Gantz calls attack 'shocking and racist'

170 cars, mosque vandalized in northern Arab town, drawing rare Netanyahu rebuke

Residents in Jish find graffiti reading ‘Jews wake up and stop assimilating’ in third such incident targeting village in recent years

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

"Jews wake up and stop assimilating!" graffitied on a building in Jish in an apparent hate crime on February 11, 2020. (Twitter)
"Jews wake up and stop assimilating!" graffitied on a building in Jish in an apparent hate crime on February 11, 2020. (Twitter)

Police on Tuesday opened an investigation into an apparent hate crime in the northern Arab town of Jish, where the tires of some 170 vehicles were slashed and Hebrew graffiti condemning interfaith coexistence was daubed on buildings.

One of the phrases spray-painted on the wall of a mosque read, “Jews wake up. Stop assimilating!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a rare denunciation of the attack, saying he “strongly condemns the graffiti and property damage in the village of Jish. We will find the lawbreakers and bring them to justice. We will not accept any attacks on our citizens.”

The town’s mayor, Elias Elias, said it was the third time Jish had been targeted in such an attack in recent years, with the last suspected hate crime taking place in April 2019.

“Apparently, some people want to sabotage our good relationship with our neighbors. He will not succeed, but this does cause us deep pain and heartache,” Elias told the Walla news site. “I call on security forces to catch these hooligans already.”

Security camera footage published by the Kan public broadcaster showed three suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts walking up to parked cars and kneeling down to slash their tires one by one.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz called the attack “shocking and racist” and said in a statement that he “trusted law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Tweeting about the apparent hate crime, Joint List MK Ofer Cassif wrote, “We all know that such a case targeting a Jewish community would have received immediate attention by the prime minister and would have been followed by swift arrests.”

Labor-Gesher-Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz called on police to “wake up” and catch the perpetrators. He also urged members of the Israeli public to visit Jish.

Even Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who has raised the ire of Arab Israelis by calling for some of them to be transferred to the jurisdiction of a future Palestinian state in any peace agreement, condemned the vandalism in Jish. “Any hate crime [no matter the target] is worthy of condemnation,” he said.

Anti-Arab vandalism by Jewish extremists has become a common occurrence in the West Bank but is rarer inside Israel proper. Attacks against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” incidents, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

According to human rights organizations, investigations into so-called price tag attacks rarely yield an arrest or indictment, leading to accusations of systemic racism against Palestinians.

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