10 cars vandalized in latest ‘price tag’ attack in east Jerusalem

Police say words “price tag” and “death to Arabs” were spray-painted on nearby walls in latest incident.

Tag Mehir on Red Car Price Tag 370 (photo credit: Courtesy West Bank police.)
Tag Mehir on Red Car Price Tag 370
(photo credit: Courtesy West Bank police.)
Following a six-week lull in nationalistically motivated vandalism against Arab communities by Jewish extremists, the tires of six cars were slashed and four other vehicles vandalized in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa in an apparent “price-tag attack” early Tuesday morning.
In addition, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, the words “price tag” and “death to Arabs” were spray-painted on nearby walls.
“It seems it’s a criminal incident with nationalistic motives,” said Rosenfeld on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re continuing to search for the suspects and hope to make arrests soon.”
Residents of Beit Safafa said they were not hopeful about the prospect of any arrests.
“This is ridiculous,” said one middle-aged man, who requested anonymity. “If this happened in a Jewish neighborhood, there would be arrests in less than a day. But in Arab neighborhoods no arrests are ever made.”
Aaban, who requested that his last name not be published, expressed exacerbation over the perceived lack of parity in law enforcement in Arab and Jewish communities.
“Look, the government can say all it wants that it will stop [price-tag attacks], but it is a lie,” he said. “Jews have much more protection in Jerusalem than Arabs. If you don’t believe me, just look in the newspapers.”
Price tag vandalism had ebbed since June, when extremists slashed more than 20 tires in Beit Hanina, 28 cars were vandalized and homes spray-painted with racist graffiti in Abu Ghosh and two cars were set ablaze in Sheikh Jarrah.
The preceding month, five vehicles parked on one of the main streets in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo were vandalized in an alleged price-tag attack.
More than 180 nationalistic crimes against Arabs have taken place since January, versus 200 in all of 2012, records state.
In May, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein held an emergency meeting to discuss the growing problem with representatives from the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the State Attorney’s office.
In June, shortly after the attack in Beit Hanina, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the phenomenon, stating that the government will “act with a strong hand against” such attacks in the future.
Meretz councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, said on Tuesday that he and his constituents are dissatisfied with the response of both the government and the police.
“This is something that happens every day in Jerusalem, even if the news doesn’t cover it,” he said. “It has become routine in Jerusalem, especially in the Christian Quarter.”
According to Margalit, police reaction to such crimes is decidedly ineffective.
“The police know this happens almost every day and [they] have cameras everywhere but never arrest the people responsible for the attacks,” he added. “I don’t know what worries me more – the fact that this is happening or that the police are not making arrests.”
Margalit said his primary concern is that leaders within the capital’s security establishment are not making substantive efforts to curtail the pattern, despite rhetoric indicating otherwise.
“The fact is that this happens again and again, many times in the same places,” he declared.
“My academic background is in history and I remember studying 19th-century pogroms in Russia, where the hooligans used to say, ‘The government is with us.’ I have a feeling that the Jewish hooligans doing this in east Jerusalem think the police are ‘with them,’ and they are not afraid of being arrested.”
Rosenfeld refuted Margalit’s assertion. Within the Israeli police force, “there are hundreds of Muslim and Christian police officers who serve different communities,” he said. “There is no differentiation in any crime within any community.”
Rosenfeld pointed out that Arabic-speaking officers are frequently assigned to east Jerusalem neighborhoods subjected to crime in order to help expedite an arrest.
“Every crime is dealt with seriously and with sensitivity, no matter which neighborhood it happens in,” he said.