Where’s Shin Bet when you need them?
Articles from JTA and Ynet news.
A municipal employee cleaning anti-Christian curses from the wall of Jerusalem’s St. George Romanian Orthodox Church, May 9, 2014. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
By Ben Sales, JTA
May 13, 2014
TEL AVIV — Houses of worship have been vandalized, businesses defaced and car tires slashed. So-called “price tag” attacks have proliferated since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were suspended at the end of April.
Intended to exact a price for Israeli government policies seen as detrimental to the settlement enterprise, such attacks have long been a problem in the West Bank. But suspected Jewish extremists increasingly are targeting Israeli Arab citizens, mosques and churches within the country’s borders.
Israel’s government has been left in the awkward position of confronting a string of ideologically motivated attacks perpetrated by Jews. Now calls are growing for the government to mount a stronger response.
The latest attacks come at a particularly sensitive time — just weeks before Pope Francis is due to make a high-profile visit to Israel. Anti-Christian graffiti has prompted the Vatican to express concern for the safety of Israel’s Christians.
“What began as love of the land has become, in part, a wild west sown with hate toward Arabs, the state of laws and its representatives,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wrote in a Facebook post May 7.
Graffiti sprayed round a Muslim cemetery reading ‘Price tag,’ ‘A good Arab is a dead Arab’ and ‘Revenge from Yitzhar (a settlement in the northern West Bank),’ January 2013. Photo by Issam Rimawi/Flash90.
Attackers have slashed the tires of Arab-owned cars in the Israeli towns of Yokneam, Acre and Fureidis. Graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” was sprayed in Yokneam and eastern Jerusalem. On Friday, Jerusalem’s St. George Romanian Orthodox Church was defaced with the words “Price tag, King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage.”
Even Jewish and Israeli Defense Forces institutions are not immune. On Monday, vandals reportedly defaced an Israeli army base with slogans demeaning the pope and Arabs. The same day, swastikas inside Jewish stars were found outside Jerusalem’s Conservative Moreshet Yisrael synagogue.
Israeli security forces have responded as they have since the price tag attacks began in 2008 — with investigations and arrests.
Amos Oz, one of Israel’s leading literary figures and a stalwart of the left, likened price tag perpetrators to neo-Nazis in a nationally televised speech on Friday in honor of his 75th birthday.
‘Price tag’ and ‘hilltop youth’ are sweet, sugary nicknames, and the time has come to call this monster by its name,” Oz said. “We wanted to be like all other nations, we longed for there to be a Hebrew thief and a Hebrew prostitute — and there are Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.
Oz’s analogy drew immediate criticism.
Reuven Rivlin, a Likud Knesset member and former Knesset speaker who was present for the speech, called it “a cheapening of the Holocaust.” The Samaria Residents’ Committee, a West Bank settlers’ advocacy group, filed a police complaint accusing Oz of incitement to racism.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned price tag attacks, but some said the government needed to give security forces a freer hand to prevent them. Last week, Livni and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch recommended that Israel’s Shin Bet internal intelligence agency classify the price tag attacks as terrorism.
The former head of counterterrorism operations in Netanyahu’s office, Nitzan Nuriel, told JTA that continued price tag incidents could lead to a bloody backlash from Palestinians, either against the attackers themselves or other Jewish targets.
‘Light-Tag’ protest: Israeli Jews, Arabs, Muslims and Christians hold signs with a slogan in Hebrew reading ‘Light instead of terror’ as they join a demonstration against the so-called ‘Price Tag’ phenomenon outside the Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, Israel, 11 May 2014. The term ‘Price Tag’ is used in connection with vandalism against Arab, Christian or Jewish property and holy sites in Jerusalem. Photo by EPA.
Last week, in an apparent response to the price tag attacks, graffiti was found in northern Israel on the tomb of Abba Halafta, a second-century rabbi, reading “Tag will pay a price.”
Nuriel called for a preemptive approach to the price tag attacks, similar to how Israel deals with Palestinian terror groups.
