An Israeli student at the University of Genoa in Italy was harassed and threatened by Palestinian students last Tuesday, only to be ignored by the police.
Assaf, a 26-year-old Israeli architecture student, was eating at the cafeteria when Ibrahim Haji, a student from Gaza, came and began taunting him.
"He came towards me, punched me and said 'why are you looking at me?' I told him I wasn't looking at him, and asked him to let me eat in peace," Assaf said. "A minute later he was back, swinging a fork, and called me in front of everyone to come outside while cursing Israel
and declaring his intention to kill.
I understood that I have to avoid this dangerous situation. I told my Italian friends, who were eating with me, that I'm going back to my room so as not to respond to this provocation. On my way out I turned to the cashier and told her, 'Call the police. You heard the man threatening to kill,' and she responded, 'It's not my job to separate Jews and Arabs.'"
Assaf's attempt to distance himself from the fight failed. Ibrahim waited for him outside and went for the attack. As Assaf tried to defend himself, Italian passersby stepped in to intervene and held him back. Ibrahim took the opportunity to draw a large kitchen knife. The Italian students tried to stop him.
"I saw death in front of my eyes. I broke free and ran into the storage in the kitchen and locked myself in. After a few minutes more Muslim students arrived and began shouting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great) and 'Itbach el Yahud' (slaughter the Jews). Later I understood that there are over 40 angry students there.
The Italians disappeared; they were scared to deal with them. I managed to get myself into the trash facility. I climbed a three-meter wall and jumped. I told myself it's better to break a leg than to get killed."
Assaf said that he went to the police but was ignored, until he turned to the community rabbi and additional Jewish families for assistance. "We filed an official complaint with the police, and they even informed the local investigation agency," said Chaim Amar, a 28-year-old medical student who serves as a security officer at the local synagogue. "Unfortunately, nothing came of it so far."
According to Amar, the police are familiar with Haji from previous violent incidents. It wasn't his first time threatening the life of an Israeli student, and he reportedly harasses female Israeli students regularly. "It's a matter of time before his next violent outburst," Amar said.
For Assaf, life has yet to return to normal. "Only one lone Italian student came up to me and said that he was willing to testify to the police about what happened. All the rest – even the guy who shares my dorm room and witnessed the incident – saw everything but are afraid to be associated in the case. The house mother at the dorms came up to me and said, 'why are to turning to the police? It will ruin his life.' In her opinion, if I'm kicked out of the dorms it would be the best solution."
"We are taking action along with the local authorities to make sure that the Israeli students can continue to study in Genoa safely," a security officer at the Israeli Embassy in Rome responded.
Italian police do not secure university campuses, and have recently drawn criticism for failing prevent fans from sneaking grenades and fire crackers into a stadium during a Serbia-Italy soccer game.