Riverdale train station
Riverdale train station Creative Commons

The New York State Appeals Court ruled Tuesday that an attack on a synagogue is a hate crime. The decision was made in an appeal filed by Mazin Assi, who threw firebombs at the Congregation Adath Israel in Riverdale on the day before Yom Kippur in 2000.

Convicted of attempted arson and criminal mischief as hate crimes, Assi was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison in 2003. He and three others had made firebombs out of vodka bottles and threw them through the glass door of the synagogue but the bombs did not explode.

'The victims were Jews'

Assi claimed in his appeal that the conviction should be reversed because the “hate crimes” statute refers to crimes against people and not against property.

The Court of Appeals in Albany rejected the claim. Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote: "It is self-evident that, although the target of the defendant's criminal conduct was a building, the true victims were the individuals of Jewish faith who were members of the synagogue,"

Assi, who is describes himself as a "Palestinian,” claimed that he attacked the synagogue because of Israeli violence against Arabs and the fact that "rich Jews in Riverdale send money over there and they buy guns and they are killing people.”