Hate crimes against Palestinians down in 2019, but perpetrators becoming bolder

Report says recent attacks required elaborate coordination; many originate in the hardline Yitzhar settlement; 6 endangered lives, were classified as terror

A car in Deir Ammar targeted in a price tag attack on October 16, 2019. (Yesh Din)
A car in Deir Ammar targeted in a price tag attack on October 16, 2019. (Yesh Din)

The number of hate crimes against Palestinians dropped significantly in 2019, but the boldness of their perpetrators has increased, according to a newspaper report Sunday.

Israelis were responsible for 256 cases of violence against Palestinians or security forces this year, primarily in the second half of the year and with a significant portion of them originating in the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank, the Haaretz daily reported.

In comparison, 2018 saw 378 such cases.

But unnamed security officials quoted in the report said some of the attacks were on a bigger scale than seen before and required meticulous planning and multiple perpetrators simultaneously at different locations. Some of the officials said the current situation was reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2015 firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma, a terror attack that killed two parents and their baby.

Two hundred incidents were violent, including 30 against security forces, but didn’t endanger lives. Six additional incidents did, although nobody ended up hurt, and were classified as terror attacks — a similar number to 2018 and 2017.

Some 50 of the recorded incidents were so-called price tag attacks, which involve vandalism and damage to property.

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

A car targeted in a price tag attack in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of Yasuf on June 5, 2019. (Israel Police)

Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Last week police said around 160 vehicles were vandalized in a suspected anti-Arab hate crime in the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Tires were slashed on vehicles and graffiti sprayed on walls including the phrase “When Jews are stabbed, do not stay silent.”

Police said it was believed that several masked suspects took advantage of darkness and stormy weather to carry out the attack.

A fire set at a Border Police tent on the Kumi Ori outpost near Yitzhar on October 24, 2019. (Courtesy)

Almost all of the price tag attacks believed to have been carried out by settler youth against Palestinian property in recent months have included graffiti that has mentioned a closed military zone order declared by the IDF in October at the Kumi Ori illegal outpost near Yitzhar amid a spate of violent attacks perpetrated by the community’s young members against security forces.

Border Police officers have since been deployed to the area in order to enforce the order. Relations between locals and soldiers have subsequently deteriorated further, with border police coming under attack several times from young settlers who hurled stones at their vehicles and in one instance set one of their tents ablaze.

Residents of Yitzhar said tensions between them and security forces began to rise in October when the head of the army’s Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring a resident of Kumi Ori from the West Bank. A defense official said Neria Zarog, 21, has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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