Price tag attack, Beit Hanina, March 24, 2014.
(photo credit: MOSHE MIZRAHI- NEWS 24)
For the second time in less than a year, the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina in northeastern Jerusalem was targeted by nationalistically motivated vandals in a price-tag attack resulting in dozens of slashed tires and hateful graffiti.
According to police, during the early morning hours on Monday, unidentified suspects punctured the tires of 34 Arab-owned cars and spray-painted the words “Whoever is not Jewish in Israel = the enemy” on a nearby bus.
Police spokeswoman Hagit Ben-Hamo said an investigation has been opened, although no arrests have been made.
A similar attack in the community last June resulted in the slashed tires of over 20 cars, with a Star of David spray-painted on one of them.
Deeming the vandals “fascists,” east Jerusalem portfolio holder Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz) said he is incredulous that an otherwise capable police force continues to have a dismal track record of arresting those responsible for such attacks.
“It’s become a daily problem that’s frequently not reported, and I’m wondering how it is that the police never catch them,” he said. “This is more than strange to me, because I know [that] when the police look for someone, they find them.”
Moreover, Margalit contended that the ongoing attacks are being enabled by the political acquiescence of right-wing leaders.
“This is related to politics and I have a feeling that the head of police is giving [rightwing] politicians support,” he said. “These kinds of hooligans cannot continue these attacks in Jerusalem without getting a green light from the police, because [the police] have the tools to put an end to this. If they don’t use those tools, it’s because the politicians are stopping them.”
Margalit added that there are only two viable solutions to putting an end to the vandalism: education and a zero-tolerance policy enforced by police.
“The rabbis of these [vandals] should say loudly and clearly that these actions are intolerable, and the police need to decide that enough is enough,” he said.
Noting a recent letter he received from a Jewish leader in Argentina, Margalit said that such attacks ultimately endanger the Jewish community throughout the globe.
“He sent me a note last week saying that this kind of violence puts Jews in greater danger because anti-Semitic groups in the Diaspora are using these attacks as fuel to attack Jewish institutions,” he said.
In response to Monday’s vandalism, former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) – who became the second presidential candidate with enough endorsements to run in the election to be held this year – issued a statement categorically condemning the incident.
“As a Jerusalemite I am ashamed of the State of Israel and the people of Israel,” the statement read. “Whoever committed these crimes are enemies of Israel because they are destroying the quality of life here.”
Shortly after the attack in Beit Hanina last year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the phenomenon of nationalistically motivated hate crimes against Palestinians, stating that he will “act with a strong hand against” such attacks in the future.
The government has since categorized such vandalism as “terrorist attacks.”
Meanwhile, a police official denied Margalit’s assertion of political coercion as “completely false.”