“We need to frustrate it, to cause it not to happen,” said Nuriel, now a research associate at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. “We need to act against it with more determination, to set rules.”
Some Israeli media have taken to calling the attacks hate crimes, but Hebrew University political sociology lecturer Eitan Alimi said the definition obscures the political element in the attacks. The hateful language is a means of protest, Alimi said, not an end in itself.
“There’s no doubt that the price tag phenomenon is very influenced by political processes,” Alimi said. “I’m not sure these are primarily hate crimes. They’re violent acts with political logic and political goals.”
While government officials decide on how best to respond, a group of civilians has attempted to help the attacked communities heal. Founded in 2011 and called Light Tag, the coalition of activists from a range of left-wing and pluralist nonprofits has visited places where attacks took place to meet with community leaders and offer emotional support.
On Sunday, Light Tag organized a protest opposite Netanyahu’s residence in which it invoked guarantees of tolerance in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Gadi Gvaryahu, Light Tag’s chairman, noted that price tag attacks have included attempts to burn down mosques and feared they could lead to deaths if not curbed.
“A Jewish state cannot allow itself, based on Jewish beliefs, to burn down a mosque,” Gvaryahu said. “People think that price tag is just graffiti. It’s not just graffiti. They hurt people.”
AG says administrative detention without trial permissible; Livni behind law amendment allowing judges to impose stiffer jail sentences.
By Tova Tsimuki, Ynet news
May 11, 2014
Israel is beginning to take intensive action to end “price tag” attacks by far-right extremists, which have systemically targeted Christian and Muslim property, as well as on frequent occasions the IDF.
A Christian nun walks past anti-Christian graffiti sprayed on the wall of a church near Beit Shemesh in August 2013. Photo by Flash90.
In December 2013, the government defined the movement behind the attacks as an “illegal association”. Since then, there has been an increase in violent incidents against Arabs on both sides of the Green Line. Since the start of this year, the police unit for nationalist crimes, which investigates price tag attacks, has opened 78 new files, arrested 102 suspects and served 37 indictments.
In a recent internal debate on the issue, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein clarified that, in “special and suitable instances of law-breaking”, where there is intelligence and administrative evidence of involvement in hate crimes, it is permissible to detain suspects for an extended period under administration detention, without trial.
“It is clear today that this is to all intents and purposes a terrorist cell,” said a senior figure in Israel’s judiciary.
“There are several dozen activists from Judea and Samaria, mostly from Yitzhar and the surrounding hills who are perpetrating these serious incidents,” says a senior police officer. “We know who they are, more or less.”
On Friday there were two more hate crime attacks against Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem. An Arab family living in the Old City had “Death to Arabs” written on their front door in black marker. On the wall of the nearby Roman Catholic church, attackers spray-painted the slogans “price tag”, “King David for the Jews” and “Jesus is trash.”
“No co-existence” [above] and “Arabs, you are not wanted here on land that belongs to us – the Jews” are popular, and among the least violent and sacrilegious tags sprayed by settler thugs.
Meanwhile, Eliraz Fein, a young woman from Yitzhar, was arrested last week for an email exchange in which she advocated for the killing of IDF soldiers in certain circumstances.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich will in the near future to present ministers with the findings they have gathered since December, when “price tags” were given their new definition. The government is set to request that the movement behind the “price tag” attacks be defined as a terrorist organization, a move that significantly steps up state efforts to counter this phenomenon.
A discussion last week attended by representatives of the Justice and Internal Security Ministries, the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police, Livni raised the calls to kill soldiers that have been espoused by certain members of Yitzhar.
“These aren’t things said in Hamas headquarters, but in a Jewish community – in Yitzhar,” said Livni. “Those who remained silent in the face of these hate crimes against Arabs is now finding the same crimes directed at IDF soldiers.”
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to meet Sunday to discuss a bill proposal by Livni to expedite legal proceedings against “price tag” suspects.
Ynet audio news and report, Amos Oz says the terms ‘price-tag’ attacks, and ‘hilltop youth’ are sanitised euphemisms.