HEWLETT, NY—A North African migrant, Bechir Lehbeib, 26, has been charged with a hate crime following an incident in Hewlett, NY on Sunday, February 4, 2024. Lehbeib, who entered the United States illegally from Mexico in November and claimed asylum, was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department for forcibly stealing property and inflicting physical injury, according to court records.
The incident occurred when Lehbeib approached the home of Alex Binyaminov, a Bukharian Jew originally from Tashkent. Binyaminov had displayed a United States and Israeli combination flag and a banner outside his home stating «In this home we stand with Israel,» after his relative was murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7. Binyaminov’s security camera alerted him of Lehbeib walking up his driveway and stealing the flag and banner. He immediately rushed out, catching up with Lehbeib on a bicycle and tried to retrieve his property. Lehbeib immediately began physically attacking Binyaminov while expressing anti-Semitic remarks and claiming that he was a Palestinian. Binyaminov momentarily managed to regain his property before being attacked again. Lehbeib then forcibly removed the flag and banner from Binyaminov’s hands, stomped on them, and again verbally expressed his hatred for Jewish people.
Lehbeib faces a serious charge of robbery classified as a hate crime; hate crimes carry harsher penalties than regular offenses. An offense is considered a hate crime when it is intentionally directed at a person because of a belief or perception regarding the victim’s protected class.
According to police, Lehbeib claimed to have traveled to Hewlett by bus from a migrant shelter in Jamaica, Queens, in search of a job. He had previously resided at the hotel-turned-migrant-shelter Ramada by Wyndham located at 535 N. Gannon Avenue, Staten Island. Following his arrest, Lehbeib continued to express antisemitic sentiments and threatened further violence against anyone else he saw with an Israeli flag.
Nassau County officials promised to aggressively prosecute this hate crime. «Hate crimes have no place in Nassau County,» Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.
Lehbeib was arraigned on Monday, February 5, 2024, at First District Court 99 Main Street, Hempstead, where he pled not guilty. His bail has been set at $50,000 cash and $100,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 1, 2024, in Nassau District Court, Mineola. He is being represented in court by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.
Binyaminov, who had lived in Rego Park, Queens for most of his life, moved to Long Island’s Five Towns, home to a growing Jewish community, five years ago with his wife and children. He was aware of antisemitic incidents that occurred in Queens following October 7, where there is a more diverse population, and where people ripped down signs of hostages, and hung Palestinian flags. However, he never expected such an incident to occur in the Five Towns, a secluded, residential area known for being quiet.

«Ever since the incident, people in the neighborhood are paying more attention to their surroundings and becoming more vigilant.» Binyaminov says. «All of my neighbors came to offer me their support, Bukharians, Israelis, Americans, everybody.»
Reflecting on the incident, Binyaminov expressed his concerns about the border crisis. «Individuals entering our country must undergo thorough vetting. They may not align with our American values,» he said. «I hope people will become more aware of the current situation in our country and its impact on our communities. We need to challenge the open-border policy, because it could lead to similar or even more severe incidents in the future.»

Eli Takhalov