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Severe attack on Palestinian teen spotlights conflict's impact on Israeli youths

Israelis wonder what it says about society that their youths attacked Palestinian teens in Jerusalem last week. In the past, they've often blamed such attacks on extremists and the mentally ill.

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When news broke last week that an Arab teenager was in a coma after being beaten by Jewish youths in downtown Jerusalem, initial police reports said it was the result of a “brawl.” But it soon became apparent that the Jewish crowd had set upon three Arab teenagers from East Jerusalem simply because they were overheard speaking Arabic, and the public began calling the disturbing incident a “lynching.”

“I don’t know what to call it, but a fight is when one is hitting the other,” says Nariman Julani, sitting by the hospital bedside of her son Jamal Julani, a 17-year-old high school student, who is recovering after coming out of his coma on Aug. 19.

The Palestinian youths, from Ras el-Amud in East Jerusalem, were out for an evening walk in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square when they heard “Death to the Arabs” and were set upon by a crowd. Julani’s friends escaped, but he fell and was beaten unconscious.

“Even two or three on one, that’s getting beaten up,” says Mrs. Julani. “But 40 on one? That’s a death sentence. It’s a miracle my son is alive.”

The thought that Israeli youths are capable of such violence has unleashed a stream national soul-searching and self-criticism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack as “reprehensible,” while President Shimon Peres said that the incident filled him with “shame.”

Most remarkably, no one has tried to excuse it as an aberrant incident perpetrated by extremists or someone who is mentally ill.

There are indications, according to a new study, that children’s exposure to the politically motivated violence of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict makes them more aggressive. The study, completed by a team of American, Israeli, and Palestinian researchers and funded by the US National Institutes of Health, identified a rising trend of violence among children here, finding a correlation between their exposure to political violence and their own violent behavior.

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