Settler to be charged with hate crime for torching Palestinian car
Shin Bet says 22-year-old from Ma’ale Efraim was known to security forces; incident in early January was allegedly a response to stone-throwing attacks
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The Shin Bet security agency on Tuesday said a 22-year-old settler had been arrested for an alleged hate crime against Palestinians in the West Bank earlier this month.
According to the Shin Bet, on January 2, Israeli troops were called to respond to an incident of stone-throwing by Palestinians against Israeli motorists on the Route 60 highway, near the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, near Ramallah.
While the soldiers were trying to locate the Palestinians, an Israeli man from the settlement of Ma’ale Efraim arrived in the Palestinian town and set fire to a vehicle, the Shin Bet charged.
“This is an act that harms the military force’s ability to carry out its mission and may even endanger it,” the agency said.
The Shin Bet said the 22-year-old was previously known to security forces, and an indictment charging him with a racially motivated hate crime would be filed in the coming days.
“Taking the law into one’s own hands and carrying out attacks and hate crimes, especially when these are done against uninvolved Palestinians, harms the security of the region, expands the circle of terror, and interferes with the efforts of the security forces against Palestinian terrorism,” the Shin Bet added.
Anti-Palestinian vandalism by Jewish extremists is a common occurrence in the West Bank.
Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Arrests of perpetrators are exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.
Reported incidents of nationalist crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank have soared in recent days.
On Sunday, masked attackers set alight a car in Turmus Ayya, destroying the vehicle and causing damage to the home where it was parked, Palestinian sources and rights groups said.
Another car was set alight and graffiti saying “Jews, wake up” was sprayed on a wall in the Palestinian village of Jaloud, near the West Bank city of Nablus.
In other violence, Palestinians said settlers attacked cars and property in a number of locations across the West Bank, including in Huwara, where they reportedly smashed shop windows. Local Palestinians reportedly hurled stones at the settlers to drive them off.
The vandalism came in the wake of several Palestinian terror attacks over the weekend that killed seven Israelis and seriously injured five others.
“Incidents of settler violence in the West Bank are not stopping and the army is doing nothing to prevent them. We demand that the defense minister handle these horrific events with severity,” the Yesh Din rights group said in a statement on Monday.