The phenomenon of “pricetag” vandalism presents a challenge to Israeli society to look at itself. But there has been confusion about what it represents and why it persists. Clearly, there is enough information to prove that (1) Israeli authorities take the issue seriously; and (2) it is not condoned.
To understand the problem, however, a distinction must be made between two kinds of vandalism: one is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian; the other is a response to IDF-related destruction of Jewish homes and communities.
A third category generally ignored in discussing the controversy involves attacks by Arabs against Jews.
Random and sporadic vandalism against mosques and churches in Israel is anathema. It has been thoroughly repudiated by Israeli society; not a single Israeli political or religious leader supports it. Tolerance is a Jewish and Israeli value, and anyone who denies this is either ignorant, or a bigot. Yet, politicians, the police and media accuse “settlers” and “hilltop youths.”
After arresting many of them, however, the phenomenon continues.
In some cases, the perpetrators were found to be local Arabs and criminals seeking revenge and in one case, a secular Jewish youth whose mother is a judge. The reason it continues is the same for every other country in which it occurs.
Vandalism against the IDF is different.
Invariably, it is a response to the destruction of Jewish homes. Puncturing the tires of IDF vehicle in Yitzhar, for example, was in response to the destruction of a newly completed home in that community by the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, part of the IDF. Many consider this to be an abuse of power by government agencies.
Had the civil administration not initiated destruction, there would have been no incident. As in other similar examples, the civil administration does not give the reasons for what it does; it is, after all, ”the law,” albeit a law unto itself.
Our attention diverted to “price tag” vandalism, we missed something far more important: the politicization of the IDF and its legal/judicial system.
Restricting only Jews from building in Judea and Samaria, the destruction of their homes and property by agencies of the government may be technically legal, but they are profoundly immoral and anti-Zionist.
Condemning “settlers” and “hilltop youth” serves a political agenda: to undermine the settlement movement. Psychologically, it creates the impression of lawlessness, extremism and anti-social behavior that distorts reality and avoids understanding the context: a sense of social upheaval, insecurity and fear.
It is no coincidence that the “price tag” phenomenon developed after the 2005 evacuation of Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Samaria and its ongoing failures, suggestions of further withdrawals, government- backed destruction of homes and communities, and the giveaway “peace process” – including the release of Arab terrorists. This has created alienation from and mistrust of the government.
The charade of negotiating with those who call for Israel’s demise – and making concessions to them – has left most Israelis deeply dismayed.
Less attention is paid to Arab attacks on Jews and Jewish property.
The words “price tag” don’t appear on shattered windshields of Jewish cars and broken bodies.
Arabs don’t scrawl “price tag” when they burn a forest, or stab someone. Arabs as a group are not blamed. The president of Israel does not show up when a synagogue is burned and desecrated by Arabs, or a Jewish family mourns the loss of a loved one in a terrorist attack.
A Beduin from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebel Mukabar who murdered eight students in the Merkaz Harav yeshiva a few years ago did not leave a “price tag” note.
Violent Arab gangs from Isawiya, an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem bordering the Hebrew University and the French Hill neighborhood, and Arabs who damage Jewish property in Abu Tor, an upscale, mixed (Arab and Jewish) neighborhood of Jerusalem, don’t claim, “price tag!” Nearly every Shabbat, Israeli leftists, “anarchists,” and Arabs threaten and attack Jews living in Judea and Samaria and destroy property – watched by the IDF – unreported by the media.
Arabs burn Jewish-owned fields, steal herds of animals, cars and tools, destroy trees and threaten Jews without major news stories or condemnation from US, EU or UN representatives.
Demonstrators are not accused of “price tag” attacks and blamed for destruction of property and stopping traffic to protest a perceived economic or social injustice.
Mentally impaired youths in “religious” neighborhoods who burn garbage and paper collection containers are not accused of “price tag” attacks.
Vandalism is shameful, frustrating and irritating. But hysterical, knee-jerk reactions intended to denigrate and falsely accuse Jews who live in Judea and Samaria by linking them to vandalism distort the problem from one that is fundamentally societal, to vicious attacks against “the settlers.” That prevents a clear understanding of why young people engage in what, under normal circumstances, is considered socially unacceptable behavior.
As long as we accept portrayals of major populations in our community as perpetrators because of a few misguided and immature individuals with spray cans, because of improper behavior toward others, we will remain “suckers.” Irresponsible rants against Jews living in Judea and Samaria simply confuse the issue.
Condemning “price tag” graffiti, presumably written by Jews, while remaining silent when Jews are attacked is simply hypocrisy. It is nothing less than a moral double standard. That makes us all victims of “price tag” vengeance and abuse. We need to confront the problem as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic society and nation, with a common goal and purpose.
Using “price tag” to justify a devious propaganda campaign against Jews living in Judea and Samaria is far more destructive than offensive graffiti; it divides us and is therefore self-defeating. It is, simply, sinat hinam, baseless hatred.
The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist.