'Price-tag' settlers out of control

October 10, 2011
Sarah Benton

This posting has 4 items:
1) report of Christian and Muslim cemetries desecrated;
2) report settler attacks spread;
3) report of mosque burning; and
4) report of hit on Israeli troops

Muslim and Christian cemeteries desecrated in Jaffa

“Price tag” pogromchiks desecrated cemeteries in Jaffa, as part of their attempts to cause a civil war
Yossi Gurvitz, 972 mag

Hoodlums whose pride is their Jewishness have desecrated last evening – according to testimonies, less than an hour before Yom Kippur – two cemeteries in Jaffa. One of the cemeteries was Muslim, the other Orthodox Christian. The hoodlums desecrated tombstones and wrote “price tag” and “death to Arabs” on them. This being Yom Kippur, the Israeli media did not report anything yet – at least not that I’ve seen. MK Ahmed Tibi confirmed the details in an email, and you can see pictures here. Tibi further said that “We are facing a rising wave of terrorist acts by Jewish extremists who act almost with no hindrance in the occupied territories, and have lately turned their attention to the Green Line in order to harm places sacred to Muslims and Christians. The responsibility lies wholly with the government and its apparati”. A protest vigil will be held tonight in Jaffa; you can find details about it here (Hebrew and Arabic).

As my colleague Larry Darfner noted, this latest wave of attacks by Jews comes on the background of an almost unprecedented calmness, security-wise. The fact that they boil over the Green Line is not accidental. These people, after all, are the disciples of Baruch Goldstein; if they had broader horizons, they could name Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as another mentor. Their whole purpose is ending this calmness. They want blood, fire and columns of smoke. When these will appear, they will lean back and say “we told you so.” Another point worth noting is the desecration of the Christian cemetery: Contrary to the myths, it proves that the hatred of mankind of Orthodox Judaism has little if anything to do with the current conflict with the Palestinians. It is the last in a long, under-reported attacks on Christian establishments in Israel.

One further wonders whether this escalation – how many more steps to the gates of hell? – is not a response, among others, to the arrest of a suspect in the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangaria. Terror organizations often react in this way to the arrest of their members, and the whole logic of the “price tag” pogroms is to punish Palestinians for the actions of the security forces.

The guilt resides, as Tibi noted correctly, with the government of Israel. PM Netanyahu may denounce these pogroms, but he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth: He had no problem whatsoever sitting on the same platform with Dov Lior, possibly the worst of the inciting rabbis. Shmuel Elihau, the municipal rabbi of Safed, keeps drawing his government salary despite publishing illegal calls for denying apartments to Israeli Palestinians. This is the same Eliahu who openly and clearly refused to denounce the “price tag” pogroms. He is still in office. Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar – the one suspected of kidnapping and assault, not the one suspected of receiving bribes and inappropriately touching men – said this week that the burning of the mosque in Tuba Zangria “may have been a blood libel.” (Hebrew) It’s easy to imagine the uproar had, say, a Polish bishop said he opposed the burning of synagogues, but we should first ascertain this isn’t a blood libel against good Christians. Amar keeps his job as if nothing happened; we didn’t even had a proper public outcry. In short, the government of Israel looks, when trying to fight Jewish terrorism, like the Saudi government of a decade ago, facing the Salafist terrorists: It is a main source of funds to the terrorists, and they can only exist because the government’s armed forces support them.

The West Bank pogromchiks has made a mockery of the IDF’s legal obligation to protect the indigent population from them. Now they are trying to make it plain to Israeli Palestinians that they, too, will not be protected by the Zionist regime – and the latter know it’s not that the regime can’t, it’s that it won’t.

