[In recent months there has been a noticeable spike in vandalism and violence by Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, extending to Palestinian communities within Israel as well. Jadaliyya asked Salah Mohsen of the human rights organization Adalah to help explain the phenomenon of “price-tag” attacks:]
Jadaliyya (J): What are "price-tag" attacks and how do they differ from other forms of settler violence?
Salah Mohsen (SM): “Price-tag” is a polite term for racist terror attacks against Palestinians, committed mainly by Jewish settlers, against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories, their property, and also Muslim and Christian holy sites. These attacks originated in the West Bank, and have since expanded inside the “Green Line” to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Such attacks started as an expression of violent opposition by settlers to measures by the Israeli government to regulate settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and to any opposition by Palestinians to settler activity. “Price-tagging” is similar to other forms of settler violence, but in such attacks the settlers are also trying to make a political statement, and typically involves spray painting of slogans onto cars, homes, mosques and churches.
J: Is there a clear pattern to such attacks?
SM: “Price-tag” attacks target Palestinians and their property. They involve the destruction or burning of cars, homes, and buildings; the spraying of racist slogans on homes and holy places; setting fire to mosques and churches; sending threatening letters to Palestinian religious and community leaders; and physical attacks against Palestinian civilians.
J: These attacks have recently expanded against Palestinian communities within Israel. How would you explain this?
SM: In the background there is incitement against Palestinian citizens of Israel by officials such as members of Israel’s parliament, rabbis and mayors. This includes a flood of discriminatory and racists laws that target the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and their national identity, as well as racist statements. There is additionally a broad refusal to rent property to Palestinian citizens of Israel or consider them for employment, and opposition to their expressions of national identity and belonging to the Palestinian people.
In the past several years, increasing numbers of former West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers have been settling on confiscated Arab lands or the remains of Arab villages inside Israel, mainly in the Naqab. These settlers, and many of their political leaders, are clearly defining the Palestinian citizens of Israel as the main problem and challenge to defining Israel as a Jewish state. That is why there is growing hate and racism against them. In this context the expansion of “price-tag” attacks is not surprising.
J: What has been the response of the Israeli police and politicians to such attacks?
SM: On the one hand Israel’s police and politicians have been condemning “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians. At the same time they are not taking significant action to stop these attacks. Very few people were investigated, indicted, or charged for these crimes. The Israeli police and intelligence agencies are generally very efficient in relation to other crimes, where they take action and do so quickly.
J: What are your views on the recent initiative to have such attacks classified as terrorism?
SM: This initiative will not change the reality. The problem is not the definition of these attacks. The problem lies in the lack of will by the Israeli police to seriously investigate these crimes. Similarly, Israeli politicians are dealing with the Palestinians as a threat, not as humans who deserve rights and dignity. As a result there are those who decide to respond to this perceived threat by launching “price-tag” attacks against Palestinian civilians, their property, and Muslim and Christian houses of worship and holy sites.