Israeli prosecutors indicted a 17-year-old settler of assaulting Rabbi Arik Ascherman, founder of the Rabbis for Human Rights group, which advocates for the rights of Palestinians.
The indictment submitted Friday alleges the youth, whose name was not reported to media because of his age, hurling rocks and beating Ascherman, as well as threatening him with a knife. The alleged attacker is a resident of the West Bank settlement of Itamar.
The defendant is charged with aggravated assault and “causing bodily harm with intent.” Ascherman sustained minor injuries from the assault. Reports about the indictment did not specify how the defendant pleaded.
The defendant allegedly attacked Ascherman at a Palestinian olive harvest on October 23.
A video of the incident showed an extremist Jewish activist armed with a knife chasing, beating and possibly attempting to stab Ascherman, who was part of a group of left-wing activists that accompanied Palestinian villagers to their fields to harvest olives near Nablus.
According to activists such as Ascherman, Palestinians often face harassment and violence from Jewish extremists during their olive harvests.
The suspect in the attack was arrested by the nationalist crimes division of the Judea and Samaria Police at 2 a.m. Sunday, police said. He reportedly confessed his actions to the arresting officers.
Ascherman praised the police and said it showed that when there was willingness, authorities were able to pursue the perpetrators of crimes against Palestinians. Still, he cited figures showing a low conviction rate.
“The arrest proves that when the desire is there, it is possible to locate suspects in violent crimes motivated by nationalistic ideology — even if the victims are Palestinian ones. … Should the suspect be found responsible, we expect the court to give a sentence that reflects the severity of violent ideological crimes,” he said in a statement.
The Palestinian harvest on the day of the incident was accompanied by Israeli police protection. A 2006 court ruling requires Israel to protect Palestinian harvests from attack.
But shortly after the harvest had wrapped up and the security forces had left, Ascherman tried to approach and film Israelis who were apparently setting fire to a nearby grove when the masked suspect came rushing toward him.
Video captured by Rabbis for Human Rights showed Ascherman scuffling for about a minute with the knife-wielding man, who at one point had Ascherman in a headlock. The rabbi broke a finger and was bruised in the attack.
On Sunday, the suspect’s lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir charged that Ascherman was being “provocative” at the time he was attacked.
“It’s unfortunate that at a time when terror attacks are targeting settlers, the nationalist crimes unit is dealing with an incident involving a left-wing provocateur who is provoking the settlers and inciting Arabs to carry out terror attacks against Jews,” Ben Gvir said.
Last week, Ascherman told AP that the attack on him showed how Jewish extremists, who are rarely apprehended or prosecuted, are undeterred from continuing their attacks.
“We’ve created… a Frankenstein’s monster that’s turned on its creator,” he said. The extremist settlers “believe that they are the lords of the land.”
AP contributed to this report.