- ‘Price-tag’ incidents are usually acts of vandalism carried out by a very small minority of right-wing extremists, in response to state actions against settlement outposts or in retaliation for acts of Palestinian terrorism.
- These extremists target not only Palestinians but Israeli authorities and NGOs.
- Such actions have been condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, including by leaders of the settlement community.
- The Israeli police are establishing a new unit to combat the phenomenon.
What is a ‘price tag’ attack?
- ‘Price tag’ attacks are incidents in which radical right-wing settlers vandalise or attack Palestinians or Israeli security forces in response to state actions against settlement outposts or in retaliation for acts of Palestinian terrorism.
- The roots of ‘price tag’ attacks go back to Ariel Sharon’s policy of disengagement from Gaza in August 2005, in which the Israeli government evacuated 8000 Jewish settlers were from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Since the 2005 the objective of ‘price-tag’ attacks, depending on the target, has been either to deter the government from taking action against settlement activity in the West Bank or to seek vengeance for Israeli deaths related to Palestinian terrorism.
- According to assessments by Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, ‘price tag’ attacks are carried out by no more than a few dozen individuals, who are supported by a circle of a few hundred right-wing activists.
What ‘price tag’ attacks have occurred recently?
- Since 2008, there have been approximately 50 suspected ‘price tag’ attacks. The majority of attacks have been against Palestinians following government action to remove settlement outposts from the West Bank. However, Israel’s security forces, NGOs and Bedouins have also been targeted.
- In the latest ‘price tag’ attack, on 4 September 2012, suspected right-wing extremists vandalised the Latrun Monastery outside Jerusalem. This followed the evacuation of the Migron outpost the weekend before.
- In August 2012, two Palestinian vehicles were burned and spray-painted with the phrases ‘regards from Palmer and son,’ ‘one year since murder’ and ‘revenge’ near Hebron. The spray paint was a reference to Asher Palmer, a West Bank settler who was killed, along with his 1-year-old son, Jonathan, when he was hit by rocks while driving along Highway 60 in the West Bank near Hebron in September 2011.
- A Mosque in the West Bank village of Jab’a was set alight and sprayed with the graffiti, ‘The war has begun’, and ‘price tag’, on 26 June 2012, in response to the evacuation of the Jewish settlement at Ulpana.
- On 13 December 2011, 50 radical right-wing settlers broke into the IDF’s Efraim Regional Brigade Headquarters near the settlement of Kedumim, damaging military vehicles, torching tires, hurling Molotov cocktails and throwing rocks at the jeep of a senior officer. The attack came just hours after security forces evacuated 20 settlers from an abandoned building along Israel’s border with Jordan.
- In October 2011, a Mosque in the Bedouin town Tuba-Zangariyye in the North District of Israel was torched, with the words ‘revenge’ and ‘Palmer’ spray-painted at the scene.
- In November 2011, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now had swastikas, death threats, and the names of recently evacuated settlements sprayed on her home and car.
What has been the reaction from Israel to ‘price tag’ attacks?
- Top Israeli officials, including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, have repeatedly condemned ‘price tag’ attacks. Moreover, in a peace index poll from October, a wide margin of Israel’s Jewish population (88%), across the political spectrum, expressed strong opposition to retaliatory ‘price tag’ attacks against Palestinians.
- Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on numerous occasions, has strongly condemned ‘price tag’ attacks. Following the storming of the Efraim Regional Brigade Headquarters in December 2011, Netanyahu said that he would fight the phenomenon ‘with all my force until it is eliminated.’ Earlier, in October 2011, after a ‘price-tag’ attack against a Mosque in the Bedouin town Tuba-Zangariyye, Netanyahu said the act went against the State of Israel’s values, where freedom of religion and freedom to worship are ‘supreme values’.
- Defence Minister Ehud Barak, following the vandalism of the Latrun Monastery, condemned the attack and issued a call to the Shin Bet, Israel Police and state prosecutors to ‘tackle Jewish terrorism.’ ‘This must be fought with an iron fist, and we must put an end to these severe phenomena that stain the name of the State of Israel. We are obligated to uproot this phenomenon’.
- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman echoed Barak’s words and said ‘These “price tag” acts, carried out by a bunch of lunatics, are intolerable. This is an insult to the State of Israel and the Jewish people’.
- Expressing his deepest outrage at the torching of a Bedouin mosque in the town of Tuba Zangria in October 2011, Israel’s President Shimon Peres said, ‘It is a terrible thing which I condemn in the strongest possible terms. It is a difficult day for the residents of Tuba-Zangria and a difficult day for Israeli society as a whole. As the President of Israel I call during these soul searching days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, for the rooting out of such deeds from our midst. Such acts of terrorism poison the relationship between Israel and her neighbours and between Israeli citizens of different faiths.’
- Settler leaders have also condemned ‘price tag’ attacks, against either Palestinians or Israeli security forces. Danny Dayan, Chairman of the Yesha Council said, the ‘price tag policy is a moral and tactical disaster … It is in opposition to Jewish moral values and it damages the settlement enterprise.’
What has Israel done to stop/prevent ‘price tag’ attacks?
- In light of the rise of ‘price tag’ attacks, Israel’s Internal Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced in September 2012 that a special police unit will be established to combat the phenomenon. ‘We must institute a zero tolerance policy against terror, the desecration of religious institutions, attacks on symbols of governance and attacks commonly known as “price tag,”’ Aharonovitch said. The new force will reinforce currently-existing units fighting this phenomenon and will coordinate across law enforcement groups responsible, the government and the Israeli public.
- Some in Israel have criticised the authorities for not doing enough until now to combat the phenomenon. Over the past two years only 23 indictments were filed by the police, according to Israeli media reports. In June 2012, Dan Halutz, a former IDF chief of staff, said that the authorities were not doing enough to crack down on ‘price tag’ vandalism. ‘If we wanted, we could catch them and when we want to, we will,’ Halutz said on Israel Army Radio.