Tag Mehir graffiti 370.
(photo credit: Iyad Hadad, B'tselem)
“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).
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
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
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
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.”
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
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.
opinions expressed here are his own.
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