Police opened an investigation into a suspected hate crime Thursday after dozens of vehicles were vandalized in a Arab town in central Israel.
Tires of some 40 vehicles in Jaljulia were vandalized overnight, and some of the vehicles were daubed with anti-assimilation messages in Hebrew, police said in a statement.
One message scrawled on the side of a bus read: “Jews end the diaspora [mindset] and stop assimilating.”
Police said detectives had opened a hate crimes investigation into the vandalism.
Anti-Arab hate crimes — sometimes called price tag attacks — are typically perpetrated by Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the West Bank, though this incident is the third Arab community inside Israel that has been targeted this year.
According to human rights organizations, investigations into the so-called price tag attacks rarely yield an arrest or indictment, leading to accusations of systemic racism against Palestinians.
The vandalism in Jaljulia came two days after the leader of a Jewish extremist group known for his anti-assimilation message was charged with incitement to violence and racism and support for terrorism for his many inflammatory statements against Arabs.
Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein preached a message against miscegenation and assimilation of Jews and worked to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel. Lehava, which some lawmakers have tried to designate a terrorist group, has frequently called for action to be taken against non-Jews in order to “save the daughters of Israel.” More recently, Gopstein launched a political career, serving in a top post in the extreme-right party Otzma Yehudit, but was barred from running in the 2019 elections.
In Jaljulia, residents were skeptical that police would rigorously investigate the incident, telling media outlets they feared the vandalism would lead to violence.
“This is a very serious incident. These are racists who come to Arab communities to vandalize our property, and it won’t be all that surprising when they cross the next line to more serious crimes,” Ahmad Odeh told the Ynet news site.
“Unfortunately, there are never any arrests after such cases, and even if there are — they are usually released after several days without charges,” he said.
Another local residents expressed similar fears that the vandalism could lead to deadly violence against Israel’s Arab minority.
“These criminals are trying to convey to us that they can hurt us at any moment,” one mother said. “My children and I feel a real danger.
“This time we want results, otherwise it wouldn’t surprise me if we’d get murdered like the Dawabsha family.”
In 2015, three members of the Dawabsha family were killed when members of a Jewish terrorist cell firebombed their home in the northern West Bank. Two Israeli settlers were convicted on terror charges for their role in the fatal firebombing.
The incident in Jaljulia comes amid a spate of price tag attacks in the West Bank.
During the annual olive harvest over the last two months, settlers have destroyed or uprooted hundreds of Palestinian-owned trees across the West Bank. Of 97 complaints about settler attacks against Palestinian trees, followed up by Israeli rights groups Yesh Din, none have so far led to an indictment of a suspect.
Meanwhile, human rights group B’Tselem has recorded 13 other price tag attacks in the West Bank in November and October, including slashed tires and hateful graffiti.