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'Price tag' attackers hit West Bank town of Yasouf for second time

With the active and passive support of the IDF, Shin Bet and police, the terrorists have already won by continuing their attacks with impunity.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Graffiti in village of Yasouf, reading ‘Price tag; stone terror’, February 18, 2013 (Photo: Abed Al-Karim a-Saadi/B’Tselem)

Yesterday morning a “price tag” pogrom took place in the Palestinian village of Yasouf. If the name Yasouf is vaguely familiar to you, it’s probably because in 2009 it became the target of the most famous price tag attack: the burning of its mosque. It’s worth mentioning the response of the Shomron local settler council at the time (Hebrew): it called the attack an “act of madmen or a provocation,” piously adding that it hoped the police would find those responsible. That was two years before Shahar Ginossar wrote in an investigative report for Yedioth Ahronot that the Shomron local council created the “price tag” policy, and even funded it. The “price tag” people are the military arm of the settlement establishment, the hoodlums who are used when violence and plausible deniability are necessary. “Price tag” attacks have become so common that they’re barely reported; they used to make headlines, but the attack in Yasouf yesterday was barely worthy of a newsflash.

The choice of Yasouf as a repeat target of “price tag” attacks becomes more understandable when you realize that the village is now fighting against the taking over of its lands by settlers, who are aided and abetted by the IDF in doing so. The village dares to fight for its rights, so it gets a small dose of terror as a reminder of the price for messing not only with the military arm of the government of Israel, but also with the military arm of the settler movement, which is far more ruthless.

In December 2010, the villagers petitioned the High Court of Justice, represented by attorneys Michael Sfard, Shlomi Zecharia, Avishar Lev and Muhammad Shqayer of Yesh Din’s legal team. The petition was against the army and the Civil Administration and demanded the villagers receive access to their lands. Since early 2001, the army has prevented the villagers from accessing thousands of dunams of its lands. Later, “Tapuach West,” an outpost illegal even according to the government of Israel, was established on some of those lands,. “Tapuach West” blocked the villagers’ access to their lands, as did the illegally paved road running between Tapuach – a settlement created by Kahane supporters – and its outpost, “Tapuach West.” Is the local council responsible both for the settlement and the outpost? After all, it’s the Shomron local council.

At first, the settlers prevented the villagers from reaching their lands with the usual violence. Then the army got involved and erected a gate that is never open, thus turning what was a lawless land grab into something semi-official. Later, the army declared much of the territory a closed military zone, thus officially preventing the villagers – not the invading settlers – from reaching what is, without any legal contest, their land from which they live.

Some two years after the petition was filed, in November 2012, the court first debated it – hey, it’s just some Palestinians robbed of their livelihood, what’s the rush? In the hearing, the justices were sharply critical of the behavior of the army and civil administration. Justice Naor said: “The balance here derives first of all from the starting point, that they are entitled to reach their lands. If there are lawbreakers, it is the duty of the military commander to deal with them. His job is to ensure their access, and if there are lawbreakers he must deal with them. If anyone uses violence the state must confront them. It is the state’s job to maintain order.”

So, until the government enforces order, which it is loath to do when Jews are involved, the terrorists residing in the Shomron local council will try to make it clear to the petitioners that they’re messing with the wrong people. Luckily, the petitioners refuse to bend. In addition to law enforcement officials’ poor record in defending the Palestinians in the occupied territories from the theft of their lands and violence against them – which, again, is basically all the army is allowed to do there, legally – we can add their pathetic inability to capture the “price tag” pogromchiks. Their proven record of inaptitude has already led the local residents to tell us they are unwilling to press charges, since the way their complaints are dealt with is a bad joke and the process is a waste of their time.

In that regard, the terrorists have already won, with the quiet support – both by action and inaction – of the IDF, the Shin Bet and police.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. Jan

      How many so far were injured or died in “price tag” attacks? Anyone has statistics?