The pogromchiks, like Yigal Amir and like almost all Jewish terrorists, act out of supporting communities and out of the knowledge no one will turn them in. The vast majority of the settlers and the religious community, of course, will not dare to act themselves in this way. They will simply keep a quiet support from afar. As Yoel Bin Noon, who exposed the rabbis who gave the halachic decision to murder Rabin, found to his cost, the religious have no problems treating you as an outcast; Bin Noon had to move to another settlement and hire bodyguards for a while. If the settlers were serious about denouncing the pogroms, and not just paying lip service, Dov Lior and Shmuel Eliahu would have been excommunicated ages ago. However, lighting a fire on the Sabbath will get in you in trouble in the settlements – unless that fire is in a mosque. Historians dubbed the Ku Klux Klan of the years immediately after the Civil War as the military arm of the democratic party; the pogromchiks are the military arm of the Yesha Council, and they make every effort to import West Ban mores into Israel proper.

So what can be done? We can begin by closing down the hornet’s nest, the yeshiva in Yitzhar, and ban all its teachers and students from the West Bank. The government can announce that for every “price tag” action, a hesder yeshiva – yeshivas of part-time soldiers, the mainstay of the settler movement – will be closed down. Shmuel Eliahu, and all the rabbis who signed his call to deny apartments to non-Jews, can be fired. We can, in short, present the Jewish Brotherhood with an iron wall, and inform them for every “price tag” action, they’ll pay a much more painful price tag.

But that requires resolute political will and the ability to make historical decisions. It cannot be imagined that the Netanyahu government, most of its ministers supporting the pogromchiks anyway, will be able to do so. Like the original pogromchiks, of the Czarist times, the “hill youth” know that the government has its back, and that nothing will happen to it; and that is not likely to change. Not under this government.

So maybe it is time for Israeli Palestinians to turn to the international community and demand protection, as the Israeli government can’t protect them. After all, by its actions – or rather, inaction – in the face of Jewish terrorism, the Netanyahu government is giving up a part of its sovereignty.

The ‘Price Tag’ Menace: Vigilante Israeli Settler Attacks Spread
Uri Friedman, The Atlantic Wire

When Israeli police descended on a scorched mosque in the Bedouin Arab village of Tuba-Zangariya this morning to investigate an arson attack, they found the word “Price Tag” scrawled in Hebrew on the building’s walls along with “Revenge” and “Palmer,” a reference to an incident in the West Bank last month in which Israeli settler Asher Palmer and his baby son were killed in a car crash after Palestinians threw stones at the vehicle. The graffiti and nature of today’s assault have news outlets buzzing about yet another “price tag attack.” What’s behind the odd phrase?
The New York Times defines price tag attacks as incidents in which radical Jewish settlers “exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for any action taken against their settlement enterprise” (others add that the assaults can be in retaliation for violence against settlers). The campaign has included an assault on an Israeli army base and several arson attacks on mosques in West Bank villages in recent months, though today’s apparent price tag attack is atypical in that it occurred inside Israel, in the relatively calm Galilee in the north. (The picture above shows a man standing inside the mosque’s burnt interior this morning.) The practice has provoked significant backlash in Israel, even among settlers themselves. Just last month, for example, the prominent settler rabbi Yaakov Medan circulated a petition warning that price tag incidents endangered the settler movement.

According to a 2008 Haaretz article, the roots of price tag attacks can be traced to the August 2005 dismantling of settlements in the Gaza Strip. “Ever since then, the extreme right has sought to establish a ‘balance of terror,’ in which every state action aimed at them–from demolishing a caravan in an outpost to restricting the movements of those suspected of harassing Palestinian olive harvesters–generates an immediate, violent reaction,” the left-wing paper wrote at the time. And violence is on the rise. Reutersnotes that attacks by settlers against Palestinian property in the West Bank have risen by 57 percent in the first seven months of 2011 compared with the same period last year. The news agency adds that the perpetrators of price tag attacks appear to operate in small groups that resemble terrorist cells, and that no charges have been brought against suspects in price tag incidents.

