This weekend the “price tag” policy of extremist settlers got well and truly out of hand. Price tag is an attempt to demonstrate to law enforcement bodies that any action which interferes with settler interests will result in vandalism on highways and in Palestinian villages — and sometimes also harm to individual Palestinians.
On Friday the mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf was vandalized and burned, apparently in reaction to the settlement freeze. A graffiti message read: “Price tag — greetings from Effi.” See articles about the attack here, here and here.
There has been a mass of reaction. There has been condemnation from various places, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. Politicians have spoken of how they fear it could lead to an escalation in violence. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called it a “despicable crime.”
In settler and pro-settler circles the response has mostly been swift. The settler representative body, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, aka the Yesha Council condemned the attack. Lawmaker Uri Orbach of the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, penned an impassioned article condemning the attack and saying it is the wrong way for settlers to oppose the settlement freeze. He wrote: Will the bad fire end the freeze or deepen it?
But not everyone was so quick to condemn this action. Michael Ben-Ari, lawmaker for the far-right National Union party refused to do so.
Haaretz argued in its editorial today that the condemnations are not adequate. The attack
should be an immediate wake-up call to law enforcement agencies in the territories. The words of condemnation and promises to catch those responsible that have been voiced from nearly every corner - including by the president, the prime minister and the defense minister - are not enough. Now is the time for action.
In this entire sorry story perhaps there is a tiny glint of Hanukkah light. A group of rabbis and Orthodox laymen, some of them settlers, got together and resolved to replace the Korans damaged in the vandalism and take them to the village where they wanted to condemn the act and offer a message of peace and reconciliation. They were led by Menachem Froman, rabbi of the settlement of Tekoa and a proponent of coexistence who has close connections with senior Palestinian figures, including in Hamas.
Instead of entering the village, which Israeli security forces thought unwise, they met Palestinian leaders at a nearby junction, where Froman chanted “Allahu Akbar” which means “God is the greatest” and danced with a Palestinian leader. You can see reports on the meeting here and here. You can watch a video here.
Orthodox poet Eliaz Cohen wrote a poem for the occasion and the group sang an Arabic translation of the Hanukkah song Banu Hoshech Legaresh, which means “we came to drive away the darkness.” The only problem is that the person or people who vandalized the mosque also think they are driving away the darkness.