Tuesday, September 26, 2017

East Jerusalem startled by wave of price tag attacks


By Lien S. - October 04, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [price tag] [Sheikh Jarrah]

Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, has been the victim of two price tag attacks in the last two weeks. On Sunday, September 29, Israeli extremists vandalized eight cars belonging to Palestinian families. A week earlier, on September 22, settlers slashed the tires of five cars, sprayed “price tag” onto one of the vehicles and painted two others black. 

“Last Sunday night, I was studying in my room when I noticed a group of twenty 17- to 22-year old extremists running through my street and scratching cars,” Saif Salah, one of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents, recounts. “We were able to catch one of them and called the police. Later that night, the police arrested a second attacker and after interrogating the two of them, they brought in a third one.” The perpetrators are believed to be minors, under the age of 18. 

In 2006, settlers started to appropriate houses in the East-Jerusalem neighborhood with the help of eviction orders against Palestinian families approved by the Israeli court system. “When my dad was growing up, there were only Arabs living in the neighborhood. Every time he sees the settlers walking down the street, it’s still very hard for him because he remembers Palestinian families being evicted,” Saif explains. 

Saif estimates that there are about 100 to 150 settlers living in his neighborhood. 

“One day, I was going home from the gym in my car and three settlers were walking in the middle of the street. When I honked at them to ask them to move aside, one of them started hitting and damaging my car. They also threaten the kids in the street. We just want to live a good life. We can be calm and patient, but at some point we must be able to defend ourselves.”

Making Palestinians pay the price

Various neighborhoods in East Jerusalem have been confronted with price tag attacks over the last few months. Monday night, September 30, dozens of Israeli extremists vandalized a Christian cemetery in Silwan and slashed the tires of six cars. On August 28, the tires of six cars were slashed and four other vehicles were vandalized in Beit Safafa, with slogans reading “death to Arabs.” The neighborhood of Beit Hanina was attacked on June 23, when the tires of 21 cars were punctured and a Star of David sprayed onto one of them. Earlier in June, three similar attacks took place, one of which in occurred in Abu Gosh, a Palestinian neighborhood west of Jerusalem. The tires of 28 cars were slashed and the phrase,“Arabs out,” was sprayed across a wall. According to The Jerusalem Post, more than 180 “nationalistic crimes” have been committed against Palestinians and their property since January 2013.

Price tagging originated in the West Bank as an act of revenge by Israeli settler extremists. Whenever the Israeli government would carry out decisions contrary to settler interests, such as demolishing an illegal outpost or freezing settlement expansion, groups of settlers would make Palestinians “pay the price.” The attacks are happening more and more frequently and targets are no longer limited to Muslims, but have started to include left-leaning activists, Christian schools, churches and monasteries and even an IDF base. 

“Let’s not call it terrorism”

Former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon was cited by Ynet as saying that “these guys [price tag attackers] are the ones who will be the Jewish underground, if the political process ripens into anything that involves giving up territory. We should decisively act against them, before they blow up the first church.” 

However, on 16 June, the Israeli government decided not to label price tag attacks as terrorism, but to instead label the perpetrators as members of an illegal organization. “The media often call price tagging vandalism, but it’s more than that,” one of Saif’s friends explains. “Vandalism is a more random act of crime. What we’re talking about here are crimes targeted against a specific ethnic group. They are hate crimes.”

The decision to label perpetrators as members of illegal organizations instead of terrorists makes victims ineligible for state compensation. “Two weeks ago, they broke all the windows of my uncle’s car. He only has basic insurance and ended up paying 2500 shekels [over 700 USD],” Saif relates.

Lack of political will and two different legal standards 

Don Futterman, Director of The Israel Center for Educational Innovation, criticized “Israel’s apathetic hunt for 'price tag’ attackers” in an op-ed published in Haaretz on July 1. Though the Israeli forces have the means to stop these attacks, they lack the will to do so. When it comes to crimes committed by settlers against Palestinians, Futterman argues that “routine police procedure is ignored, settler alibis are accepted without investigation, outposts are not searched for stolen flocks or goods, and indictments rarely if ever lead to convictions.”

“One night in 2007, I heard people running down my street and breaking things. When I ran outside, there were around 100 illegal settlers. Some of them started to attack us, yet when the police came, they started accusing us. None of the attackers got arrested that night,” Saif recalled in his interview with the Palestine Monitor. 

“It’s hard for us to live here as Arabs. The law should be applied equally for all citizens,” Saif concluded. “When settlers damage my property, I can’t file a complaint against them because the police would believe their version of the facts and might arrest me instead. I also stopped going to the demonstrations, not because I don’t want to protest, but because I can’t. The police will arrest us and we can’t get a good lawyer, so we will go to prison.”

By allowing hate crimes to continue and permitting Jewish perpetrators to go free, Israeli authorities are neglecting their responsibility to protect Palestinian Jerusalemites, all of whom hold Israeli ID. 

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