The rash of price tag attacks against Arabs in northern Israel continued on Wednesday as vandals scrawled a Star of David on a vehicle in Yokne’am and slashed its tires.
“Price tag” attacks go against our values, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said.
In a meeting with Arab, Beduin, Druse and Circassian Likud Party activists, the prime minister called the vandalism at a mosque in Fureidis earlier this week “outrageous.”
“We will catch those responsible,” Netanyahu said. “This is a central goal for us because [the acts] go against our meaning and our values.”
“Price tag” is the term used to describe acts of vandalism, generally directed at Arabs, to protest government policy.
A Nazareth man, who was working in construction in Yokne’am, parked in the town. When he returned an hour later, two of his tires had been slashed and a Star of David has been spray-painted on the vehicle, he told police.
Afula police opened an investigation. It was the fifth such attack against Arab property in Yokne’am in the past month. No arrests have been made.
Also on Wednesday, the tires of seven vehicles were slashed in Acre, but police believe that it was non-political and not a “price tag” attack directed against Arabs.
Residents of Fureidis, near Zichron Ya’acov, were staging a general strike on Wednesday after unidentified persons sprayed graffiti on a mosque and slashed dozens of tires on Monday night in a suspected “price tag” attack. All schools and businesses in the town of 12,000 were shut down as part of the strike.
Muhammad Mohsen, a resident of Fureidis whose car was vandalized on Monday night, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that all four tires were slashed and that “no one has been in contact to help us pay for it.”
“We ask the government not only for money,” but to deal with the perpetrators, he said.
“We live in coexistence with the Jews from neighboring areas,” Mohsen said. “We want to educate our kids that we eat and live together. That’s how I raise my kids, but my kid asks how can this be, how can they do this to me.
“I didn’t have anything to say.” Though such attacks began in the West Bank, the past few months have seen a marked increase in “price tag” incidents within the Green Line. Property damage and anti-Arab graffiti have been reported in Jaljulya, Umm el-Fahm, Akbara, Kafr Kasim and Baka al-Gharbiya, in addition to Fureidis and Yokne’am.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) visited Fureidis on Wednesday, and said that “price tag” vandalism is akin to terrorism.
“The police and Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] are acting to catch the perpetrators of this ‘price tag,’ but in order to do so effectively, they need to have the same tools as the war on terrorism,” Herzog said.
The Labor Party chairman said that stopping such acts is not a matter of coalition and opposition.
“Religious hatred cannot harm [Arab-Jewish] relations in the Fureidis and Carmel Coast area,” Herzog said.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) asked Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen to recognize those harmed by “price tag” acts as victims of terrorism and for them to receive compensation for their property losses.
Tibi plans to submit a bill that would classify “price tag” criminals as terrorist organizations.
“If the government doesn’t support my proposal, then it proves that it is ignoring these crimes and indirectly encouraging them,” he said.
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) told the Post that “Israeli policy entails hostility” and “the removal of our right to our land.”
There has been an onslaught of 50 racist laws passed by the Knesset as well as hostility from state institutions, which paves the way for “price tag” attacks, she said.
“This extreme message from these extremists is what the state tells us every day: You are not equal, welcome or indigenous,” Zoabi said.
Hussein Abu Hussein, a lawyer and chairman of the board at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, told the Post he believes the government does not recognize the severity of the incidents.
“The result will be a confrontation on the basis of religion, and that would be bad,” he said.
The Shin Bet is qualified to deal with such attacks, he said, citing his experience dealing with security suspects.
If it would intervene as they do in terrorist cases, “this would end quickly,” Abu Hussein said.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said he does not agree with equating “price tag” vandals to terrorists.
“There are murderers – we just freed some of them,” Ariel said, in a reference to terrorists freed at the demand of the PLO during peace negotiations. “Don’t confuse the two.”
At the same time, Ariel called for zero tolerance for “price tag” acts.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.