Lawmakers hold emergency meeting on ‘price tag’ attacks
As suspect caught in the act of puncturing tires in Yokne’am, senior officials vow to increase severity of punishment
Following the arrests of a female settler for debating the legality of killing soldiers under Jewish law in a local email list, and a 25-year-old Yokne’am resident after he was caught red-handed slashing tires, senior government lawmakers convened an emergency meeting on the recent spate of “price tag” vandalism on Wednesday afternoon.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri and police, IDF, and Shin Bet officials attended the discussion on combating the wave of violence and extremism.
Weinstein pledged to eradicate the phenomenon, saying, “We will not hesitate to appeal if the punishments don’t reflect the degree of severity, as we see it.”
“Price tag” is a euphemism for hate attacks by Jewish extremists predominantly targeting Palestinian and Arab-Israeli property.
Earlier Wednesday, Aharonovitch told Army Radio the government plans to “use administrative detention against those carrying out so-called ‘price tag’ attacks.”
Administrative detention allows for suspects to be held without trial for up to six months. Such orders, which can be renewed indefinitely by a court decision, are almost exclusively used against Palestinians suspected of security-related offenses.
Although police have made scores of arrests, there have been no successful prosecutions for price tag attacks and the government has come up under mounting pressure to authorize the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.
“As justice minister, in the meeting I will have today with the public security minister on the ‘price tag’ crimes, we will ensure that the violence against the law and against the IDF will be dealt with forcefully and severely,” Livni wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning in response to the arrest in Yitzhar.
“What began as the love of the land turned into a wild west sown with hatred against the Arabs and against the rule of law and its representatives, and it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing: a judge’s robes, a police uniform, or an IDF uniform,” she wrote.
Early Wednesday morning, Eliraz Fein, 22-year-old woman from the settlement, was arrested on suspicion of incitement, apparently in connection with an online debate. Her husband was called in for questioning as well. Fein was sentenced to seven days of house arrest.
In a conversation in the settlement’s closed email group, the settlers debated whether Jewish law permits violence against IDF soldiers, with some saying that violence, even lethal force, was permitted when soldiers were engaged in certain actions, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Fein spoke out in favor of hurling rocks at Jews — “even if the rock causes the death of a soldier.” She said that while the legitimacy of hurling rocks at Arabs was not in question, in “certain situations” it was permissible to hurl them at Jews as well.
Gershon Mesika, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, condemned the incitement, and called on the settlers involved in the online discussion to leave the region.
“The people that are calling for hurting soldiers or provocateurs or people that don’t have the best interests of the settlements or the state in mind, I request that these people get up and leave Yitzhar and Samaria. They have no place among us, and let them leave us alone,” he said.
Police were investigating an act of racist vandalism in the city of Yokne’am on Wednesday after a Druze dentist reported that the walls of his office had been spray-painted with racist slogans.
The graffiti read “Death to Arabs” and “price tag.”
The police arrested a suspect, a 25-year old resident of the city, soon after, as he was caught slashing tires in a construction site. The suspect was being questioned by police for his involvement in seven other “price tag” attacks in Yokne’am in the past month.
It was the second attack in three weeks targeting the office of Dr. Khatem Hatar, who hails from the Mas’ade village in the Golan Heights. In the previous incident, vandals spray-painted the words “price tag” and a Star of David on the walls. Police have not made any arrests or identified any suspects in connection with the first attack.
Israel took heavy criticism in a recent US State Department report over its inability or unwillingness to prosecute price tag perpetrators.
The vandalism in Yokne’am was the latest in a spate of attacks in the north. Last week alone, several mosques were vandalized and dozens of cars were found with slashed tires in several northern Arab-Israeli towns.
On Sunday, a vehicle in Yokne’am belonging to a building contractor from Kafr Kanna was found with its tires slashed and “price tag” written in marker along the body. According to Ynet, the vehicle had been targeted in a similar attack in the past.
Several Arab contractors had their tires slashed last week in the city.
Last Friday, thousands gathered in the Arab town of Fureidis — which was hit with a similar attack last week – to listen to a sermon by Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel.