By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times –
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday condemned the brutal beating of a Palestinian teenager by a gang of Jewish youths shouting anti-Arab slurs.
Though racially motivated attacks by both Israelis and Palestinians are not uncommon, the latest incident — which occurred in central Jerusalem last Thursday night — has triggered a wave of soul-searching among Israelis, particularly after one of the suspects expressed pride in his actions because the victim was an Arab.
“In the state of Israel, we are not prepared to tolerate racism,” Netanyahu said Tuesday. “This is not our way. … We will quickly bring to justice those responsible for this reprehensible incident.”
Israeli police have so far arrested seven teenagers in the attack, including some girls.
“He could die for all I care,” said one unidentified male suspect Monday as he was brought before court. “He’s an Arab.”
Police say the attack was carried out by scores of Jewish youths who roamed through a popular pedestrian thoroughfare of central Jerusalem in search of Arabs.
They descended upon Jamal Julani, 17, and beat him into unconsciousness. Scores of bystanders watched in horror but did not intervene, police said. Some bystanders even harassed emergency responders as they worked to save Julani’s life. He has since awaken from a coma and is recovering in an Israeli hospital.
Government officials and analysts said the attack and the lack of remorse expressed by the alleged assailants raised questions about the current level of tolerance of Israeli society and the values being instilled in the nation’s youth.
The beating followed a separate attack Thursday in the West Bank, where six Palestinians were injured when their car was set on fire by a Molotov cocktail allegedly thrown by a Jewish settler.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon called the attacks “acts of terror that go against Jewish values and morals and display an educational and moral failure.”
The nation’s education minister said Tuesday he would make an effort to address the issue of tolerance in Israeli schools. A 2010 poll found that half of Israeli Jewish schoolchildren do not believe Arabs are entitled to equal rights.
Others said the attack reflected long-simmering anger and hatred between many Israelis and Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, a city shared by 500,000 Jews and 284,000 Arabs.