L. Cassius ille quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat identidem in causis quaerere solebat ‘cui bono’ fuisset. — Cicero
[The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, ‘To whose benefit?’]
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Planning and carrying out “price tag” attacks in Israel will now be defined as “illegal organizing,” which puts the acts on the same level as Islamic terror groups.
The new designation announced Monday by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon means that the Jewish perpetrators of such violence [sic] would face the same legal repercussions as Palestinian terrorists.
The new designation will allow Israeli security services and police to hold suspects in jail longer, keep them under arrest until the end of legal proceedings and investigate without the presence of an attorney. Those who plan and fund price tag attacks will be subject to the same proceedings.
I would be the last to say that harsh treatment for Price Tag vandals isn’t justified, although calling it ‘violence’ is a bit exaggerated. It certainly doesn’t compare to throwing grapefruit-sized rocks through the windshields of moving cars.
It is interesting that there have been very few arrests, despite a huge amount of publicity and official hand-wringing.
But like Lucius Cassius and Lt. Colombo, I ask, cui bono, who benefits?
Certainly not the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria, when the incidents are used to demonize them as, for example, here:
“Price tag” crimes are attacks on Palestinians and Palestinian property by Israeli settlers, which are meant to both intimidate Palestinians into leaving Palestine and serve as payback for perceived setbacks to Israel’s colonization efforts. Officially promulgated by Israeli settlers in 2011, the price tag movement follows more than six decades of official and unofficial attempts to terrorize Palestinians into leaving their homeland. …
But the hooligan Israelis who carry out these price tag attacks are striving for the same goals as Messrs. Peres, Bennett, and Netanyahu: namely, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel/Palestine. They merely use different means to accomplish that goal. In fact, price tag vandalism, while indeed reprehensible, pales in comparison to the far more insidious and far more powerful policies that the Israeli government has long enacted and enforced.
Let me just say that if there is ethnic cleansing being carried out, it is highly ineffective, insofar as the Arab population of pre-1967 Israel and the territories have increased several times over since 1948. So much for the “insidious” and “powerful” machinations of the government!
But to return to the question: price tag activities, in fact, benefit no one more than those who wish to see ‘settlers’ portrayed as criminals, and who wish to see them, not the Arabs, removed from their homeland.
The recent vandalism in Abu Ghosh, a village that has been remarkably friendly to the state since 1948, was particularly damaging. Indeed, former Lehi activist and right-wing member of the Knesset Geula Cohen recently recalled that Arabs from Abu Ghosh helped her escape from a British prison in the 1940’s.
I’m sure that there are some Jewish vandals who don’t understand that what they are doing is beyond stupid. But I also am confident that some of these incidents, if fully investigated, would turn out to have been perpetrated by anti-state actors — leftists, anarchists or Arab extremists.
There are some cases in which there is evidence that the perpetrators were not right-wing Jews. For example, take the case of the mosque in the Israeli Arab village of Tuba Zangaria, which was damaged by fire in 2011. A local Arab later came forward and accused village residents of setting the fire and spraying the words “price tag” on the building to deflect suspicion. For his trouble, his house was sprayed with bullets.
One straightforward reason that there are few arrests could be that the police are looking in the wrong places. In the Tuba Zangaria case, a Jewish student was initially arrested (with a great deal of fanfare) and then released for lack of evidence.
But there is another possibility, a somewhat ugly one. It has recently become known that the Internal Security Service (the Shabak) has infiltrated right-wing Jewish groups and agents even took part in anti-Arab attacks:
The Esh Kodesh man reportedly gathered his friends and admitted to them that he had been working with the Shin Bet for some time, and had passed on much information on anti-Arab activity to the agency, including information that helped the group to thwart attacks. The man himself was complicit in several of the attacks he reported.
It wouldn’t be beyond imagination that elements in the Shabak who wanted to discredit the settlement enterprise encouraged this behavior in unstable members of extreme nationalist groups.
The tactic of provoking, or even faking, extreme behavior in order to discredit political opponents is not unknown in Israel. Shortly before the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, a Shabak agent invented a right-wing extremist group called ‘Eyal’, which did such things as display posters of Rabin in an SS uniform. The group received massive media publicity. All this was established by the Shamgar Commission, which investigated Rabin’s murder. Some Israelis think that the assassination of Rabin was actually intended to be a staged attack using blank cartridges that went wrong when the murderer, Yigal Amir, replaced the blanks with live ammunition.
This was far more serious than spraying slogans on mosques and flattening tires.
Is it possible that the vandalism in Abu Ghosh, for example, was not initiated by right-wing anti-Arab ‘settlers’? Yes, there is a precedent. Did it happen this way? Ask yourself: cui bono?