Police probe apparent hate crime in Palestinian village where mosque vandalized

Residents find flammable liquid poured on shoe rack at entrance to house of worship, Hebrew slogans graffitied on streets and buildings

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Graffiti on mosque in Palestinian West Bank village of Deir Dibwan in suspected hate crime, February 4, 2019 (Deir Dibwan local council)
Graffiti on mosque in Palestinian West Bank village of Deir Dibwan in suspected hate crime, February 4, 2019 (Deir Dibwan local council)

Police opened a probe into an apparent hate crime in a central West Bank Palestinian village where residents woke up Monday morning to find Hebrew graffiti messages in various places, including on the local mosque.

Among the slogans spray-painted on walls and asphalt of Deir Dibwan were “Here people incite to murder Jews” and “The Jewish nation lives.” Stars of David were also graffitied on various buildings, among them the mosque.

Police said that a “flammable substance” was poured on the shoe rack at the entrance to the house of worship.

The apparent hate crime targeting Palestinians was the second in less than a week.

Graffiti in Palestinian West Bank village of Deir Dibwan in suspected Price Tag attack, February 4, 2019 (Deir Dibwan local council)

Last Tuesday, police opened an investigation after eight cars were vandalized overnight in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of Luban a-Sharqiya.

Residents woke up to find their tires slashed and their vehicles spray-painted with Stars of David. One car was daubed with the Hebrew phrase “The eternal nation fights against murder.”

That incident came less than a week after a similar crime was reported in the adjacent Palestinian village of Turmusaya. Security cameras captured four suspects, their faces obscured by hoods, running toward parked cars and smashing three windshields. Police opened a probe, but similar to virtually every apparent hate crime targeting Palestinians in the West Bank, no arrests have been made.

Flammable substance said to be poured on shoe rack at entrance to mosque in Palestinian village of Deir Dibwan in the West Bank, February 4, 2019 (Deir Dibwan local council)

In December, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released new statistics ahead of the new year that showed a 69 percent increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in 2018 compared to 2017.

OCHA recorded 265 incidents in which Israeli residents of the West Bank allegedly targeted Palestinians or their property. In total, 115 Palestinians were injured in those attacks and 7,900 trees and 540 vehicles were destroyed.

Commenting in December on the numbers, a defense official confirmed that the past year saw a significant rise in so-called “price tag” attacks — a name used by far-right Israelis to justify targeting Palestinians and even IDF soldiers. The phrase marks the attacks as ostensible retaliation for terror attacks and Israeli government actions deemed hostile to the settler movement.

“The hilltop youth are less deterred than before and are feeling emboldened,” the defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and referring to the far-right activists who are known for establishing illegal outposts on hilltops throughout the West Bank.

He said recent attacks are more brazen than they used to be, pointing to the increasing willingness of young settlers to enter Palestinian villages in the middle of the night, rather than just chopping down olive trees planted outside of those communities.

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