Graffiti is not terrorism

"Instead of making a blanket statement that all price-tag attacks are terrorism, it would make more sense to take a more nuanced approach."

June 6, 2013 21:55
3 minute read.
'Tag Mehir' [Price Tag] graffiti [file]

Tag Mehir graffiti 370. (photo credit: Iyad Hadad, B'tselem)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


“Price-tag” attacks are despicable.

The most recent attack, spraying hateful graffiti and slashing the tires of cars at a Jerusalem church, Dormition Abbey, is also mystifying to anyone who has common sense. Why on earth would someone who is mad at the government for evacuating outposts attack a church? It’s not only hateful, it’s just plain stupid and juvenile.

As I pointed out in an opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post nearly two years ago, “Price tag – a violation of Jewish values,” price-tag attacks are also clearly a violation of Halacha, including the principles forbidding vicarious punishment, bal tashchit (do not wantonly destroy) and hillul Hashem (desecrating God’s name).

But are price-tag attacks terrorism? Justice Minister Tzipi Livni thinks so. She has presented a proposal that the cabinet is expected to vote on in the next few weeks to classify price-tag attacks as terrorism.

An anonymous Justice Ministry official was quoted in Ynet as saying “It’s a crime that is aimed at influencing the policy of the government — it is not just criminal. We are talking about activities that are liable to spark violence with the Arabs in the territories.”

Livni is seeking to define price-tag attacks as terrorism because it would give the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) much broader powers to combat the crimes. In other words, the normal civil rights enjoyed by the people perpetrating price-tag attacks would be suspended.

But are price-tag attacks terrorism? It’s hard to say, because there is no generally accepted definition of terrorism. A few studies have identified more than 100 definitions for the word terrorism. The EU uses a definition that may be useful – “Serious offenses against persons or property that... given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organization where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization.”

Instead of making a blanket statement that all price-tag attacks are terrorism, it would make more sense to take a more nuanced approach. Price-tag attacks have included the following:

• Spray-painting graffiti on mosques, churches and the homes of left-wing activists
• Damaging cars
• Uprooting or burning olive trees
• Throwing stones
• Setting mosques on fire
• Attacking police and IDF facilities

Attacking the police and setting mosques on fire are actions that deserve to be considered terrorism.

Lives are endangered. These are serious crimes.

Spraying graffiti and damaging cars, however, are not in the same category. They are acts of vandalism. When motivated by a political consideration, they are even hate crimes, but they are still not the same as acts of terrorism.

Equating graffiti with suicide bombers will only serve to dilute the meaning of the word “terrorist.”

Most Israelis know that many civil rights may need to be compromised to combat terror, but we shouldn’t give away our rights too quickly.

It would be better to define terrorism as an act that could cause serious bodily harm or death, even unintentionally, in the pursuit of a political goal. And the same rules should apply to Israelis and Palestinians. Throwing a rock at a settler’s car is a terrorist act, as is setting a mosque on fire. Both deserve to be treated as serious crimes.

But lesser price-tag attacks that are strictly property crimes, such as spray-painting graffiti, should not be a cause to forgo the normal due process of law.

The writer is a businessman and rabbi. He is a member of the board and former chairman of Rabbis for Human Rights.

The opinions expressed here are his own.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

July 24, 2019
Herzl Beyond the Parochet (Curtain)


Cookie Settings