The unknown assailants struck in the middle of the night, targeting a sensitive holy site revered by their foes. Displaying complete disregard for the hatred their actions were likely to provoke, they proceeded to spray-paint malicious slogans all over the object of their fury, a scandalous act of contemptible vandalism. The attack took place earlier this month outside the Galilee city of Carmiel, where a tomb dating back nearly two millennia was desecrated by unknown miscreants.
Didn’t hear about it? Of course you didn’t, because the perpetrators were most likely Arabs and the shrine defaced with swastikas belonged to a Jewish sage, Rabbi Halafta, who lived during Talmudic times. The incident was but the latest in a string of attacks aimed against Jews, few if any of which have received the coverage or attention they deserve.
Indeed, the recent ruckus over the so-called “price tag” attacks being directed against Arabs has revealed an awkward truth about Israel’s would-be defenders of tolerance and justice: their hubris is exceeded only by their hypocrisy.
Let’s get one thing straight: anyone who uses graffiti to intimidate others or despoil their houses of prayer is a childish thug and a hate-monger.
Anyone who slashes someone else’s tires because of their ethnic or religious identity is a hooligan who needs to be punished for his actions. And it shouldn’t matter if the perpetrator is a follower of Moses or Mohammed, should it? But apparently, in some quarters, it does.
Over the past few weeks, various politicians have come out forcefully against price-tag incidents targeting Arabs, likening them to terrorism, convening emergency meetings on the subject and conducting tours of vandalized sites.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch have led the charge, with the latter even calling for the use of decidedly undemocratic methods, such as detention without trial, against Jews suspected of taking part.
“We know who carried out these acts and they must be declared terror organizations, and we must be allowed to use administrative detention against them”, Aharonovitch told reporters.
Yet amid all this flurry of activity, hardly a word has been uttered about the flip-side of the coin.
Take, for example, the incident in Jaffa earlier this month. In advance of Independence Day, vandals sprayed red paint on some 60 Israeli flags that had been put up by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality to celebrate the nation’s independence.
And earlier this week, in the Jewish community of Emanuel in Samaria, suspected Arab price-taggers are believed to have been behind notices put up on a bus stop which read, “Israel is a terror state. Get out of our land.”
Back in February, the ancient tomb of the biblical Elazar, son of Aaron the High Priest, was defaced by Palestinian radicals, who covered the grave with slogans such as “Zionist enemy” and “free Palestine.” The list goes on and on.
What Livni, Aharonovitch and others fail to realize is that their unwillingness to speak out against Arab price-tag attacks with the same force and conviction as they employ against its Jewish equivalents is duplicitous and two-faced.
If anything, their silence only serves to encourage Arab extremists, who see that they can act with impunity. Surely they should realize by now that deploying double-standards is hardly an effective way to bring about a reduction in Arab-Jewish tensions.
Moreover, criminologists and psychologists have long noted that graffiti can serve as a “gateway offense,” an opening through which troublemakers can become involved in even more serious crimes against persons or property.
Today’s spray-painter could easily devolve into tomorrow’s terrorist. Therefore, it is time for Israel’s law enforcement authorities to crack down across the board against all “price-taggers,” be they Arab or Jew.
Sound the alarm, craft a strategy and bring the wrongdoers to justice – but do so without the hyperbolic hypocrisy that has been on display thus far. As Prof. Alan Dershowitz has pointed out, “Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you’re moral, saying your moral, is not the same as acting morally.”
And the moral thing to do is to go after not only Jews who commit hate crimes, but Arabs too.