Graffiti found on mosque in Fureidis
Graffiti found on mosque in Fureidis: "Close mosques, not yeshivas" Photo by Haaretz
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Wednesday the recent anti-Arab attack in a northern Israeli Arab town.

 "What happened in Fureidis is infuriating," Netanyahu said during a meeting with Arab, Bedouin, Druze, and Circassian Likud activists. "We are working to find those responsible. I have ordered reinforcements and we are using the Shin Bet's tools. This is a major target because it contradicts our character and our values."

On Monday night, vandals spray-painted a Star of David and the phrase “close mosques, not yeshivas” on a mosque. The tires of several cars parked in the area were slashed as well. On Wednesday, residents of Fureidis declared a general strike to protest the hate crime.

In the second anti-Arab attack in 24 hours, a car belonging to a Nazareth resident was vandalized Wednesday in an apparent hate crime by Jewish extremists. The vandals slashed the tires of the car, which was parked in the predominantly Jewish town Yokneam, and spray-painted a Star of David on its doors. This is the sixth time a car belonging to an Arab has been vandalized in the town in the last month.

In Acre, seven cars belonging to both Jews and Arabs were vandalized on Wednesday, but due to the mixed identities of the owners, police suspect that this was garden-variety vandalism rather than a hate crime. The Acre Police have opened an investigation into the incident.

On Tuesday, some 2,500 Arabs and Jews demonstrated against the recent wave of anti-Arab attacks in both Israel and the West Bank. Fureidis Mayor Yunis Marii said the strike, which will include schools as well as businesses, is meant to send a similar message – that such attacks are unacceptable. Nevertheless, he added, hate crimes won’t undermine the generally good relations between Jewish and Arab residents of the area.

Police Major General and Coastal District Commander Haggai Dotan called the Fureidis incident severe and said police would make every effort to find the culprits. A senior officer in the Coastal District told Haaretz that police think the perpetrators of both the Fureidis attack and one in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm two weeks earlier were perpetrated by people from outside the area rather than local residents.

In the Umm al-Fahm incident, vandals sprayed graffiti on a mosque and tried to torch the building’s entrance. That incident stirred up tensions, and a week ago, a protest was held at the entrance to the Israeli Arab city in which demonstrators blocked the main road for an hour and held signs reading, “Price tag – terror organization.”

The term “price tag” originated in attacks carried out by West Bank settlers against both Palestinians and Israeli soldiers with the declared goal of “exacting a price” for government moves against the settlements. It has since become an Israeli shorthand for anti-Arab hate crimes.
Several mosques have been vandalized in the West Bank in suspected price tag attacks in recent years. The first such attack on a mosque inside Israel was the torching of the mosque in Tuba Zangariya in October 2011. In Jerusalem, churches and monasteries have been targeted as well.

Vandalizing cars, however, is more common. Earlier this month, for instance, vandals slashed the tires of 40 cars in the Arab town of Gush Halav (Jish) in the Galilee and sprayed-painted slogans such as “Only non-Jews should be evicted from our land.” That incident occurred just a few days after vandals slashed the tires of four cars and spray-painted slogans at a monastery near Beith Shemesh. Those slogans included “America is Nazi Germany,” “Price tag,” “Jesus is a monkey” and “Mary is a cow.”

Police suspect that at least some of the hate crimes of the last few years have been perpetrated by extremist settlers who were forced to relocate to Israel because the army issued orders barring them from the West Bank. But despite the police’s efforts, most of these hate crimes have never been solved.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) recently submitted a bill that would recognize the victims of such crimes as victims of terror attacks, thereby enabling them to obtain government compensation for the damage to their property. “If the government doesn’t support my proposal, that will prove that it is turning a blind eye to these crimes and indirectly encouraging them,” he said.