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      I relize that in your war conducted with “righteous wrath” against the settlers and the Right in Israel that you and other “progressive” feel free to use verbal exaggeration, but even you must realize that writing some obnoxious graffiti on a wall is NOT a “pogrom” which is a violent riot in which many people are killed or wounded and much property is damaged or destroyed. Your hatred for your opponents must not be used as an excuse to propagate falsehoods. After all what you are doing is transferring the guilt YOU feel ( you have stated in the past that Jews had no right to make aliyah to Israel or set up atate and that includes you and your ancestors) over what YOU are doing and attempting to shift the blame over to someone else.

      Reply to Comment
      • Palestinan

        You have to excuse him for behaving like a human being and carrying guilt of his people’s shameful past and present! Only people of conscience can feel it and understand him.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Do you carry the guilt of your people’s shameful past?

          Yossi calls them Terrorists, I wish your people’s terror attacks were also graffiti and an occasional arson…

          Reply to Comment
          • Or white phosphorus being fired on one of the most densely populated places on earth? Four million cluster bombs being rained down on South Lebanon in the final three days of the war, where they are still causing deaths and injuries today?

            When you are backed by a sophisticated and highly equipped military that conducts state-sponsored terror, you will rarely feel a need to go beyond arson and beatings and vandalism, which is not to say that worse doesn’t happen. Settler violence has to be understood in the same context as state violence. The latter enables the former.

            That said, I agree with XYZ’s definition of a pogrom and think it is inappropriate for this particular price tag attack, although there certainly have been acts of settler violence to which the term can safely be applied.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinan

            I’m not proud of my people’s shameful and criminal past and even present which are incomparable to yours.I dont deny facts and history but you do.You came to us not the opposite ,you are occupying us not the opposite,you have started this conflict not the opposite.Israel is committing war crimes and terrorism on a daily basis.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            Vicky –

            I don’t always agree with Israel’s generals in their decisions or their choice of armaments. However, I fail to recall any attack by the IDF *intended* to kill civilians.
            And so I don’t agree with your basic assumption – that Israel’s strikes are only intended to instill terror and destruction. One needs to view the IDF’s actions in comparison to those of other armies. Given that comparison, the IDF seems OK to me.

            The idea that the only reason the evil settlers don’t actually terrorize Arabs that much is because there’s a state sponsored terror is simply absurd. Firstly, because I don’t think there is one. There’s harsh treatment, there’s a bad bureaucratic system and there are other things – but I really don’t think there’s a master plan to terrorize the population. You have to give people their due, this site goes to great length to glorify Palestinian “unarmed” resistance (which is still rather violent as far as I’m concerned) and I don’t hear you say – individual Palestinians don’t have to attack Jews because Hamas or some Shuhadazubi-Martyrs-Brigade does the job very well. So as long as you don’t hear about settler snipers killing children, or butchering entire families or firing rockets at school buses – please admit that in this regard, our extremest are much better then theirs.

            Palestinian –

            I don’t deny facts or history. There are shameful crimes on both sides and I agree that they are incomparable, it’s rather useless to compare crimes or grievances.

            “You have started this conflict, not the opposite”.

            That’s false. We did not start this conflict. The conflict started because two national movements competed on a single piece of land. It’s about time you’ll start taking responsibility for your actions and those of your leaders. There’s no black and white, right vs wrong or helpless Palestinians against evil Zionists.

            “Israel is committing war crimes and terrorism on a daily basis.”

            I urge you to take a good look at Syria. Not to wash Israel’s crimes or shift the discussion to another topic – just to understand what war crimes and terrorism really is. Maybe then you’ll see that you are much better being in a conflict with Israel that with anyone else around.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinan

            Both sides aren’t equal ,the oppressor and the oppressed arent !

            One national movement came from outside, from another continent ,to establish its own project at the expense of others.
            If Palestine wasn’t chosen by the “chosen”, it would be another Arab country.

            Its funny how you stated earlier that its useless to compare crimes or grievances ,yet you compare the crimes in Syria with the crimes in Palestine ! Unbelievable

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            “Both sides aren’t equal ,the oppressor and the oppressed arent !”

