Where Settlers' 'Price Tag' Policy Meets Israel’s Mask of Hypocrisy

Article Summary
When it comes to fighting "price tag" crimes, Israel is hiding behind a mask of hypocrisy, writes Alex Fishman. While the government requires law enforcement to crush the vandalism, just as it would handle Arab terrorism, it refuses to give the enforcers legal means to do so.

When it comes to [the acts of vandalism perpetrated by Israeli right-wing extremists] "price tag" policy, the government of Israel is hiding behind a mask of pretense and double standards. On the one hand, it requests the law enforcement bodies to crush the phenomenon, the same way they are dealing with Arab terror. On the other hand, it refrains from putting at their disposal the legal measures that would enable them to do so.

Meanwhile the Shin Bet [Israeli Security Agency] and the other law-enforcement elements are showing frustration, while the "price tag" terrorists turn up and go on the rampage whenever and wherever they feel like it. The law-enforcement bodies are trying to close in on them, but they are not really successful, to use an understatement. Needless to say that they are nowhere near effecting deterrence.

It's quite clear to all and sundry that the Jewish terror is liable to fire up the entire Middle East and that it isn't just a common crime that is under discussion here. Rather, it is political subversion designed to change the very nature of Israeli society. However, [in the Israeli establishment] they are all afraid to cross the Rubicon. Thus, any time some mosque is torched or a church desecrated, rather than dealing with the culprits as terrorists, as they should be, they are excused and let off, labeled as "the hills youth" or "price taggers".

It's over a year ago now that the Shin Bet appealed to the Justice Ministry, asking it to define under the law as terrorist organizations all those extreme Jewish bodies that were stirring up provocations in Muslim and Christian neighborhoods and vandalizing even holy places. The Shin Bet went as far as to submit to the Justice Ministry lists of names of people and organizations engaging in this Jewish terrorism. Alas, to no avail. No action has been taken by the Justice Ministry in the matter.

It should be noted that the definition as a terror organization or as a terrorist is not a merely semantic matter. In fact, the Shin Bet has at its disposal measures that it may apply only against those defined as such. It is the same array of preventive measures aimed at foiling terror attacks that has proven itself in the battle against Arab terror. These measures involve intrusion of personal privacy, various investigation methods and so on. So far [and pending governmental decision on the matter], the Shin Bet's hands are tied when it deals with the perpetrators of Jewish "price tag" terror.

The rhetoric of Israeli ministers may depict the "price taggers" as dangerous terrorists; however, in reality the latter are treated as minor offenders, guilty at the most of some slight property offense. And there is no mention of the proposal raised in the security establishment in the past year that the suspects of "price tag" terror be put on trial before a military court.

The failure to take prompt [and resolute] action has direct results in the area: As of today, 17 mosques have been hit in so-called "price tag" acts, but no charges have been brought against any of those involved. In 2011, the police brought charges against 26 Israelis who had damaged Palestinian property, mainly cars; yet, none of them was implicated in the desecration of Muslim or Christian religious sanctities. Similarly, the 23 indictments submitted this year concern for the most part car arsonists.

What's left for the Shin Bet to do then is to issue administrative restraining orders against those who have allegedly taken part in vandalizing mosques and churches, as indicated by Intelligence data. The problem is that the Intelligence data on which the orders are based cannot serve in itself as legal evidence in court. Since 2011, the Shin Bet issued 41 such orders. It's thus a game of cat and mouse, of foiling ["price tag" terror] rather than dealing with [the price taggers] or deterring [them].

Nevertheless, the Israeli government did take one single step toward dealing with the phenomenon [of Jewish "price tag" terror]: Over a year ago it set up a government commission headed by the Justice Minister [Ya'akov Ne'eman] and the Minister of Public Security [Yitzhak Aharonovitch]. The commission led to the establishment of a special police unit that coordinates all capabilities and actions of the Israeli Police in the effort to stamp out the phenomenon. It's a cynical, ineffective move adding insult to injury. Organizational changes are not going to solve the problem.

As long as the wrongdoers are not defined under the law as members of a terror organization and dealt with accordingly nothing is going to change.

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