Jewish Israeli sentenced to 38 months for racist assault on Arab last year

Nissim Azulay, 29, is the second to be sentenced among six individuals indicted for attacking 60-year-old Ghassan Haj Yahya

Torched synagogues, cars and vandalized stores in Lod, following a night of ethnic rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, May 12, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Torched synagogues, cars and vandalized stores in Lod, following a night of ethnic rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, May 12, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A Jewish Israeli man was sentenced on Monday to three years and two months behind bars for his part in a mob assault of an Arab man last year during a wave of intense intercommunal violence in the country.

Nissim Azulay, 29, of Petah Tikva was convicted of aggravated assault and vandalizing a vehicle, both with racist intent, during the May 2021 incident outside the Sidna Ali Mosque in Herzliya.

According to police, as many as 15 men participated in the assault on Ghassan Haj Yahya, an Arab Israeli resident of Taibe, who was eating the Ramadan fast-breaking meal in his car outside the Sidna Ali Mosque in Herzliya on May 12, 2021, as Jewish-Arab ethnically motivated violence was tearing through the country, particularly in mixed cities, against the backdrop of the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

The suspects waited for a parked police car to drive away before converging on Yahya’s vehicle, shouting “Arab!” the indictment said. At one point, one of the suspects hit Yahya’s head with a rock, while another suspect sprayed pepper spray in his face.

Azulay was indicted for throwing a bottle at Yahya’s vehicle while others threw rocks at the victim and his vehicle. According to the indictment, Azulay was actively involved in the intentional and racially motivated assault.

Azulay, who has previously served two jail sentences of one and two years respectively, had intended to search for and confront Arab individuals during the evening of the assault, the prosecution claimed throughout the case.

Describing his attackers to the Ynet news site after the assault, Yahya said “there was murder in their eyes. They were looking for someone to murder no matter if I did anything or not.

“I was sure I was a dead man. The attackers broke the car window… They wanted to murder me and kept stating that I was an Arab. I was fearful and in shock.”

Yahya required hospitalization due to the injuries he sustained in the attack.

“The plaintiff, a 60-year-old man, was trapped alone in his car, unable to escape, as the defendants and a group of 20 people were surrounding him like a pack of wolves,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

“Without diminishing from other incidents, I believe that attacking a person on the street, where he can escape and defend himself, is not the same as attacking a person trapped inside his parked vehicle. A group of young assailants attacking another group of young individuals is not the same as a group of young people attacking a single 60-year-old person, who could not be heard even if he screamed and shouted,” the judge added.

A second man, Yaakov Atenau, was sentenced in May to five years for taking part in the same assault. He was also ordered by the Tel Aviv District Court to pay Yahya NIS 5,000 in compensation.

Six people in all were indicted in the incident.

Hundreds of indictments have been filed against mostly Arabs, but some Jews as well, over the days of rioting in which mobs on each side attacked members of the opposite ethnicity, in a rash of violence the likes of which hadn’t been seen in decades. The tensions were partially fueled by Israel’s conflict with Gaza-based terrorists and violent pro-Palestinian protests in Jerusalem.

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