The Guardian / May 13, 2021
Far-right crowd in Tel Aviv pull man they thought to be an Arab from his car and beat him in the street.
As airstrikes and rocket fire continued across Israel and Gaza, towns with mixed Jewish and Arab populations have been struck by some of the worst communal violence that Israel has seen in years.
Late on Wednesday a mob of far-right Israelis dragged a man they thought was an Arab from his car and beat him until he lay on the ground motionless and bloodied.
Footage of the attack in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb, was broadcast live on television but police and emergency services did not arrive on the scene until 15 minutes later, while the victim lay motionless on his back in the middle of the street.
Those in the crowd justified the attack by saying the man was an Arab who had tried to ram the far-right nationalists, but the footage showed a motorist trying to avoid the demonstration.
“The victim of the lynching is seriously injured but stable,” Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital said in a statement.
Elsewhere in Bat Yam, a group of black-clad Israelis smashed the windows of an Arab-owned ice-cream shop and ultranationalists could be seen chanting: “Death to Arabs!” on live television during a standoff with border police.
In the northern city of Tiberias, video uploaded to social media appeared to show flag-waving Israelis attacking a car.
Earlier on Wednesday, the mayor of Lod, a city with both Jewish and Arab residents, warned that “civil war” was breaking out after Arab mourners clashed with police.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called on both Jews and Arabs to cease attacks on each other: “It doesn’t matter to me that your blood is boiling. You can’t take the law in your hands,” he said.
Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism party, said he was “ashamed” of the “atrocious cruelty” of the Bat Yam attack.
“Jewish brothers, stop! We cannot under any circumstances allow ourselves to take part in violent acts,” he cautioned.
Israel’s chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yossef, also called for an end to attacks by Jews.
“Innocent citizens are being attacked by terrorist organisations, the heart is heavy and the images difficult, but we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into provocations and aggressions,” he said.
Demonstrations by far-right Israelis broke out in several cities on Wednesday night, leading to clashes with police and sometimes Arab Israelis.
Police said they arrested nearly 400 people allegedly “involved in riots and disturbances” in cities across the country on Wednesday.
Netanyahu visited Lod and Acre, where he pledged to “stop the anarchy” and restore order “with an iron fist if needed”. Authorities deployed hundreds of police reinforcements to Lod and other areas, including paramilitary border police who usually operate in the occupied West Bank.
“The rioters in Lod and Acre do not represent Israeli Arabs, the rioters in Bat Yam … do not represent Israeli Jews, violence will not dictate our lives,” said opposition leader, Yair Lapid, who is tasked with forming a government after March elections.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have launched hundreds of rockets since Monday at Israel, which has carried out airstrikes on the crowded coastal enclave.
The most intense hostilities in seven years between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups were triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Arab citizens of Israel have held mass protests across the country over Israel’s policing of a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem and plans to evict dozens of Palestinian families in the city after a legal campaign by Jewish settlers.
Adding to the tensions are increasingly powerful far-right groups in Israel that won seats in March elections and are allied with Netanyahu.