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Jewish Extremists Torch Mosque in Northern Israel

October 3, 2011
The headlines of the Israeli daily Haaretz cover a so called “price tag” attack* that took place in northern Israel last night, in which Jewish extremists torched a mosque serving the local Arab community. A second article says that the Prime Minister is “horrified” by the event.

I am sure Netanyahu is as distraught as he says he is, but I’m not sure why he is surprised. This is not a unique event. So called “price tag” attacks happen almost weekly in the West Bank, and the national narrative is becoming increasingly more skeptical of the Israel’s own Arabs citizens. The (popular) party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman advocates a series of laws that essentially accuse Arabs of not being loyal the state – similar, in a way, to how Jews in Europe were seen as “the enemy from within”. Last year twenty rabbis in Safad signed a letter commanding Jews not to sell land to Arabs, and earlier this year it was made legal for towns of less than 400 people to be discriminatory about who they allow to join their communities. Arab citizens were obviously the ones most affected. The majority of such communities are in northern Israel, the same area where this attack was perpetrated. And if the government is as opposed to the destruction of places of worship as it claims to be, then why does it occasionally demolish mosques itself?

The creeping expansion of racial hatred always starts small, and the boldness with which it is expressed grows ever so incrementally so as to shield itself from our sensitivities. This particular attack may have offered a bit too much drama to escape the media, but it is unlikely that it will truly result in the “self-examination” that opposition leader Tzipi Livni said such events require.

*A “price tag” attack is when Israeli extremists, often settlers, attack a local Palestinian village in response to an offensive action by the Israel government. For exemple, the Israeli Defense Forces occasionally destroy structures built in settlements that do not have government approval. The residents of that settlement will then often go and burn olive trees and taunt residents of the nearest Palestinian community. Such attacks are often compared to the pogroms that terrorized Russian and Eastern European Jews at the beginning of the last century. Price tag offenders are almost never held accountable.

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