Man Sentenced to 4 Years for 'Hate Crimes'

A man from Haifa was convicted for threatening to kill Ethiopian residents and setting fires to their buildings.

Kochava Rozenbaum ,

Ethiopian Jews in Jerusalem
Ethiopian Jews in Jerusalem
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Haifa resident, 27, was sentenced on Monday to four years in prison. The defendant was found guilty of arson and ‘hate crimes’ against Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia motivated by “pure racism and hatred,” according to the judge ruling in his case.

The man was convicted of a chain of incidents, the first occurring in 2011 when the defendant set fire to his mother’s neighbors’ house. The man piled wood and furniture on the lawn in front of his mother’s building and then set them aflame.

The neighbors, who were identified by the man as Ethiopians, tried to extinguish the flames, but the defendant prevented them from doing so, while shouting at them, “I’ll get a knife and you’ll be finished. Ethiopians, I’ll set you on fire.”

In another incident, he set fire to one of his neighbor's tires. Again, the man threatened to “burn all the Ethiopians in the building” and subsequently fled the scene as soon as the fire went out.

While the trial revealed this man’s recent crimes, it appears that the defendant had been convicted several times over the past 20 years.

The defendant had a meltdown during the trial as he burst into tears in the courtroom, saying that he and his family were struggling financially, attributing his outbursts to his “anger over his mother’s withholding of financial aid during his economic distress.”

Judge Diana Sela noted that “there is no explanation as to why his threats were not directed at his mother, but at her neighbors of Ethiopian origin.”

The judge added that “the atmosphere arising from the defendant’s comments suggests that these were hate crimes that stemmed from racism, which must be uprooted. Everywhere, and specifically in the State of Israel, which was destined to harbor all Jews, whoeer they are, we must eliminate the freedom some people allow themselves to hurt, including physical and verbal violence, perpetrated only due to someone else’s origin or race, belief or orientation.”

The Haifa resident now faces four years imprisonment and 15 years probation and will reimburse 7,000 NIS to the owner of the car that was vandalized.