Three Arab men who were beaten last week by a group of Jews at a Haifa beach in an apparent hate crime said the outpouring of support following the violent attack has given them hope.
Muhammad Yusifin, Muatasim Ayoub, and Mawd Ayoub, revealed their identities to Channel 10 news after a solidarity event in their hometown of Shfaram on Monday night.
“After we received this outpouring of support from all kinds of people including Jews, Arabs and Knesset members, we felt secure enough to show our faces,” the men said. “We aren’t the ones who are criminals, we are the victims.”
“The support we received has given hope that this will not happen again in the future,” they said. “Change begins slowly at first, and we are just hoping for better days.”
Last week, Yusifin and both Ayoubs said they were relaxing at the Kiriyat Haim beach when they approached by a Jewish man who asked if they were Arab. When they told the man they were, he left them, but returned a short time later with 9 other men who proceeded to beat the three with chains and metal bars.
The victims described the attack as unprovoked and nationalistically motivated.
“They came over with knives, with metal bars. They just started beating us for no reason,” one of the three told Hadashot TV news on Saturday. “They planned to kill us, all three of us.”
“This was a nationalistic attack,” he added.
Two passersby intervened and stopped the attack. All three Arab men were hospitalized for their injuries.
At Monday’s solidarity event, Yusifin and both Ayoubs met Yair Alaluf, one of the Jewish men who stopped the attack and called police.
“No matter a person’s religion, race or gender, a human must be treated as a human,” the victims’s uncle told Alaluf. “We hope there will be more people like you in Israel and that we can end all these contemptible events.”
Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben Reuven also attended the event in Shfaram to express his “own personal pain” of learning of the hate crime. He called on police to find the remaining attackers and on his colleagues in the Knesset to unequivocally condemn the violent attack.
A number of Arab MKs tied the attack to the recently passed controversial law that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The head of the Joint (Arab) List party, Ayman Odeh and MK Aida Touma-Sliman pointed the finger at what they said was increasing Jewish nationalism and unchecked incitement against the Arab community that can be traced to the highest echelons of the government.
Earlier on Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin condemned the incident during a visit to the Arab town of Kafr Kassem, calling on police to quickly conclude the investigation.
“We need to understand that such extremism can lead us to lose control [of the situation],” Rivlin told residents. “We are all destined to live here together in this country and are not doomed to live like this.”
Three suspects have been arrested for their role in the attack. Two of them were released to house arrest by the Haifa Magistrate Court on Sunday.