In Israel, graffiti are a guaranteed method for public messaging. Write any
inscription on a wall, and headlines will render it a “Price Tag” act, along
with a photograph of your artwork.
It doesn’t have to be smart or
Even “Donald Duck revenge!” will work, but you should also
blaspheme Islam, add a right-wing- related term, or simply end with the words
“Price Tag.” It is customary to add a personal touch, such as naming a
settlement or commemorating a friend’s birthday.
If you really want to be
effective, spray-paint the door of a mosque and slash the tires of a nearby car.
Frowning and sighing in dismay and disgust, Yonit Levy on Channel 2 will
announce it as if World War III has broken out.
The term “Price Tag” (Tag
Mechir) was coined by settlers, describing actions aimed at Israeli authorities,
meant to express that there was a price to pay for every eviction or demolition
of settlements or outposts. It eventually assumed a broader context, referring
to retaliatory actions by Jewish “hilltop youth” extremists, as a price Arabs
will pay for attacking Jews.
Contrary to the term’s literal meaning, the
acts are far from being “An eye for an eye,” and mostly involve damage to
property and harassment, but there have also been physical attacks, arson, and
desecration of holy sites.
The problem is that media coverage overrates,
inflates and even encourages this phenomenon.
Attaching a title to
criminal activity is, in essence, acting as an instigator and accelerator for
more such crimes, and serves the perpetrators’ goals. It grants them the
publicity they desire and attaches meaning and justification to what should have
been portrayed and perceived as despicable and cowardly actions.
I do not
argue for a media blackout when vandalism takes place, but there should be
restraint and control on the level of exposure and interpretation.
is absolutely no need to offer free PR to these scoundrels. Imagine their
disappointment if the following headline appeared: “Despicable vandalism was
committed. Due to the cowardly and childish nature of the acts, we will not show
or quote what was written.” With such poor impact, why go to all the trouble of
doing it again? Here’s the absurdity: Every kid who spray-paints the words “Price
Tag,” automatically makes it a “Price Tag,” and any other act with apparent
characteristics of Jewish extremism, is automatically granted this
It’s not a defined entity assuming responsibility for these
actions, but the media shaping the image and scope of the problem.
media are allowing sporadic actions of extremist kids to manipulate public
agenda and opinion.
It’s the same mistake as attributing every far-flung
terror act to al-Qaida, and the reckless habit of attaching Hollywood-style
names to criminals, such as “The Dark Night Shooter.”
Some acts of
vandalism, such as uprooting trees, have been proven to be self-inflicted by
Palestinians, aiming to smear settlers and undermine coexistence. I’m no
linguistic expert, but from what I’ve seen, I bet some of the inscriptions were
not written by a native Hebrew speaker. This is yet another reason not to tag
every incident as a “Price Tag,” for we don’t always know who is behind
Of course, the media do not serve national interests, for their
compass is maximizing profit.
“Price Tag” reaps more rating than
But journalism ethics and standards should be upheld, and I
believe they are currently significantly violated. The media fans the flame of
incitement, promotes conspiracy theories, and never misses an opportunity to
enhance drama. They are not only reporting facts, but shaping public
There are few cases of violence toward Palestinians, in
contrast with the daily terror threat to Israelis, but this is no comfort. We
cannot accept any form of violence toward Palestinians.
foremost, because it is morally wrong. Second, because we have a legal
obligation to maintain public order and protect the property and well-being of
all residents. And third, because every case of Jewish violence diverts and
distorts public opinion about Israel.
Disgraceful acts of desecration
against religious sites, such as the recent vandalism at the Monastery of the
Cross in Jerusalem, stain the remarkable achievement of freedom of worship in
Israel. We have seen how reality can be twisted, such as in a 60 Minutes
documentary, which strangely blamed Israeli actions for the dwindling Christian
population in Bethlehem.
Palestinian leaders manage to bring “settler
violence” to international attention and even call it “terrorism.” Yes –
terrorism. What chutzpah! But it’s not only Palestinians. Israeli media have
recently called an insulting graffiti “Jewish terrorism.” Even former IDF chief
Dan Halutz stated in an interview that “Price Tag” acts were “retaliatory
terrorism,” although he labeled them “less violent.”
We should not misuse
this sensitive term.
Killing innocent civilians to promote political
goals is terrorism. Scrawling slogans on a wall is despicable, but certainly not
Israel has established a dedicated taskforce to counter these
acts of extremism, but I believe that the results are far from sufficient to
eliminate this shameful phenomenon.
Law enforcement agencies must
initiate more proactive and preemptive actions, such as allocating forces when
such acts are anticipated.
More investigative resources, such as
intelligence and forensics, should be utilized in order to apprehend the
perpetrators. The full cycle of arrest, indictment and conviction should be
visible, leading to substantial and burdensome punishments serving as a
“Price Tag” has become a shameful term of our times. We
must take the appropriate measures to fight and eradicate these acts perpetrated
by rotten apples from among us, by using a coordinated perceptional and physical
So far, we have failed in both tracks, for we exaggerate and
bolster their significance but fight them ineffectively as if they were childish
vandalism. We should invert image and action, by diminishing their resonance,
but countering them forcefully.
The writer is a former Israel Air Force
pilot and founder of Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd. reuven@CCSt.co.il