A CAULFIELD man, who was brutally bashed and called a “Jewish dog” by two Arab-speaking men, has described being the target of online hate in the wake of the racially motivated attack as “far more disturbing than the actual assault”.
Zachary Gomo, an Australian who served in the IDF, was viciously assaulted by two men in Parnell Street, Elsternwick last Thursday night around 10pm as he walked to his girlfriend’s house. The men shouted “Allah hu Akbar” (God is great) and made mention of Gaza in Arabic as they beat Gomo. The 28-year-old – who suffered a black eye, swelling to his face and several cuts and bruises – fought off his attackers and startled them by screaming at them in Arabic.
Gomo later realised the shirt he was wearing had been slashed, and police said his injuries were probably caused by an object such as a screwdriver, though Gomo has no recollection of a weapon being used in the assault.
At the time of the attack, Gomo was wearing an Israel Defence Forces shirt, but he told The AJN that while there is Hebrew writing on it, there was nothing to identify it as being IDF issue.
“It says in Hebrew ‘End of course 2008’ and has a picture of a scorpion and it says the word ‘Stinger’.” Nobody who’s not a Hebrew speaker would ever be able to identify that as having anything to do with the military.
“It’s pretty straightforward – they saw Hebrew, Hebrew equals Jew and that was the instigator for the attack.”
Gomo said he initially tried to protect himself by covering his head and face with his hands, but began to fight back when the men tried to drag him away.
“That’s when I realised, they weren’t just going to punch a few times and run off, so I started punching back,” Gomo said.
“I managed to grab one of them by the throat and squeeze his wind pipe as hard as I could, and I started screaming back at them in Arabic, which startled them quite a bit and when I released the man’s neck, they ran off.”
Glen Eira Bayside Crime Investigation Unit detectives are investigating the attack, with a spokesperson from Victoria Police telling The AJN the assailants were of “Middle Eastern appearance”.
“Detectives do not believe this was a targeted attack but an opportunistic incident. Anyone who witnessed the incident is urged to contact CrimeStoppers.”
Reports of the incident were published on news websites around the world, attracting vitriol from posters who blamed Gomo for the attack.
In a thread on Facebook, one user likened wearing an IDF shirt to wearing a “swastika armband or burning a cross”, while another posted “… he was clearly trying to provoke without any self-awareness of how the IDF treats others indiscriminately”.
One poster added: “A person wearing an IDF insignia deserves to get beaten up. No-one deserves to be called a ‘Jewish dog’. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not anti-Zionism.”
In the comments section of articles posted on Israeli news website Haaretz and Daily Mail Australia, readers said the IDF was “a legitimate target wherever they are”, and conflated wearing an IDF shirt with wearing a shirt promoting terror group ISIL.
Gomo said the public reaction to the attack has been hard to handle.
“I find the suggestion that the T-shirt had anything to do with it so offensive, and symbolic of a really problematic trend in society. As soon as we start justifying people being assaulted in dark streets because of clothing, that’s a Pandora’s box.
“[Criticism of Israel] is a really convenient cloak for pure and simple anti-Semites to describe their racism and hatred in political terms.”
Zachary Gomo was the victim of a vicious assault by two Arab-speaking men last week.