Two men charged with battering a Jewish man will spend little to no time in jail for their role in the anti-Semitic hate crime, the Manhattan district attorney’s office told the Washington Free Beacon this week.
Manhattan’s top prosecutor, Alvin Bragg (D.), offered Waseem Awawdeh and Faisal Elezzi—two of four men charged with violently beating and pepper-spraying a Jewish man in 2021—reduced sentences as part of the plea deals, which will see Awawdeh spend six months in jail and Elezzi entering an intensive treatment program, according to the district attorney’s office. The four men allegedly participated in a gang attack on Joseph Borgen, who was beaten and called anti-Semitic slurs as he made his way to a pro-Israel demonstration.
The light sentences are generating anger among Jewish advocates who say it is unacceptable for New York City authorities to offer the men plea deals as violence against Jews surges to its highest levels in history. New York City has become a hotbed of anti-Semitic violence, with police reporting 263 separate attacks in 2022, an average of 1 incident every 33 hours, according to the Times of Israel. These numbers mark a sharp increase from 2020 and 2021 and come as anti-Semitic rhetoric bubbles into the mainstream via prominent figures like rapper Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving.
Jewish advocates said Awawdeh’s plea deal of six months in prison is particularly offensive due to a claim that he reportedly made to jailers: “If I could do it again, I would do it again.”
Dov Hikind (D.), a former New York state assemblyman and the founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, an advocacy group, said that Bragg “is all about a perversion of justice. He has more pity, more concern for the perpetrators than the victims.”
Hikind, who is Jewish and works to galvanize the community against the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, said what is happening in New York City to Jews is “just beyond comprehension.” In November of last year alone, he said, citing figures from the New York Police Department, there were three times as many attacks on Jews as on all other ethnic categories combined.
Hikind’s organization, Americans Against Anti-Semitism, held a public demonstration on Wednesday outside the Brooklyn criminal courthouse to demand justice for Blake Zavadsky, a Jewish man who says that several men called him and his friend “dirty Jews” and punched him for wearing an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt. On Thursday, a similar demonstration will be held for Borgen, the Jewish man attacked by Awawdeh and his allies.
“All we’re asking for is justice,” Hikind said. “We want [the district attorneys] to care more about victims of crimes than the perpetrators.”
An official in the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Awawdeh was offered a plea deal because he only attacked the victim with a crutch and did not use pepper spray, kick the victim, or punch him, as the other attackers did. No specific reason for Elezzi’s reduced sentence was given.
“Anti-Semitic hate has no place in Manhattan, and the office is requiring felony hate crime pleas and incarceration for three men charged in connection to this despicable attack,” a spokesman for the district attorney’s office told the Free Beacon.
Hikind described this rationale as “pretty sick” and said, “When it comes to Jew-hatred, it’s just treated differently than anything else.”
Canary Mission, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism online, also expressed outrage over the two plea deals.
The six-month sentence for Awawdeh, the organization said, “is completely unacceptable. The claim that he should get a lighter sentence downplays his hate-filled motivations and diminishes the brutality of his actions.”
“Given the rise in violent hate crimes against Jews in [New York City], we would expect an unrepentant and anti-Semitic criminal to be convicted to the highest degree,” Canary Mission told the Free Beacon.
The watchdog group recently published online profiles for the four charged attackers in the Borgen case, including Awawdeh, who has reportedly attended anti-Israel demonstrations in the past.
The other two individuals charged in the Borgen beating—Mohammed Othman and Mahmoud Musa—were not offered plea deals. They must plead to the highest charge and face a minimum of 3-and-a-half years and maximum of 15 years in prison, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
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