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Israeli Arab activist stands firm after attack on flight

“The extremists on both sides—including our politicians—live off each other while the voice of sanity is cowed and frightened,” said Yoseph Haddad.

Pro-Israel activist Yoseph Haddad speaking to U.S. college students. Credit: Courtesy.
Pro-Israel activist Yoseph Haddad speaking to U.S. college students. Credit: Courtesy.

A prominent Israeli-Arab social media activist who was accosted on a flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv for his unabashedly pro-Israel posts said Wednesday that the assault only strengthened his views, and that he will not be deterred from speaking out.

Yoseph Haddad, 38, and his family were verbally and physically assaulted on Friday by two Arab passengers after boarding a FlyDubai flight to Tel Aviv from the United Arab Emirates.

“It is hard to say that everything is ok because my family is still traumatized by the incident,” Haddad told JNS in a telephone interview.  “But I will not be deterred because this is what they want: to silence and to frighten people who speak out.”

The incident, which he caught on video, shows the male Arab assailant shouting in Arabic “here he is, the garbage, the traitor, the dog.” The man, later identified as a resident of eastern Jerusalem, also threatened Haddad, telling him, “Your day will come, you dog.”

According to Haddad, the verbal assault then turned physical as a second Arab passenger knocked his phone out his hands. Haddad alerted the cabin crew and asked that the police be summoned.  Escorted from the plane by security, Haddad said that he chose not to file a police complaint as it would have required that he and his family remain in Dubai until the end of legal proceedings. They were quickly rebooked on an evening FlyDubai flight to Tel Aviv.

The two assailants were blacklisted by the airline, according to Haddad, who added that Dubai police were most helpful throughout the ordeal.

His mother, who is in her 60s, got shoved in the incident and had two fingers broken, Haddad said, noting that he had not known about this until his brother informed him on their return to the airport.

“All in all we were just returning from a vacation, and they wrecked it,” he said.

One of the suspects caught on film by Haddad, identified on social media only by his first name, Karim, later asserted that he himself had been assaulted by Haddad for “speaking Arabic” in an Arab country.

Upon his return to Israel it emerged that Karim works as a driver for a company that shuttles security guards in eastern Jerusalem, prompting calls among Israelis for his immediate dismissal.

Haddad, who is usually accompanied by security during his public appearances abroad, said this was the first time he had been accosted while with his family.

The Nazareth-born Haddad, who served in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces and has become a prominent international public speaker on behalf of Israel alongside his work for coexistence, said that he feels that most of the Israeli Arab public supports his pro-Israel views even if they are afraid to say so publicly, but are drowned out by a minority of extremists.

“The extremists on both sides—including our politicians—live off each other while the voice of sanity is cowed and frightened,” he said.

Hadad noted that he had been inundated with messages of sympathy from Arab Israelis—who make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population—in the aftermath of the attack, which many concurred crossed a red line even if they did not agree with his staunch pro-Israel views.

He added that instead of debating the issues the assailants chose to attack him.

“I will not be silenced. I will not let them deter me,” he concluded.

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