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Israeli politicians protect 'price tag' attackers

The decision not to define ‘price tag’ attackers as terrorists shows the settler lobby’s influence in the Israeli government and highlights the inequality of law and law enforcement in the West Bank.

Price tag settler attack on mosque in Tuba Zangariya, Galilee Oct 7, 2011 (Activestills.org)

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet have declared that ‘price tag’ perpetrators – thugs who attack Palestinian property in the West Bank, vandalize Christian or Muslim holy sites and private homes of left-wing activists within the Green Line – will not be labelled “terror” groups, but rather as “illegal associations.” The designation is important because it indicates which laws authorities can apply in their effort to crack down on these activities.

Israeli news has been reporting the authorities’ frustration in trying to break into the cells and prevent the attacks; the move is supposed to be part of a stepped-up effort to address the problem. It is hard not to be cynical, though, when military courts and jails are full of Palestinians for every stone thrown, but other crimes – like torching cars and burning mosques – just seem far too complex and sophisticated for a simple Israeli intelligence outfit to solve.

In truth, I don’t think this is worth a lengthy moral or ideological debate about whether the group should be labelled as terrorists in general, since it has not killed civilians, thank god. What matters is that the government stop the violence that indeed terrorizes people and sows lawlessness in the land under Israel’s control, while entrenching the unequal standards of law enforcement for two different populations. To that end, perhaps the most deplorable point in Haaretz‘ coverage of the issue (Hebrew) is the following. Barak Ravid writes:

Prime Minister Netanyahu hesitated from the decision to declare “price tag” activists as a terror organization, especially against the background of political pressure from settler leaders in the West Bank and from the Jewish Home party, as well as figures in his own party. Holding a vote within the government about defining the “price tag” activists as a terror organization could have sparked a coalition crisis. [My translation – DS]

So if true, the settlement leaders who have gone out of their way to publicly decry such acts, are now privately pressuring the government (Ravid cites an unnamed source) into taking softer measures in the extremely urgent need to combat the violence. The elected leaders of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home and Likud parties, who sit in the governing coalition and therefore lead this country, argue against a designation that would allow authorities to fight this scourge more extensively.

This is not a left- or right-wing issue: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon favored the “terrorist” label. It’s simply a political defense of price tag violence. What kind of commitment to order and justice does that show from public officials?

Related:
Police ignore Palestinian complaint about settler violence
Price tag attack on J’lem church provokes religious condemnation
Study: Settler violence is structural, not a ‘price tag’ matter 

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    COMMENTS

    1. XYZ

      It is important not to prostitute the language and the law. We have all seen price tag vandalism, such as spray painting a disgusting slogan on a wall described by certain sources as a “pogrom”. A pogrom is, in reality, a massive outbreak of violence against a certain group in which much property is destroyed and lots of people are killed or wounded.
      The word “genocide” is bandyed about in much the same way. I recall that after several hundred demonstrators were killed by the police in Mexico City in 1968 some of the authorities were later charged with the crime of “genocide”. Murder is bad enough, repression is bad enough, but to label something as genocide when it isn’t simply confuses everyone and is damaging to the cause of justice.

      Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      Torching mosques and cars in not quite the same as throwing stoned.

      Former have no clear intention to hurt people, while the sole purpose of the latter is to maim and kill.

      From wiki, definitions of terrorism:

      #1
      – ineluctably political in aims and motives
      – violent – or, equally important, threatens violence
      – designed to have far-reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target
      – conducted by an organization with an identifiable chain of command or conspiratorial cell structure (whose members wear no uniform or identifying insignia) and
      – perpetrated by a subnational group or non-state entity.[25]

      #2
      Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states.

      Obviously, Price Tag actions does not fit either – there is no violence directed against people, there is no asymmetrical conflict, they do not induce fear because there are no human casualties, et cetera.

