The True Cost of Price Tag Attacks: Equal Citizenship

8 August 2019

“The hill in Yizhar, we won’t forget and won’t forgive.”

This was the threatening message scrawled on the home of an Arab family in Jisr az-Zarqa, where right-wing vandals slashed the tires of 21 cars last Wednesday night.

What can we learn from it?

The logic of price tag attacks is a perverse one. The perpetrators seek to exact a cost for Israeli policies contrary to the interests of the settlement enterprise. How? By terrorizing Palestinians. When the IDF’s civil administration and Israel’s border police demolished an illegal structure within an outpost of the West Bank settlement of Yizhar, settler extremists responded by attacking an Arab community inside Israel.

While most of these attacks happen in the West Bank, their perpetrators are growing bolder and less contained in their violence against Arabs. Increasingly, Palestinian citizens of Israel — like those in Jisr az-Zarqa — are bearing the brunt of price tag violence.

Jisr az-Zarqa is an Arab town — inside Israel — on the seaside near Caesarea, where the Prime Minister and his wife maintain their home. According to NIF’s grantee Tag Meir, Israel’s leading organization resisting the phenomenon of price tag violence, this week’s attack on Jisr az-Zarqa is the third price tag attack on an Arab town in Israel this month. (Two weeks prior, extremists carried out a price tag attack in the Jish village in Israel’s Upper Galilee, piercing 40 car tires and scrawling characteristic messages of hateful graffiti.)

Yizhar, the name referenced in the price tag graffiti in Jisr az-Zarqa, is a West Bank settlement at the epicenter of settler extremism — and ‘price tag’ violence. It is home to religious institutions driving the radical fringe of the settlement movement, like the yeshiva of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh–a US-born rabbi who has praised Baruch Goldstein, the American-born settler who murdered 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far right Minister of Education Rafi Peretz and Minister of Transportation Bezalel Smotrich will be guests of honor of Rabbi Ginsburgh at a ceremony honoring him for “creativity” in Torah. The participation of the two government ministers sends a clear message and provides official sanction to the extremism of Ginsburgh and his followers. Tag Meir is organizing a protest against this shameful ceremony, drawing in many voices from across Israel’s civil society stand up to extremism.

What is important to understand is that this violence is not random or senseless; rather it is deliberate, deployed for a specific purpose. NIF grantee Yesh Din published a study of settler violence emanating from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar that showed how settlers aimed their violence at forcing Palestinians to stop cultivating their land so that they could ultimately drive them off of it and continue to expand their West Bank settlements and illegal outposts.

This is violence in the service of intimidation and theft.

And the violence increasingly perpetrated inside Israel has its own logic, too. These price tag attacks convey to Palestinian citizens of Israel that they don’t belong here–that they are not equal citizens. As Mohammed Jurban, a resident of Jisr az-Zarqa told Haaretz, “The incident is very bad. It creates mixed feelings, tinged with rage. We are people who are looking for a tranquil life and good neighborly relations with the Jewish communities in the area. It’s not acceptable to wake up to this in the morning.”

The winner of NIF’s Galanter Prize this year, the visionary leader and organizer Maisam Jaljuli, spoke earlier this year about the trauma Palestinian citizens of Israel experienced in October 2000 when Israel police fired on unarmed Arab protesters – Israeli citizens — killing 13 people. What made that terrible day even worse, she said, was that Israeli Jews did not stand with Arab to protest this injustice. For the first time, Maisam said, she felt like a stranger in her own home because her Jewish brothers and sisters did not stand by her.

That is the message of the hate we see today. That is what is conveyed by the threatening graffiti, slashed tires, the burned fields and acts of physical violence.

It is intended to tell Arab citizens of Israel: You are all alone. You do not belong here.

But there is a response to this racism. Tag Meir activists joined the residents of Jisr az-Zarqa in Friday prayers as an act of solidarity. And as Maisam tells us, “There is no other solution. There are no shortcuts. Only together — as Arabs and Jews — will be able to turn this place Israel into a better place for all of us.”

That is what Maisam Jaljuli is doing–because she knows that there is no other solution to the problem of racism than building true Jewish-Arab partnership. That is what the activists of Tag Meir do when they visit the victims of price tag attacks in their homes. They are building the foundation of a new future, of an Israeli society marked by compassion, inclusivity, and equality.

And the New Israel Fund will be standing with these visionaries until we bring about that future–together.