Several top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have condemned today’s attack. “I call during these soul searching days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, for the rooting out of such deeds from our midst,” Peres declared. ButHaaretz notes that 300 Israeli Arabs from the Tuba-Zangariya have nevertheless marched to the nearby town of Rosh Pina, burning tires and throwing rocks at security forces, who responded with tear gas.

Settlers’ mosque-burning campaign expands into Israel
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Reuters

JERUSALEM – They strike in the dead of night, setting fire to mosques and daubing their walls with “Price Tag” graffiti, the defiant slogan of Israeli settlers waging a vigilante campaign branded as “un-Jewish” by President Shimon Peres.

The “price-taggers” have vowed to avenge any move by Israeli authorities to uproot settlement outposts built in the occupied West Bank without Israeli government permission.
Dozens of those outposts, which Israel has repeatedly promised its main ally, the United States, to remove, remain on lonely West Bank hilltops on land to which many settlers claim a Biblical right and where Palestinians want to build a state.

On some of the few occasions when Israeli army bulldozers have torn down structures at the outposts, Palestinian villagers have awoken the next morning to find a local mosque charred by fire and with the now-familiar graffiti on its walls.

Israeli leaders have condemned the incidents. But no one has been charged in the three arson attacks in the West Bank over the past year, an indication, Palestinians say, of indifference by a right-wing government that includes pro-settler parties.

Now the “Price Tag” campaign has widened to include vandalism at an Israeli army base in the West Bank and the torching of two mosques, one this week in a Bedouin village inside Israel, touching a nerve among the country’s leaders and the public.

At stake is the delicate fabric of co-existence between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority, which makes up some 20 percent of the population.

“Israel had better know that it will pay for this,” said a resident of Tuba-Zangariya in the Galilee, where a mosque was burned on Monday, prompting dozens of Israeli Arabs to take to the streets and hurl rocks at police, who responded with tear gas.

Graffiti left at al-Nur mosque suggested the “price-taggers” were responding to the deaths of a settler father and baby killed last month when their car overturned in the West Bank after Palestinians threw rocks at it.

First charges
Police said they had set up a special task force to deal with the “price taggers” and announced on Thursday that they had arrested a suspect in the Tuba-Zangariya case.

In another potential breakthrough against the militants, three settlers were charged in a court in Jerusalem on Wednesday with planning to set fire to a West Bank mosque.

In addition to assaults on mosques, militant settlers have been blamed for a string of car burnings and the uprooting of hundreds of olive trees and grapevines on Palestinian property.
Some Israeli human rights activists link an increase in such incidents in recent months to tensions over a Palestinian application for statehood at the United Nations, which is strongly opposed by Israel and its U.S. ally.

The “Price Tag” campaign is widely believed to be the work of a clandestine group of young settlers in unauthorized outposts where journalists are not welcome.

Security officials say such close-knit groups are tough to infiltrate, making it difficult to prevent mosque attacks or find out who carried them out.

But Avraham Dichter, a former chief of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, told Reuters the time had come to move against militant settlers, whom he described as “miserable people with a terrorist mindset.”

Dichter said that while not as lethal as a Jewish group that killed three Palestinians and wounded dozens in a series of attacks in the 1980s, the recent incidents were still alarming.
Attacks on particularly sensitive places, such as the Jerusalem holy site that Jews call Temple Mount and Muslims revere as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), could swiftly trigger a new wave of Palestinian violence, he said.

“You can find yourself in no time in the middle of an Intifada, not because there were fatalities but just because a very important and sensitive target was hit,” Dichter said.

Feeling betrayed

Itamar Ben Gvir, a settler leader in Kiryat Arba, one of the most hardline Jewish settlements, told Reuters the attack on the Galilee mosque should have come as no surprise.

“The writing was on the wall, because a population that feels that they are being abandoned, harmed and kicked over and over again, it is only natural that individuals from within that population will come out and commit incidents,” he said, in apparent reference to moves against unauthorized outposts.