      Reply to Comment
    3. To both commenters: I have tried to make the point (perhaps unrealistically) that it’s davka not the moral/ideological or even technical political terminology that concerns me here, but the fact that in choosing one legal designation over the other, certain politicians are clearly trying to protect violent criminals. It’s not that I dismiss the value of such terminology – the psychological impact of labeling them terrorists wd probably also contribute to the perceived urgency of stopping them. But that’s a different point – here we are looking at the legal consequences for the attempt to apprehend them.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        You are trying to argue that not designating these acts legally as terrorism is equivalent to either defending them or not combating them. That isn’t the case. If anything the leadership of the settlers have the most to lose from the continued acts of vandalism classified as ‘price tag attacks’ (they certainly don’t want to brand them terrorist attacks either). To put it simply it makes them look bad within Israel. You know that from the recent polls you posted. You are also trying to argue your displeasure by presuming that designating these acts as terrorism is just a matter of expediency with no ethical/moral/political aspects. This too seems like a reach given how overloaded a term like ‘terrorism’ has become. Your attempt to make this a clear-cut case of being for or against apprehending criminals is very problematic.

        Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Meanwhile:

        Government expands police activity against “Price Tag” activists.

        http://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/257433

        Strangely, that news item went completely unnoticed by some journalists…

        Reply to Comment
    4. Trespasser, as I wrote: “the move is supposed to be part of a stepped-up effort to address the problem.” It’s little, it’s late and Kolumn’s exegesis doesn’t dispel the reality that those politicians who resisted more severe approaches want to treat these guys with kid gloves.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        How little it is we will know after a while.

        It is not late until there is no human casualties.

        Some want to treat them with kid’s gloves, other harshly.

        Israeli police and prosecution aren’t notorious for their kind-heartiness, so chances are that the Price Tag movement would be cracked down before it is too late indeed.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Really? You truly believe it is OK to have these acts of violence march along for years now? It is not.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Vandalism, not violence. There is some difference.

        It might be no OK, but it is definitely not too late.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gearoid

          It is not simply vandalism. There is violence. Look at any report on settler violence. The same people that commit price tag attacks are candidates for violent settler attacks, which occur quite regularly.

          To suggest their is no violence is a massive lie.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            List casualties of violent settler attacks.

            Reply to Comment
    6. If a group found a way to regularly destroy buildings within Israel with absolutely no loss of life it would still be terror. It is terror to have one’s place of worship damaged or destroyed–it says “you do not belong here.” The house demolitions reported on this site today remove residents before acting; yet they shatter the removed’s lives. Property destruction is regularly defined as violence in Western law.

      “Victimless” terror abides within greater Israel. The law has become victim of another kind.

      To proclaim propety damage is acceptable since less worse than death is similary to saying that apartheid is the best outcome possible, given the ever slow motion war, so should be embraced by all. All of this logic will dead end.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >If a group found a way to regularly destroy buildings within Israel with absolutely no loss of life it would still be terror.

        A rather questionable claim.

        >It is terror to have one’s place of worship damaged or destroyed–it says “you do not belong here.”

        Muslims have no problem of any kind to desecrate/destroy other’s places of worship. Don’t you think that it would be a bit racist to deny others the same right?

        >The house demolitions reported on this site today remove residents before acting; yet they shatter the removed’s lives.

        “Shattering other’s lives” is not necessarily qualified as terror.

        >Property destruction is regularly defined as violence in Western law.

        I dare you to produce relevant quotes.

        >“Victimless” terror abides within greater Israel. The law has become victim of another kind.

        Well, yeah. You see, the law wasn’t written to deal with people who reject statehood 4 times and declare 4 wars instead.

        >To proclaim property damage is acceptable since less worse than death is similar to saying that apartheid is the best outcome possible, given the ever slow motion war, so should be embraced by all. All of this logic will dead end.

        I can see no relevance between acceptability of property damage and benefits of apartheid.

        Reply to Comment