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January 24, 2014 1:58 am

‘Price Tag’ Crimes Must be Dealt With Now

avatar by Isi Leibler

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Price tag graffiti. Photo: Screenshot.

As an Israeli citizen, I am profoundly ashamed of the “price tag” crimes committed by Jewish hooligans and bigots primarily against Arabs over the green line.

I am also shocked by our collective failure to bring an end to these ongoing outrages. Despite our sophisticated anti-terror and intelligence capabilities, there have been virtually no arrests or convictions.

What has since developed is horrifying: From vigilante reprisals for Arab acts of terror or vandalism, it has extended into retaliation for government demolitions and evacuation of illegal structures or unauthorized outposts. The perpetrators and their supporters now also direct their ire against the IDF, and soldiers and police have been injured and military installations damaged in confrontations.

These acts can be sourced to 2005 when settlers resorted to violence in response to their pain and desperation when forcibly displaced from their homes in the course of the unilateral disengagement from Gaza.

What has since developed is horrifying: From vigilante reprisals for Arab acts of terror or vandalism, it has extended into retaliation for government demolitions and evacuation of illegal structures or unauthorized outposts. The perpetrators and their supporters now also direct their ire against the IDF, and soldiers and police have been injured and military installations damaged in confrontations.

The indiscriminate acts of violence and desecration are outright hate crimes. The violence is directed principally at Moslems but also extended to Christians. It includes thuggish violence against individuals, burning and desecration of mosques and churches, stone throwing, uprooting and burning trees and fields, and incursions into Palestinian villages.

Such abhorrent crimes are not the acts of Jewish nationalists. The thugs who commit these offences have more in common with the Cossacks at the time of the pogroms than with patriotic Israelis. The masks they frequently wear are reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. They are not even conscious that they are behaving like anti-Semites who launched pogroms against their Diaspora forefathers.  Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon describes their acts as “terrorism”.

Such acts are a boon to Arab propagandists looking for newsworthy stories to exaggerate and publicize. Frequently, Arabs in conjunction with anti-Israeli “human rights” bodies delight in concocting fantasies or gross embellishments of such acts. There have been documented cases of Palestinians cutting down trees and fabricating attacks against themselves in order to accuse settlers of criminal activity.

Fortunately, to date, there have been no fatalities. But if the scoundrels continue on their course, we will undoubtedly face greater disasters in the future. Last month’s confrontation between settlers of the Eish Kodesh outpost and Palestinians from the neighboring village of Kusra was a wake-up call. In the wake of a government decision to demolish olive trees planted in the outpost without authorization, Palestinians claimed that settlers intended to commit a “price tag” act against them. The settlers were ambushed and severely beaten. A bloody lynch was only narrowly averted due to IDF and police intervention who rejected the settlers’ claim that they were innocently hiking in the area.

Let there be no misunderstanding: the overwhelming majority of settlers are law-abiding citizens. They are fully aware that these thugs discredit them and undermine their standing in the broader Israeli community.

Moreover, even allowing for the fact that only a very tiny number of settlers, a fringe group, are actually engaged in this shocking behavior, the settlement movement must assume collective responsibility for spawning such youngsters devoid of humanity and decency.

The reality is that whilst their leaders, rabbis and spokesmen condemn these crimes, many do so without emotional intensity or outrage. More importantly, there are numerous settlers who are aware of these crimes, and yet unwilling to intervene to prevent them or report them to the authorities.

The settlement movement leadership must urgently overcome   any vestiges of ambivalence towards these hate-crimes and campaign to expunge these deviants from their midst. If such hateful activity continues to flourish unchecked, the numbers engaged will multiply.

That such thuggish behavior is allegedly perpetrated primarily by religious nationalist radicals in isolated settlements or outposts, represents additional cause for concern. It must be recognized that some nationalist rabbis – including many opposed to lawlessness – have failed to create the environment which would neutralize xenophobic trends.

On the contrary, sadly, many rabbis lacking worldliness fail to appreciate the impact of remarks which bracket all Arabs with Amalek or accuse government leaders of breaching Halacha by opposing settlement growth or dismantling unauthorized outposts. Such attitudes encourage impressionable youngsters to believe that the Torah approves their right to fight for what they consider to be the will of the Almighty and grants them license to suspend the law of the land and engage in violence.

It is insufficient for rabbis to merely condemn such behavior. They must impress upon their students that the Torah enjoins us to accept the laws of the land and that vigilante justice and violence is no less a breach of Halacha than failure to observe Shabbat or Kashrut. They should educate them about the humanitarian elements of the Torah providing for minorities and respecting all human beings.

Families living in isolated settlements surrounded by animosity need to take especial care to ensure that their children are not poisoned by the hatred surrounding them. The late Dr. Yosef Burg, one of the great leaders of the religious Zionist movement, once shared with me his gnawing concern about youngsters living in settlements, surrounded by Arab masses radiating hatred. He prophetically predicted that this virulent hatred could have a catastrophic impact on those living in such an environment.

