18 months, 788 cases, 276 arrests, 154 indictments: These are the stats behind what police call 'suspected price tag' attacks. While politicians and legal experts attempt to define what exactly constitutes a 'price tag' attack and whether it can, or should, be labeled an act of terror, another such incident takes place, this time in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh.
The latest incident,
which took place Tuesday morning, and involved slashed car tires and graffiti reading "Arabs out," was followed by the usual string of police decrials. However, data reveal that these detractions do not necessarily result in the apprehension of the vandals behind them, nor their being brought to justice.
In the meantime, from a bird's eye view perspective, it seems Israel
has become a stage for nationalistically motivated hate crimes of vandalism, destruction and incitement – almost a "religious war" as some politicians have called it.
According to data presented by police earlier this week in the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee, during 2012, 623 cases related to such attacks were opened, 200 arrests were made and 123 indictments were filed.
As of June, 2013 saw 165 cases opened, 76 suspects arrested and 31 indictments filed.
'Racism or assimilation'. Abu Ghosh (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
In geographical terms, 'price tag' attacks were reported in a wide array of areas, from the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem, to Deir Istiya in the West Bank and even in the peace oriented community of Nave Shalom (literally Oasis of Peace), to name a few; mosques were reportedly torched near Ramallah, Hebron and Latrun; and hatful graffiti was reported in Jaffa as well as Safed and Afula in the north.
Police representatives stressed that such incidents are considered 'nationalistic crimes' and, according to them, top the law enforcement body's priorities.
However, in spite of recommendations made by the attorney general, the justice and internal security ministers, and even the Shin Bet, the governmental cabinet has decided not to deem 'price tag' attacks as acts of terror, rather opting to enhance the defense minister's ability to curb such attacks by deeming their organizers as illegal associations.
Despite falling short of the recommendations, the move does significantly extend the defense establishment's legal toolbox for combating these types of attacks and the individuals and organization which stand behind them.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
will now be able to use his emergency hour authorities to extend the remand of those suspected of such hate crimes, as well as increasing the severity of their punishment.
It additionally allows the minister to detain suspects without meeting a lawyer and foreclose bank accounts and private property belonging to them.
"The children were scared to death; they don’t understand what happened and why there is so much police here," one of the local residents said after the tires of 28 cars in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem were slashed early Tuesday morning. Graffiti reading "racism or assimilation" and "Arabs out" was sprayed on nearby walls. One of cars belongs to former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg.
Kids against background of 'Arabs out' graffiti (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
commented on the incident and said that "What happened stands in staunch opposition to the Torah's mitzvoth, as well as the values of our society, state and people."
"Just this week we took a decision which allows us to better combat those perpetrating these crimes and we intend to do so with the fullest strength," the prime minister said refrencing the aforementioned cabinet decision.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich also denounced the acts perpetrated in Abu Ghosh, saying "'price tag' attacks are terror acts for all intents and purposes. This phenomenon might bring about a serious deterioration in Jerusalem and the West Bank."
He added he was the sole member of the security cabinet to support the initiative to define "price tag" attacks as terror acts.
Economy Minister and Habayit Hayehudi
chairman Naftali Bennett also commented on the matter on his Facebook page. "'Price tag' is immoral and un-Jewish. There is a small group of ill-seekers that want to destroy any chance of good neighborly relations between Arabs and Jews in our country.
"This group provides our enemies with means to degrade us. We will not let them win. I call on the security forces to act forcefully against this despicable phenomenon."
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