Outrage over Arab attack on Jewish tourists in Lod after guide arrested instead of gang

Religious Zionism party head Betzalel Smotrich: “Something very bad is happening to the Israel Police.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Right-wing politicians and activists expressed outrage on Wednesday in the aftermath of an Arab attack on a group of Jewish students in the central Israeli city of Lod the previous day, after police failed to detain the rioters and instead arrested the group’s tour guide and summoned its rabbi for questioning.

“Something very bad is happening to the Israel Police,” Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich said. “Again and again we hear how Jewish victims of crime are portrayed as those guilty of the offenses, in order to obtain artificial calm which will eventually explode in our faces.”

The group of religious high school students from the southern town of Mitzpe Ramon was touring the mixed Arab-Jewish city a year after it was the site of violent Arabs riots during the 11-day conflict with Hamas in May 2021.

Without any provocation, the group was attacked with rocks by an Arab mob, according to local activist and spokesman of the Israel Security and Defense Forum, Meir Layosh. The group fled into a nearby synagogue after one of them was attacked with pepper spray and called the police.

Police officers escorted the group to safety outside the city, but then raided the tour guide’s home in the middle of the night. The guide was handcuffed and detained on suspicion of causing damage to property. Police officers also arrived at the home of the group’s rabbi, but his absence meant he was later summoned for questioning at the Lod station.

The police released the guide after a few hours of interrogation. His lawyer, Adi Keidar of Honenu, a group that provides legal aid for Jewish citizens and soldiers who are arrested after confrontations with Arabs, was incensed at the police’s actions.

“In the middle of the night, they arrested a father of four, a law-abiding citizen and teacher, in front of his wife, for no reason whatsoever, and of course released him after their investigation,” he said.

“It seems the police are continuing their defense of the [Arab] minority, continuing to chase the victims and not the criminals. This is a continuation of the downgrading of governance and of the safety of the citizens,” he added.

Israel Police responded with a vaguely worded statement that did not make the identity of the victims or the perpetrators clear.

“Last night, Lod police officers handled a large-scale brawl in Lod, in which fireworks were launched, pepper spray was employed and stones were thrown, one of which hurt an 11-year-old resident, according to medical sources,” the statement said.

“Meanwhile, police arrested three suspects in last night’s incident after examining documentation, evidence and other findings, releasing one of them at the end of his interrogation under restrictive conditions. Two more will be brought to court this morning with a request to extend their detention in accordance as necessary.”

Police spokespeople later said that “two suspects in the attack on the Jews were arrested,” Layosh said in a tweet.

Layosh, who was heavily involved in defending his Lod neighbors during last year’s riots, said: “We congratulate the force on the arrest and now call on the police to close the case against the tour guide and immediately cancel the restrictions that were put on him.”

He also called on Israel Police to provide an explanation justifying the 3:30 a.m. arrest of a “normal civilian” which included “hand and foot cuffing in front of his wife and children.”