These are trying times. A determined move must be made to use every social and physical sanction against these “price tag” deviants until they understand that aside from facing major criminal sanctions from law enforcement authorities, their communities will shun and effectively excommunicate them unless they cease these activities.

Finally, the “price tag” crimes must be understood in the context of the extremist fringes that plague this land. Ultimately, the seeds of fanaticism and extremism originate from the visceral anger directed by Jews against one another.

For example, the religious MK purporting to read the Almighty’s mind, proclaiming that Sharon’s eight-year coma was divine punishment for displacing settlements. Or worse, the head of the Hebron community – a known extremist – on the eve of Sharon’s death, referring to him as a “monster”, said “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. Laugh because he’s leaving us or cry because his ‘this world’ suffering is coming to an end.” He then warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that if he becomes “contaminated” by Secretary of State Kerry, “Sharon’s miserable fate will almost look good to you.”

His article was published by Arutz Sheva which caters for settlers, the New York Jewish Press an Orthodox weekly and, to my regret, as a blog in the Jerusalem Post. That such an inflammatory article was published in any Jewish media is a damning reflection on our declining standards of morality and propriety. But even worse, there was hardly a murmur in response, aside from the left joyfully depicting such vile outbursts as symptomatic of settler fanaticism.

The idealistic religious Zionist pioneers who built the early settlements and kibbutzim would never have visualized any of their descendants becoming transformed into such anti-intellectual, vicious amoral brutes. And if “religious” youngsters can behave in this manner, what should we expect from the next generation?

There is much at stake far beyond the settlements. This ongoing vigilante violence could widen the chasm between religious and non-religious Israelis and shake the very moral foundation of the nation.

At this difficult time, we should remind ourselves of Menahem Begin’s memorable words during the withdrawal from Yamit: “Messianism is what brought about the destruction of Jerusalem from within more than by the Romans from without.”

The writer may be contacted at ileibler@leibler.com. This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom.

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  • http://blogs.jpost.com/content/open-letter-isi-leibler

    An open letter to Isi Leibler
    Wow. You called me an extremist. While at the same time you compare Jews to Cossaks and KKK. To the best of my recollection both of those groups indiscriminately killed. I don’t know of too many Jews who have done so. Certainly not those who you are attacking.
    I have also decried so-called ‘price-tag attacks.’ There is no justification to burn down a Mosque or paint graffiti on Moslem holy places. But Cossacks. Do you remember what Cossacks did in Kishinev? And you dare to compare?
    It must be noted that there is proof of Arabs destroying their own property and writing such phrases as Price -Tag (in Hebrew) on their own land.
    But let’s leave that for a moment.
    You attacked my article about Ariel Sharon. So, first of all, I do not retract one work that I wrote. Perhaps I have one regret, that being that my words were not harsher.
    You are upset that I called Sharon a monster.
    So, if you will, Mr. Leibler, please take a few moments to read the following, written in Hebrew, by Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft. Perhaps you remember the name. He was a Chabad Rabbi in Gush Katif. He was shot and nearly killed. His recovery was miraculous.
    So please read his words, written not too long ago:
    The Sharon Sclerosis: The Weekly Diary from Nitzan
    by Rabbi Yigal Kirshenzaft
    Suddenly, and without prior notice, Miriam burst into tears uncontrollably . It happened at noon today at the spices store. Well, this is not really a store , there are no shops at Nitzan . This container was placed “illegally ” and became a store for selling peanuts .
    “For every resident there will be a solution,” said Israeli residents in television commercials , the twisted brainchild of the ” ranch ” . Until now, no established commercial center as had been promised for Nitzan : not one shop , one factory or one job . Do not think that the government is lazy. Threatening letters , demolition orders, threats, police are sent regularly to the hundreds of displaced in delicate flimsy mobile structures. Once upon a time they would come and repair the problems. “Do not ask what we are going thru” said Miriam to my wife, when she met her at the ‘store’ and was with tears : “My husband suffers from extreme diabetes since the expulsion. They chopped off one leg and we are fighting to save the other. We went to a private doctor which costs 3600 Nis per visit, to save his leg. We were there many times, but now we ran out of money and nobody helps us . The doctor told my husband that everything is caused ‘from the head’ , from the depression . What is there to do ? ”
    Yud Shvat . A historic date of Chabad history . For the past ten years, Chabad House of Gush Katif organizes the meeting for Yud Shvat with a memorial service held by the Ohayon family. The father Rabbi Avraham came from Yeruham to Neve Dekalim many years ago . He was privileged, R. Abraham , that his children and grandchildren lived around – because five of his children made their homes also in Gush Katif. On this date, 10 years ago, he heard Sharon ‘s announcement about the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. He collapsed and his heart stopped. Z”L (may his memory be blessed) . More precisely : HY”D. (May G-d Avenge his blood).
    So many good people, our friends died from sorrow and heartbreak . This week we buried another member of Nitzan . Yisrael, z”l . Came from France and settled in Neve Dekelim with his large family . Since immigrating to Israel he would not leave. Heroes and generals seemed to him to be angels . The greater the appreciation, the greater the fall. Israel built a ” permanent ” home in Nitzan but did not recovered from the expulsion. Z”L HY”D.
    According to the Ministry of Health, serious injury and deaths among expelled are twice the national average. Maybe this is what they meant, the heads of state, saying that the problems of the deportees are resolved . Deceased, they meant.
    After the expulsion, they threw us in to the hotel for two weeks. We were there for seven months. We were promised up to two years in a mobile home (hell in the summer.) Today hundreds of families are tormented, still living in dilapidated, flammable buildings that the law prohibits human beings to live in.
    Successors of the ”ranch forum” devised an ingenious invention: move the mobile communities to the ”permanent communities” . But they still have not found anyone who will violate the law and approve the integrity of these’residential structures.’
    Another invention are the sewer pipes . In light of the ” peace ” that came after expulsion , Nitzan residents also suffer from rockets launched from Gush Katif . Since all of our refugee camp , which is called a Nitzan , is made of plaster and cardboard, large concrete sewer pipes were placed outside, where all the residents run to hide in during an alarm .
    This week I met Avi, my best friend . His wife led him to the medical clinic in Nitzan . A large clinic , given the many needs here, it has doubled in size. Avi barely recognized me. Suffering from a terminal illness , barely even remembers his name.
    I went to visit Reuben. His house is in the middle of construction , but he has no money to finish the job . The contractor fled in the middle of the work, as happened to many of his friends .
    Now he is not working. His wife came down with the ” disease ”. “I have nothing to eat on Shabbat,” he said. “I never request help, but I have no choice . Trips for therapies , drugs. In Gush Katif I was a king,” he whined . ” I helped everyone, but today I’m finished .” I left him an envelope with lots of cash. So he could buy food for Shabbat and for gas for traveling to treatments .
    Chabad trys to help as much as possible , but the needs here are so great. We endeavor to fulfill the mission that the Rebbe gave “‹”‹us : to rejoice and delight .
    Even welfare department has difficulty helping all that need, and sends the needy to charitable organizations.