            You cannot shake of your responsibility. The conflict didn’t start at 1967 and so our sides are not of an evil oppressor or a helpless oppressed. But of two national movements in conflict.

            If Jews hadn’t come here, there probably wouldn’t be a Palestine, and the Land of Israel would have been a part of Jordan or Syria. Given their great contributions to the world, please pardon me for not feeling regret.

            I said that arguing whose crimes are larger is useless. When I mentioned Syria – I only wanted to give you an example of a state that actually does what you claim Israel is doing.

            Your total lack of capability to view the world as anything but black and white and take any responsibility for the situation will only delay the solution. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like you want a solution, only some perverted “justice” that involves the destruction of Israel and ethnic cleansing of Jews.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinan

            The conflict has started when Herzl and his gang chose Palestine instead of Argentina or Kenya .

            If European Jews hadn’t come here, there probably would be a Palestine, at least Palestinians would be living in their homeland from Al Mutelleh to Um Al Rashrash.

            “Maybe then you’ll see that you are much better being in a conflict with Israel that with anyone else around.” This is a comparison and you are a hypocrite.

            Your lack of decency (which is common among Zionists) is the real problem. Justice is your bitter enemy because it goes against your interests, myths and dirty project

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim,
            South Lebanon was littered with cluster munitions, millions of them, at a time when the IDF knew that the end of the war was imminent. A cluster bomb doesn’t discriminate between an armed militant or a child on her way to school. Are you honestly able to look at four million submunitions and say, there was no intent to terrorise here? The same with Gaza. It is, as I noted, one of the most densely populated places on earth – and the Israeli army opted to use white phosphorus in there, knowing the population density, knowing that that stuff burns worse than napalm, knowing that Gazans have nowhere to run and no safe shelter from aerial bombardment. As JPost helpfully described Pillar of Defense, “The IDF is using this as an opportunity to do some ‘maintenance work’ in Gaza and to mow the lawn, so to speak, with regard to terrorism, with the main goal of boosting its deterrence and postponing the next round of violence for as long as possible.” These practices are mildly described as deterrents when conducted by the army, but ‘deterrent’ is simply a nicer and more sanitised word for terror – as you would perhaps recognise if you listened to a supporter of suicide bombing using the same language about ‘deterring’ Israel from continuing the occupation. Same ugly meaning.

            Through that occupation, the Israeli military exercises complete control over Palestinian daily life, which is why extremist settlers rarely feel a need to do worse than they do (although they have committed murders in the past, and destruction of property is common – with no sign of justice afterwards). Their interests are well-protected by the state and they already have what they want. Palestinian militant groups do not exercise this power over Israeli society, which is where your comparison falls down. There are no Palestinians ordering your home to be bulldozed, blocking your street, preventing the kids in your neighbourhood from accessing school, raiding your house in the middle of the night, confiscating parcels of land to build their own communities. The violence perpetrated by militant groups isn’t systemic in the same way and it doesn’t stem from a position of power. This does not mean that it isn’t bad, but that it is qualitatively different. It is only possible to make the argument that you are making if you are prepared to a.) sideline that issue of power and b.) invest blind faith in the Israeli army. I cannot in conscience look at the civilian death toll that they have racked up over the years and say, “But they didn’t mean it”, especially not as I encounter abusive army conduct as a matter of course through my daily work, and I am familiar with its routine use of collective punishment. Rabin’s ‘break their bones’ policy in the First Intifada is a chilling example of that.

            As for whether the IDF is better or worse than any other army or any other occupier…I’m a pacifist for a reason. There is no such thing as a moral army, any more than there’s a vegan butcher or a kosher bacon sandwich. But this is irrelevant to the Palestinians who live under Israeli military control. Comparing the conduct of Israel’s occupation army to that of Chinese occupiers in Tibet might be some comfort to you, but then you don’t live under either of those regimes.

