Austin police have announced that the stabbing of a 23-year-old Palestinian American near the University of Texas campus is being classified as a hate crime. The victim, Zacharia Doar, was attacked while riding in a truck displaying support for Palestine. Bert James Baker, 36, has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the incident.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Doar was one of four Muslim Americans in the truck. The group had attended a pro-Palestinian protest prior to the attack. An arrest affidavit revealed that Baker, who was riding a bicycle, approached the truck and began yelling racial slurs at the occupants. He allegedly attempted to rip a flagpole with a keffiyeh scarf reading “Free Palestine” off the vehicle.
The affidavit further stated that a physical altercation ensued after the group exited the truck and confronted Baker. During the altercation, Baker reportedly punched Doar in the shoulders before ultimately stabbing him in the rib with a knife. When questioned by the police, Baker admitted to consuming more alcohol than usual on the day of the incident, citing his struggle with alcoholism.
The Austin Police Department’s Hate Crimes Review Committee has determined that the stabbing meets the definition of a hate crime. The information has been provided to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to enhance the charges against Baker.
Doar remains hospitalized following the attack. Baker is currently held in jail on a $100,000 bond, and no attorney has been listed for him in jail records.
This incident comes amidst a rise in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities across the United States during the Israel-Hamas conflict. In November, three college students of Palestinian descent were shot and seriously wounded in Vermont, while in October, a landlord in Illinois was accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and injuring his mother. Both cases are being investigated as possible hate crimes.