"This is government brutality," protesters chanted Monday in a Tel Aviv rally condemning the assault of Hassan Usruf, an Arab-Israeli man in his 40s, by 20 Jewish youngsters.
The protesters, some 130 people, including Knesset members and activists, urged the police to expedite the investigation, as no suspects were detained thus far, and insisted that the case would not be solved "because it targeted an Arab."
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Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Assaf Zamir said in the protest: "We mustn't be apathetic to incidents of racism in a city that's supposed to set an example of coexistence between Jews and Arabs."
Usruf, who works as a street cleaner for the Tel Aviv Municipality, was assaulted Sunday around 4 am, as a group of teens gathered around him. According to Usruf, the teens yelled at him: "You're an Arab. You want a state? Is that what you want?
Tel Aviv protest (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
"I told them 'calm down,'" Usruf added, "and then they grabbed me and began to hit me. One of them hit me in the head with a bottle. I fell to the ground, and they took turns kicking and hitting me. I shouted, 'We are all brothers. For me there are no Jews or Arabs.'"
According to Usruf, it was at this point that he felt his life was in danger. "I told myself I would never make it home. They were drunk and beat me because I'm Arab. They were racists," he recounted.
"I tried to run away, but I couldn't. I was on the ground, alone against 20 people. God loves me so I survived. I've been working with Jews for years and they are like brothers to me, but these people were drunken racists."
He was admitted to the Sourasky Medical Center with injuries to his head, eye socket and jaw. The Tel Aviv District Police launched an investigation into the incident and are looking into the possibility that the assault was nationalistically-motivated.
Nariman Usruf, the victim's wife, was encouraged by the protest. As for her husband's condition, she told Ynet: "He's still weak and in pain. When he tries to get out of bed he gets dizzy. He will be having eye surgery soon."
After visiting Usruf in the hospital, MK Dov Khenin noted that "it was hard to see him that way and to explain to his children how it could be that their father was attacked when all he did was go to work. We have a dangerous tie between racism and violence. We shouldn't allow it in this country."
Among the protesters, some pointed blame at the leadership and insisted that racist statements by leaders instill hatred in the hearts of children. Political activist Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka made a speech at the assembly, saying: "The government greenlights such incidents."
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