            I also find it astonishing that you’re able to characterise Palestinian popular resistance (slingshots) as ‘pretty violent’ in the same comment in which you excuse phosphorus bombs as unintentional harm. Whenever anyone comments on the violence of Palestinian stone-throwin whilst defending or at least excusing the IDF, I am invariably reminded of lines from George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’: “And then you were surprised because she threw your slippers at you! *I* should have thrown the fire-irons at you.”

            Reply to Comment
      • While I agree that “pogrom” is incorrectly used (perhaps “hate/intimidation campaign” would do), you revert to an ad hominium psychological analysis of Yossi which, in outcome, completely ignores the events related in the piece. Which is as much your goal, methinks, as targeting “pogrom.”

        Reply to Comment
    3. Justice Naor said: “The balance here derives first of all from the starting point, that they are entitled to reach their lands. If there are lawbreakers, it is the duty of the military commander to deal with them. His job is to ensure their access, and if there are lawbreakers he must deal with them. If anyone uses violence the state must confront them. It is the state’s job to maintain order.”

      This is a remarkable statement, for it recognizes the right of land use for livelihood, and further explicitly states that this right must be enjoyed as part of the rule of law. I take this as evidence that 1) some Justices support protected rights in the Bank; 2) there is a feeling that the IDF refuses its charged mission for the rule of law.

      This is the background thought necessary for the Court to eventually take its constitutional place. Which does nothing for the present and past grief endured by those denyed their land use.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Leen

      There a lot more price tags going on on the roads of the West Bank. I’ve seen about 3 or 4 where the Arabic part of the signs are completely erased or scribbled and on the Jerusalem ones its ‘Jews only, no Arabs’. Ugh

      Reply to Comment
    5. Shmuel

      I have the following partial statistics about Palestinian terrorism dating back to the 1920s.

      What do you say about this Vicky, Leen? And it all started way, way, way before there was any occupation …


      1929, Hebron Massacre: Arab rioters killed 67 Jews in Hebron . Many of the dead were dismembered. Many incidents of rape were reported. Numerous homes were burned. The remaining Jewish community of Hebron fled to Jerusalem
      April 19, 1936, Jaffa Massacre: Arab rioters attacked Jaffa and killed 16 Jews.
      Jan 01, 1952 – Seven armed terrorists attacked and killed a nineteen year-old girl in her home, in the neighborhood of Beit Yisrael, in Jerusalem.
      Apr 14, 1953 – Terrorists tried for the first time to infiltrate Israel by sea, but were unsuccessful. One boat was intercepted and the other escaped.
      Jun 07, 1953 – A youngster was killed and three others were wounded, in shooting attacks on residential areas in southern Jerusalem.
      Jun 09, 1953 – Terrorists attacked a farming community near Lod, and killed one of the residents. The terrorists threw hand grenades and sprayed gunfire in all directions. On the same night, another group of terrorists attacked a house in the town of Hadera. This occurred a day after Israel and Jordan signed an agreement, with UN mediation, in which Jordan undertook to prevent terrorists from crossing into Israel from Jordanian territory.
      Jun 10, 1953 – Terrorists infiltrating from Jordan destroyed a house in the farming village of Mishmar Ayalon.
      Jun 11, 1953 – Terrorists attacked a young couple in their home in Kfar Hess, and shot them to death.
      Sep 02, 1953 – Terrorists infiltrated from Jordan, and reached the neighborhood of Katamon, in the heart of Jerusalem. They threw hand grenades in all directions. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
      Mar 17, 1954 – Terrorists ambushed a bus traveling from Eilat to Tel Aviv, and opened fire at short range when the bus reached the area of Maale Akrabim in the northern Negev. In the initial ambush, the terrorists killed the driver and wounded most of the passengers. The terrorists then boarded the bus, and shot each passenger, one by one. Eleven passengers were murdered. Survivors recounted how the murderers spat on the bodies and abused them. The terrorists could clearly be traced back to the Jordanian border, some 20 km from the site of the terrorist attack.

      And it goes on to this very present day. I could not fit it all into this one post. Look at the link, those of you who have even a little bit of balanced perspective rather than a single minded hatred of Israel …

      Reply to Comment