An Arab Israeli man who was assaulted in the coastal city of Bat Yam on the evening of Yom Kippur said Thursday that the attack was racially motivated and that he was treated disrespectfully by the police officers who were supposed to help him.
The incident took place at the city’s promenade on Tuesday evening, as Jews across the country marked Yom Kippur, a day of self-reflection and repentance that is considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Atef, a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel, was walking along the city’s promenade with four friends when a few locals heard the group speaking Arabic, according to Hebrew media reports.
“We were walking along the promenade and suddenly I smelled pepper spray. We saw a bunch of people coming and screaming, ‘Arabs! Arabs!’ and they tried to grab us,” Atef recalled in an interview Thursday with Channel 12.
“We tried to escape but they caught us and beat us up,” he said.
Atef and one of his friends were injured in the attack and were evacuated in good condition to a nearby hospital.
“My whole face is swollen,” said Atef.
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Atef also claimed that he was treated with disrespect by police officers who were there to protect him.
After police arrived, he said, he was put in a police vehicle, where the officers shouted at him, “Sit down, you bastard!”
“We didn’t do anything, we didn’t even talk to our attackers,” he added. “You can see it all in the cameras. It all happened within seconds.”
Atef said he has felt the loss of his personal security since the attack: “I can’t believe it, I’ve barely slept since.”
In another incident in Bat Yam Tuesday evening, a mob overturned a vehicle belonging to residents of the Arab town of Jaljulia.
Roads are largely clear of cars as is the national tradition; driving during the Jewish Day of Atonement is considered taboo, although there are always a number of emergency vehicles and others on the roads.
The Yom Kippur incidents were not the first such attacks in Bat Yam, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv.
Last year, a mob attacked an Arab motorist in the city during a spasm of intercommunal violence. A crowd yanked Saeed Mousa from his car and proceeded to beat him in an assault that left him motionless and bloodied on the ground, and seriously injured.
The beating occurred while Israel was at war with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. The 11-day war in May 2021 ignited an unprecedented wave of internecine Jewish-Arab violence in cities around the country.
At least 10 people have been charged in that incident.