Nearly three dozen cars in the Arab neighborhood of Sharafat were vandalized Wednesday morning, with racist graffiti affixed to a nearby wall, in the second “price tag” attack in the capital in just over one week.
According to national police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the crime took place before dawn, resulting in more than 30 cars with slashed tires, and the words “Arabs = thieves, no coexistence” spray-painted on a nearby wall.
“We are considering this a criminal incident with nationalistic motives and are looking for a connection to previous instances of anti-Arab crimes,” Rosenfeld said. “Our investigation is continuing and we hope to make arrests soon.”
Wednesday’s vandalism is the latest in an escalating pattern of similar attacks in the capital. On February 10 in Ein Aluza, near Silwan, 16 Arab cars were vandalized and a bus was spray-painted with the words “Enough Arab workers – enough assimilation!” Following a January 8 incident, in which two Arab cars were set on fire in the West Bank, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon designated such nationalistically-motivated crimes as a “terrorist act in every sense of the word.”
“We are acting – and will act against – its perpetrators with zero tolerance and with a stern and determined hand to eradicate it,” Ya’alon said hours after that attack.
Ya’alon added that while the country must take harsh and decisive action against Jewish extremists, he emphasized that such deviants make up a fraction of the mainstream settlement community, whose members he described as loyal, law-abiding citizens.
“There’s no connection between these lawbreakers and the settlements and their decent residents,” the defense minister said. “We will not allow marginal, extreme and violent groups to forcefully and illegally take control of properties that are not theirs, to threaten Palestinian residents who work their lands, [to perform] thuggish behavior on the ground, in a way that endangers public peace and that could spark a conflagration.”
To this end, Ya’alon said he would deploy “all available means” to deal with the far-right elements behind nationalistically-motivated crimes.
In response to the uptick of recent “price tag” attacks, Eastern Jerusalem Portfolio head Meir Margalit (Meretz) said that the crimes had increasingly concerned him and his constituents, and that they must be dealt with by a third party.
“This is one of the reasons we need the Kerry initiative and European involvement – or else all of us will collapse,” he said. “We cannot do it by ourselves, we need someone from the outside who will stop this crazy cycle of violence.”
Adding that “‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everyone blind,” Margalit said it is dangerous and futile to allow extremists, on both sides of the political spectrum, to define and escalate an already complex and emotional conflict.
“If we continue to attack in revenge, for violence, at the end of the day all of us will lose,” he said. “This is true for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
Sharafat, which abuts Beit Safafa, was most recently in the news after the Supreme Court recently upheld the state’s right to build a controversial new highway through it and Beit Safafa.
The battle over the 1.8-km. highway has gone on for years, with residents vociferously opposing the extension of the Begin Highway to the Tunnel Road that leads to Gush Etzion.