Call Jewish “Price Tag” attacks what they are.

Graffiti reads "Price Tag," a reference to the fact that these attacks are meant to show Israel's government that any concessions to the Palestinians will be costly on the domestic front.

Graffiti reads “Price Tag,” a reference to the fact that these attacks are meant to show Israel’s government that any concessions to the Palestinians will be costly on the domestic front.

The other day a representative of the Israeli police shared some deeply troubling news:

“It doesn’t seem there will be significant improvement in the war on ‘price-tag’ attacks over the next few months,” a senior police official told Haaretz on Tuesday, a day after 29 cars in the Israeli Arab city of Abu Ghosh had their tires slashed [by Jewish attackers], and racist slogans were spray-painted on nearby walls [including the phrase “Arabs out”]. 

Police officials believe that the main problem is the complete lack of deterrence among young right-wing activists. The officer added that a series of solved crimes would restore the feeling that the rule of law prevailed. He said that in addition to the radical settler youth that grew up in the West Bank, there is also a generation of copycats, mainly teenage dropouts that engage in less sophisticated activity but who draw encouragement and a feeling of immunity because police have failed to track them down.

Given that nearly all cases brought by West Bank Palestinians against Israeli Jews are dismissed (whereas nearly 100 percent of cases against Palestinians end in conviction), it’s fairly easy to understand why there would be “a complete lack of deterrence” for Jewish “price tag” attacks against Palestinians. Reactions in theJewish community and political class to the attack in Abu Ghosh suggest that such acts are taken more seriously when the Palestinians in question are Israeli citizens, but it remains to be seen what this will mean in terms of prosecutions, indictments, or convictions.

What makes the police statement and Abu Ghosh attack even more disturbing, however, is the fact that the government happened to weigh the question of how to categorize price tag attacks just one day before the most recent one occurred. Are price tag attacks terrorism, or aren’t they?

Netanyahu and his cabinet decided that they’re not, though they’re willing to deem the perpetrators members of an ”illegal association,” a legal term which will expand the capacity of law enforcement and security apparatus to respond to perpetrators.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement that this decision “will significantly strengthen the ability to fight ‘price-tag’ phenomena,” but, theJerusalem Post reports,

According to an Israeli official, the cabinet feared that classifying price-tag attacks as acts of terror would blur the lines between these extremists, on the one hand, and serious organized terror groups, such as Hamas or Hezbollah, on the other.

It goes without saying that when an individual Palestinian acts on his or her own to damage Israeli property or to injure or kill a Jewish citizen, no one bothers to ask if he or she is part of a “serious organized terror group.” No one has any problem using the ‘T” word in those circumstances.

But it’s also worth noting that when Jews are attacked by Arabs, calling it terrorism (or, in legal terminology, “a hostile act”) allows the victims to claim government compensation, compensation not offered to the victims of other criminal acts. To date, if an Arab happens to fall victim to a Jew, he or she has no such right.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the word “terror.” Not every terrible act of violence, no matter how bloody or frightening, is an act of terrorism. Mirriam-Webster offers an extended definition of term which fits neatly into my academic training as a political scientist: Terrorism is “[the] systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.” Terrorism isn’t a hate crime, and it isn’t going postal. First and foremost, terrorism is an effort to effect political change.

Which is precisely why the recent rash of price tag attacks on both sides of the Green Line is, in fact, terrorism. If you set fire to mosques in a bid to convince your government that making any concessions to Palestinians will be too costly on the domestic front, or if you slash tires and scrawl “Arabs out” on the walls—you’re a terrorist. You’re employing systematic violence to create an atmosphere of fear in order to bring about a particular political objective—and no matter what kind of linguistic somersaults the Israeli government undertakes to convince itself and its citizens otherwise, that’s terrorism. 

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

“Is such the fast I desire?”

On Shabbat and holidays, when Jews gather to pray, in addition to reading a portion from the first five books of the Bible, we also read a section of the Prophets, a section chosen to complement the other reading, or to reflect the Shabbat/holiday in question, or both. Every Yom Kippur, we read the following, from the book of Isaiah. As I look at what Israel and so many of my people are doing right now, I feel a desperate need to trumpet these words directly into their hearts. But I imagine if God hasn’t been able to all these long years, I don’t stand much of a chance.

This is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free.

If you fast, I wish you an easy one, and if you don’t, that’s ok, too. Shana tova, a happy and good year, to us all — amen, amen.

Haftarah for Yom Kippur – Isaiah 57:14–58:14

Chapter 57

14 [The Lord] says:
Build up, build up a highway!
Clear the road!
Remove all obstacles
From the road of My people!
15 For thus said He who high aloft
Forever dwells, whose name is holy;
I dwell on high, in holiness;
Yet with the contrite and the lowly in spirit —
Reviving the spirits of the lowly,
Reviving the hearts of the contrite.
16 For I will not always contend,
I will not be angry forever:
Nay, I who make spirits flag,
Also create the breath of life.
17 For their sinful greed I was angry;
I struck them and turned away in My wrath.
Though stubborn, they follow the way of their hearts,
18 I note how they fare and will heal them:
I will guide them and mete out solace to them,
And to the mourners among them
19 heartening, comforting words:

It shall be well,
Well with the far and the near

— said the Lord —

And I will heal them.
20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea
Which cannot rest,
Whose waters toss up mire and mud.
21 There is no safety

— said my God —

For the wicked.

Chapter 58

1 Cry with full throat, without restraint;
Raise your voice like a ram’s horn!
Declare to My people their transgression,
To the House of Jacob their sin.

2 To be sure, they seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways.
Like a nation that does what is right,
That has not abandoned the laws of its God,
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
3 “Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?”
Because on your fast day
You see to your business
And oppress all your laborers!
4 Because you fast in strife and contention,
And you strike with a wicked fist!
your fasting today is not such
As to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast I desire,
A day for men to starve their bodies?
Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
A day when the Lord is favorable?
6 No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock the fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke.
7 It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.

8 Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly;
Your Vindicator shall march before you,
The Presence of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then, when you call, the Lord will answer;
When you cry, He will say: Here I am.
If you banish the yoke from your midst,
The menacing hand and evil speech,
10 And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the famished creature —
The shall your light shine in darkness,
And your gloom shall be like noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
He will slake your thirst in parched places
And give strength to your bones.
You shall be like a watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters do not fail.
12 Men from your midst shall rebuild ancient ruins,
you shall restore foundations laid long ago.
And you shall be called
“Repairer of fallen walls,
Restorer of lanes for habitation.”
13 If you refrian from trampling the sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If call the sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to yours affairs, nor strike bargains —
14 Then you can seek the favor of the Lord.
I will set you astride the heights of the earth,
And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob —
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

JPS translation

Jewish terrorism, 2011.

"Price Tag"

My friend good friend Ori Nir, spokesman at Americans for Peace Now, has written a positively must-read analysis of the “Price Tag” tactic used by Israeli settlers in an effort to make thwarting their will and working toward peace too untenable, too painful to be contemplated. As he points out, they began by venting their anger on Israeli authorities, but that resulted in real backlash — so now they mostly take it out on Palestinians in the territories. So no one much cares.

As Ori puts it: “Price Tag has so far been a success story.”

On Monday, though, Price Tag crossed the border into northern Israel, where a Bedouin mosque was set alight. One wonders if and how that development will change the authorities’ response to the violence.

Following is an excerpt of Ori’s piece — I highly recommend that you click here to read the rest. For me, the most painful irony is that the State of Israel already revolves around the settlements and the occupation. But apparently, that’s still not enough.

“Price Tag” Terrorism Crosses the Green Line

The extremist settlers call it “Price Tag.” We have always called it by its proper name: Terrorism.

Now, Israel’s Shin Bet, the IDF’s top brass and Israeli Cabinet members agree with us. On Monday, shortly after a mosque was torched in an Israeli-Arab village in the Galilee and “Price Tag” graffiti was found nearby, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a member of the extreme right wing Yisrael Beitenu Party, told an Israel Radio reporter that he prefers not to use the perpetrators self-serving jargon. “This is an act of terrorism,” he said.

The problem is that largely because of law enforcement negligence, a terror campaign that has been raging in the West Bank for at least three years, has now mushroomed into a widespread phenomenon – both in the West Bank and in Israel proper – that targets not only West Bank Palestinians but also Israeli Arab citizens, Israeli peace activists and Israeli law enforcement officers.

“Price Tag,” also known among its perpetrators as “Arvut Hadadit” (Mutual Responsibility), started out as a violent tactic employed by young militant Israeli settlers in the West Bank to deter Israeli law enforcement authorities from removing illegally-built structures from West Bank settlements and illegal outposts. The tactic includes attacks on Palestinians and their property, as well as attacks on Israeli military and police officers to obstruct and deter law enforcement inside settlements.

This tactic was born out of a sense of frustration among some settlers following their leadership’s inability to stop the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It gradually became a popular – and very effective – low-intensity anti-Palestinian terrorism campaign. It has recently been creeping into Israel, and is therefore increasingly viewed as a real danger by the security authorities. Israeli law enforcement authorities tend to be more tolerant of anti-Palestinian violence in the West Bank than they are of violence inside Israel. As often happens, what was tolerated in the West Bank has crossed the Green Line, and is now plaguing Israelis inside Israel.

UPDATE: If you’re really interested, you go farther down the very dispiriting “Jewish terrorists” rabbit hole with the book Jewish Terrorism in Israelclick here for my review.

Reading the Conflict: Jewish Terrorism in Israel

Among the topics that Israeli Jews and supporters of the Jewish State are often uncomfortable discussing is terrorism.

Not Palestinian and/or Muslim terrorism – that gets discussed at the drop of a hat.

No, what is usually swept under the rug is the fact that the Jewish people itself has produced a fair number of terrorists, from ancient times up through the modern day. And so today, I recommend Jewish Terrorism in Israel, by Ami Pedahzur and Arie Perliger.

In recent years, as the global community has faced increasing waves of terrorism, academics and policymakers have searched for working explanations — analysis that might make sense of the senseless. Often, blame is laid on religious fundamentalism, specifically in Islam. But as Israeli academics Pedahzur and Perliger point out, Muslim extremists don’t hold that monopoly: Jewish terrorists have launched hundreds of attacks, most against Palestinian targets, but many against Israel itself.

Every Friday, I post a book recommendation on the Americans for Peace Now blog. To read the rest of this recommendation, please go to Americans for Peace Now; to see a list of all previous recommendations, please go here.

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