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9 Jewish youths indicted in near-fatal beating of Palestinian teen

August 28, 2012 |  7:26 am

JERUSALEM -- Two weeks after the brutal beating of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, nine Jewish teenagers were indicted Tuesday in a Jerusalem court on charges of incitement to violence and commiting racially motivated assault.

Earlier this month, 17-year-old Jamal Julani was walking in downtown Jerusalem with a group of friends doing holiday shopping toward the end of Ramadan. His evening out ended in a hospital bed and serious injury after a group of Jewish teenagers attacked him without provocation, authorities said, brutally beating him unconscious.

Those indicted, according to Israeli media, were Shimon Simantov, 19; and eight minors including  a 15-year-old girl released to house arrest. According to the indictment, the group moved between several downtown flash points that evening looking to pick a fight with Palestinians, chanting racist slurs and intimidating Arab youths they encountered. Most hastened out of their way after being cursed, pushed and kicked, the indictment said.

Three Palestinian youths managed to escape at the beginning of the assault but Julani was beaten relentlessly and kicked while he lay unconscious on the ground, authorities said. The assault was almost fatal; Julani's heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated, according to a justice ministry statement on the indictments.

The incident drew widespread condemnation across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared Israel would "not tolerate racism" or "the combination of racism and violence," and President Shimon Peres, who expressed "shame" over the attack.

It also sounded an alarm among educators, headed by Minister of Education Gideon Saar, who said the education system would take a stand that would be "sharp and clear," and directed schools to discuss the incident with students upon their return to school this week.

An editorial in the liberal daily Haaretz had scolded Israeli society for feigning shock and wrote that the perpetrators, "children and teens ... absorbed hatred for Arabs from their environment," including the educational and political systems.

A recent poll conducted by Tel Aviv University among high school seniors found that more than half of them did not want to live next door to Arabs and most supported deporting African refugees from the country.

This month's beating of Jamal Julani, widely described by mainstream Israeli media as a "lynching," was defined as an "altercation" by Honenu, a right-wing organization that aids Jews in legal trouble for "defending themselves against Arab aggression or due to their love for Israel," including in this case.  

While Julani was recovering in a Jerusalem hospital, his mother told local media that she pitied her son's attackers -- and their mothers. "Who could be proud of a child who does a thing like this?" she asked.  

She believed her son's assailants would feel more shame and regret as they grew up. After his arrest, one of the teens had said that Julani could die for all he cares, explaining,"He's an Arab." 

-- Batsheva Sobelman