehud Kokia. I asked him about how the victims of this terrible incident in Jerusalem are doing. This is something that we cannot accept — not as Jews, not as Israelis.
"This is not our way," continued Netanyahu. "This goes against our way, and we condemn it in word and deed. We will quickly bring to justice those responsible for this reprehensible incident. We say as clearly as possible: The State of Israel is a democratic and enlightened state in which when we come across acts such as these, the entire state and all of its leaders come out together against such phenomena, and we will continue to do so. This is what makes us unique in the environment around us and this will continue to make us unique. I hope that one day our environment will change as well. But we will be persistent in our complete opposition to racism and violence."
Israel's Maariv newspaper reported Wednesday that police were at the scene of Thursday night's attempted lynching in Jerusalem, but left just before the real violence began. According to an eyewitness, a police patrolman arrived at the scene and saw a group of Jewish youths engaging in disorderly behavior, but left the scene without intervening.
Mohammed, one of the eyewitnesses who works close to the scene of where the incident began, claimed he telephoned the police hotline and reported the spat. He says a policeman on a motorcycle arrived a few minutes later and saw the crowd chasing after the Arab youths, but did not interfere.
"The policeman got there exactly as the youths started yelling 'death to the Arabs.' He was right in the middle of all the craziness, heard the cursing, saw how they were chasing the Arabs and beating them, but he didn't care. He decided not to interfere and didn't call for backup," he said.
The Jerusalem Police Department told Maariv that a patrol officer did indeed arrive at the scene after a complaint was received and that according to the officer he surveyed the scene and reported that some of the youths had dispersed while others made their way toward Zion Square.
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old woman was arrested on Tuesday for her alleged involvement in the incident. She is the eighth suspect arrested in connection with the case after police arrested six others on Monday, and one on Saturday.
On Wednesday, President Shimon Peres reiterated his condemnation of the incident. Speaking at a conference on education in the central Israeli city of Holon, Peres said that the Jerusalem lynch was an educational failure as the minors involved do not even regret it. He added that Israel has forgotten some of its values. While land and the nation are important, the value of a human life is just as important, he said.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar has directed schools to open the new school year next week with a lesson about the lynching.