Amid calls for a stronger police presence throughout the capital following a
spate of nationalistically motivated “price-tag” crimes over the past week,
authorities created a special task force to aggressively address the growing
There have been at least three incidents of defacement against
Arab and Christian targets since Sunday – resulting in the destruction of over a
dozen gravestones at a Christian cemetery in the Old City, as well as the
defacement of 15 Arab-owned vehicles.
The latest incident occurred
Tuesday morning, when five cars were vandalized on the outskirts of the Old
City, with the words “price tag” graffitied with spray paint on one of the
vehicles, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
On Sunday afternoon,
four ultra-Orthodox youths were arrested in Jerusalem after destroying 15
gravestones in the Christian cemetery, following a protracted foot race with
police through the Old City when they attempted to flee the scene.
on Sunday night, two Jewish teenagers were arrested for allegedly vandalizing 10
cars in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik. According to
Rosenfeld, since then a total of eight arrests have been made in the
Rosenfeld added that the special task force was also implemented in
each district in the country, coordinated with police headquarters, to address
the spike in “price tag” crimes.
“Israeli police patrols have been
stepped up to prevent and respond to these serious incidents which have caused
tremendous damage not only to the intended targets, but also to the communities
where they took place,” Rosenfeld said.
Still, Arab residents of east
Jerusalem expressed exacerbation Tuesday due to the ongoing trend of
nationalistically- motivated vandalism against them.
“This would never
happen in a Jewish neighborhood,” said one Arab woman Tuesday, who requested
anonymity. “Because we are not Jews we do not get the same
“It’s just going to get worse,” added a middle-aged man, who
also asked that his name not be published.
“I can’t remember when this
has happened more [frequently].
It’s a big problem.”
In May, Army
Radio reported a sharp increase in cases of harassment by Jews against Arabs,
citing 180 incidents since January, compared to 200 in all of 2012.
response, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch and Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein held a meeting that same
month to discuss the growing problem, along with representatives from the IDF,
the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the State Attorney’s Office.
a statement issued by Livni and Aharonovitch’s offices, the ministries said
Aharonovitch, Livni and Weinstein “see eye to eye on the need for more serious
steps to be taken [against perpetrators] of such attacks.”
that they “see the severity of price-tag attacks seeping into Israel, and the
danger inherent in damaging relations with Arab-Israelis.”
at the meeting discussed harsher steps to deter such incidents, including
legally defining “price-tag” incidents as acts of terror, according to
In the past, Weinstein opposed such a legal definition, but
according to sources, he is weighing shifting that opinion, given that the legal
deterrents currently available to police have not been sufficient to halt these
Meretz councilman Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem
portfolio, said last month that he and his constituents are dissatisfied with
the response of both the government and the police.
“This is something
that happens every day in Jerusalem, even if the news doesn’t cover it,” he
“It has become routine in Jerusalem, especially in the Christian
According to Margalit, police reaction to such crimes has been
selective and decidedly ineffective.
He added that his primary concern is
that leaders within the capital’s security establishment are not making
substantive efforts to curtail the pattern, despite rhetoric indicating
“The fact is that this happens again and again, many times in
the same places,” he said. “Something more needs to be done.”