The Galilee arson attack was swiftly condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres rushed to inspect the mosque, where residents were weeping over charred holy books.
“Un-Jewish, illegal, immoral and (it) brings heavy shame upon us,” Peres, a Nobel peace prize laureate, said.

Peres’s visit was a sign of Israeli concern that any future torching of mosques inside Israel could inflame its Arab citizens, who have long complained of discrimination.
Many Israelis are worried about more violence as Israeli Arabs mark the anniversary this month of the killings of 13 young protesters by Israeli police in October 2000 when a Palestinian uprising was raging in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mainstream settler leaders have also voiced concern at the militants within their ranks, fearing their actions will tarnish the movement whose settlements on land Israel captured in a 1967 war are deemed illegal in international law.

“Price tagging represents the biggest damage to our future. It is immoral. It is un-Jewish. I couldn’t use harsher words,” said Naftali Bennett, head of the Yesha (settler) Council.
“We are talking about a few hundred people living mainly in the northeastern area. I urge the police to arrest these guys and throw them in jail,” he told a group of foreign reporters.
But Menachem Landow, a former officer in a Shin Bet division that investigates threats posed by Jewish extremists, said the settler leadership should do more to rein in the radicals.
“One of the things that bothers me is that the leaders of the settlements are constantly condemning (the attacks). The condemnation is not enough — they need to cooperate with the security services, help them, because without the help from the surroundings no intelligence source has a chance,” Landow said.

Jewish settlers in price-tag hit on Israeli troops
John Lyons, Middle East correspondent, The Australian

TENSIONS in the West Bank have escalated as Jewish settlers stepped up their “price-tag” campaign against Palestinians and attacked Israeli troops for the first time in living memory.

The assault on Israeli soldiers came as an 18-year-old Jewish settler was arrested over the burning of a mosque and holy books in northern Israel.

Violence has increased since Jewish extremists were reported to have burnt the mosque in the northern Israeli town of Tuba Zangaria last Monday as part of their “price-tag” attack campaign.

This means the settlers attack Palestinians to punish them for actions they disapprove of – on this occasion in response to the Palestinians taking their bid for statehood to the UN.

They also use “price tag” often writing the words during an attack against Palestinians if the Israeli government or army does something they dislike, such as dismantling one of the illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank.

In recent weeks, the hardline settlers have broadened the “price-tag” campaign to attacks on the Israeli army, including a raid on a military base in which they damaged 13 vehicles.

In the latest assault, settlers surrounded an Israeli patrol in the West Bank and began attacking the soldiers.

One of the soldiers was punched in the face. One settler was detained but later escaped into a Jewish outpost.

An Israeli Defence Forces spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, told The Weekend Australian the soldiers on patrol were initially stopped by “a roadblock of rocks”.

“I cannot remember the last time violent contact took place between settlers and soldiers,” Colonel Leibovich said.

“It is disturbing, and we cannot accept this kind of hooligan behaviour.”

The burning of the mosque on Monday shocked many Israelis – mosque burnings in the West Bank, which is under Israeli military occupation, have occurred before, but this was inside Israel and in a village where many members of the Bedouin community serve in the IDF.

Despite efforts by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Muslim and Christian leaders to call for calm, clashes have occurred in and around the Bedouin village since.

The 18-year-old arrested over the mosque arson was a student at a Yeshiva school in the settlement of Yitzhar.

In a separate matter, two Palestinians were reported to have confessed to throwing rocks at a car near the settlement of Kiryat Arba, which caused a crash that killed a father and his son.

This week, several olive groves have been cut down and burned Jewish settlers said Palestinians had set their olive trees on fire, while Palestinians said the settlers cut down their trees.

The Haaretz newspaper said that in their campaign, the settlers were publishing on websites the full names of members of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret security service, which are meant to be kept secret.

The paper said the extremists were trying to intimidate senior law-enforcement officials.

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