Words Are Good; Action Is Better

Arson at a West Bank mosque.

Last week a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem had to be hospitalized for injuries sustained when he was attacked by a group of Jewish teenagers in Jewish West Jerusalem. Yesterday, his assailants were charged with the crime:

Six Jewish teenagers from Jerusalem have been charged in Jerusalem District Juvenile Court with attacking an East Jerusalem Palestinian and causing him serious injury, including a broken ankle.

Four of the suspects have admitted to assaulting Ibrahim Abu Ta’a, 28, saying they thought he was “taking advantage” of an intoxicated Jewish woman he was accompanying.

…The suspects allegedly choked, pushed, kicked and beat Abu-Ta’a with their fists, as he begged them to stop, saying he hadn’t done anything. At some point he was pushed to the ground, as the suspects kicked him all over his body, “all because of racist motivations, because the complainant is Arab,” the indictment said.

The fact that the Jerusalem police are taking this case seriously is good news, and here’s some more good news—there’s a growing tendency among Israeli government and media figures to call this anti-Palestinian violence what it is:Terrorism.

Under a headline that read, “New police unit to battle Jewish terror,” Yediot Aharonot reported on Monday:

In light of the rise in nationalistically-motivated hate crimes and price tag incidents initiated by Jews, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Monday that a special police unit will soon be established to combat the phenomenon.

“We must institute a zero tolerance policy against terror, the desecration of religious institutions, attacks on symbols of governance and attacks commonly known as ‘price tag,'” Aharonovitch said.

In the past, “the desecration of religious institutions” has included the destruction of holy books and arson, including Muslim and Christian holy places. This week, it was vandalism at a mosque:

Graffiti reading “Price tag Migron” was found on Monday night on the wall of mosque in a village southwest of Hebron in the West Bank.

“Price tag” attacks are usually carried out by West Bank settlers and their supporters against Palestinian targets, often in retaliation for moves against settlements. Migron is the name of a West Bank outpost that was recently evacuated.

Judea and Samaria District Police claim that residents only informed them of the graffiti on Tuesday evening, and that following this an investigation was opened into the incident.

But the truth is that all of this good news will only really matter if the authorities follow through. The vast majority of such cases are abandoned, and one study found that only 9% of such cases led to indictments.

As Yediot reported last week,

Among the most notable cases are the mosque arson in Beit Fajr in October 2011, the raid on the Binyamin Spatial Brigade and mosque arsons in the villages of Qusra and Burqa earlier last year.

…Similar incidents were also recorded in the past three months in Neve Shalom, Kafr Jaba and Jelazon. No indictments or arrests were made. In fact, only a small number of indictments have been filed in relation to “price tag” incidents in the past few years, in sharp contrast to the growing scope of the phenomenon itself.

Unless all the serious words are followed up by serious action, those words will be worse than meaningless—they will serve to merely strengthen the hands of Jews for whom Palestinian lives and sacred property hold no worth.

And, lest you think it’s just bleeding hearts like me who feel this way, consider the opinions of Danny Dayan, chairman of Yesha, the settlers’ regional council:

It’s unacceptable that the Shin Bet produces zero indictments and 100% failures.

… There have been at least seven cases of mosque arsons, countless car arsons, including those of police cars, the throwing of stones, firebombs and hate messages. It’s inconceivable that our glorified Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security service] cannot handle these groups of thugs.

Inconceivable that the Shin Bet can’t handle it—but not yet inconceivable that they choose not to.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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