    This is everyday life at Nitzan . Chava came home today from hospitalization with bad diabetes. ” I know that it is from nerves and anger ,” she said . But what can I do ?” Her husband abandoned her , her son went to Germany and doesn’t want to hear about the state that betrayed him .
    This week , finally, the new school opened in Nitzan – after ten years when students have not had a normal, regular place to study. They went from a hotel room, to leaky classrooms , to a community center. They are still wallowing in the mud to get there, but thank G-d at least have a structure .
    This week , unusually , there were smiling faces in the streets Nitzan . It was during Sharon ‘s funeral . At Synagogue it was declared : “Today we will not say supplication during prayers ” !
    The sad reality was caused by somebody. His name is Ariel Sharon . Right, everything that happens is determined in the heavens, but people are led in the direction they deserve to go in. It is difficult to understand how a general and military hero deteriorates so greatly; How a Jewish leader , head of state, abandoning the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens to save himself from prison , to absolve himself of the punishment his friend received . He was convicted and is in prison for giving him a bribe .
    How evil must you be to abuse and destroy the great life of thousands of Jews and expel them , to uproot 49 dead righteous from their graves , destroying synagogues , Talmud Torah and facilities – evil acts no worse than what was done to us by those who hate us ? ? ?
    This crime is very painful and unforgivable. The depth of the withdrawal should be the scope of the investigation .
    One request to you Arik: Now you are in the world the truth.
    Please reveal yourself to he who has replaced you as leader and update him on the mistakes you made, that he should not, G-d forbid, repeat the terrible crime of uprooting Jews from their land . Make sure from above, that the fruits of his work will not be like yours.
    It should be that these are the last pains of messiah and we will soon be really true and complete redeemed and God also will return to his Bayit – Beit HaMikdash.

    So now I ask you, Mr. Leibler, is he a monster? Or not? Perhaps it’s me, the ‘settler.’ Or Rabbi Kirshenzaft, the ‘Messianic Chabad fanatic?’ Or all those who lived in, and were expelled from Gush Katif, because, how dare they…..
    how dare they what, Mr. Leibler?
    Mr. Leibler, I do not view myself as an extremist. Rather as an idealist. I don’t only write my ideals, I live them. But also express them to others. I do not force anyone to think as I do, but freedom to think, to express, to believe, is a tenet of our lives as a free people.
    I tend to see extremists as Hizbullah, Hamas, Fatach, Al-Qaeda, the Syrians, Iranians, and yes, also, people like Sharon, who, as an elected leader, rather than implement the ideas for which he was elected, believed in by those who voted for him, he betrayed that trust and forceed destructive policies upon his people. For his own personal reasons. For his own personal gain.
    If this is not a monster, I don’t know what is.
    But, should it be decided that I really am an extremist, I will wear such a crown with joy and delight, proud that I may express what I believe, and what I know to be, without any doubt, truth.
    I prefer this title to that of, what is called in Hebrew, a ‘yafe nefesh’ – translated as ‘bleeding heart,’ trying to find favor amongst others via condemnation, while turning a blind eye towards victims, denying truth.