Israeli Officials Vow Serious Crackdown on Hate Crimes Against Arabs

Livni and Aharonovich to ask cabinet to consider classifying hate crimes as terror; Public Security Minister: Progress made, such phenomena must be eradicate.

Suspected 'price tag' attack in Abu Gosh.
Anti-Arab graffiti, reading 'Arabs out,' sprayed in Abu Ghosh on June 19, 2013.Emil Salman

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will ask the political-security cabinet to consider classifying the right-wing groups behind the hate crimes against Arabs as "terror" organizations.

Aharanovich said Wednesday that progress was underway in the investigation into the recent spate of vandalism, adding that the phenomena must be eradicated in every possible way.

At a deliberation on the matter, attended by security and government officials, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said that the legal establishment planned to ask the courts to harshen the penalty against perpetrators of hate crimes, and said that he would personally follow up on cases like these himself.

Livni lashed out against the perpetrators of the attacks as well as those who have remained silent over the course, saying that the recent settlement incitement calling for the killing of Israel Defense Forces troops proved that symbols of Israel themselves have become a target of hate.

The emergency meeting to discuss the expansion of such attacks and the possible law enforcement steps that could be taken was also attended Israel Police head Yohanan Danino and other officials, including from the state prosecutor and attorney general's offices.

On Wednesday evening, around 250 residents, mostly youth, protested the recent hate crimes that have been taking place in the northern Israeli city of Yokneam. The protest was organized by the Community Centers Association after vandals scrawled "Death to Arabs" and "Greetings to Fureidis, Price Tag," on the windows of the practice of a Druze dentist in the city earlier Wednesday.

Protesters chanted messages of support for the dentist. "We are saying 'no to violence' and expressing support for Dr. Nashed. We won't stand by when such acts are committed. It warms the heart to see how many youth arrived to protest. We are expressing solidarity with the victims," said Lea Padida, deputy mayor and head of the Yokneam CCA.

Padida added that the acts were apparently committed by an individual and do not represent the spirit of the city and its residents.

A resident of the city, 25, was arrested later in the afternoon in the midst of puncturing tires on a car in a local construction zone. Police are investigating whether he is connected to the latest string of attacks in that city, which included multiple incidences of vandalism on Arab-owned cars.

"Price tag" refers to right-wing extremists' campaign against Israel's policy in the West Bank settlements, and is commonly used in Israel to refer to anti-Arab vandalism. Fureidis is an Arab town near Zichron Ya'akov that was also recently targeted by vandals. Like Yokneam, it is in northern Israel.

Police Major General and Coastal District Commander Haggai Dotan said the police would make every effort to find those who vandalized Khatter Nashed's dentistry practice, which they classified as a serious incident.

Also on Wednesday, graffiti of swastikas was discovered in a graveyard in the northern Menashe Regional Council and on a guard post in the northern town of Harish.

The Menashe Regional Council filed a complaint with the police. Head of the council Ilan Sadeh said in response: "This is an atrocious act, part of the wave of price tags in the area of late. We condemn such acts and call on the government of Israel to deem such price tag attacks as terror, and enable the security forces to stop the inciters with all means at their disposal. The residents of the Menashe Regional Council will continue to honor one another and live in coexistence and educate our children to maintain such relations."

The latest anti-Arab incidents in Yokneam came on the heels of a similar one in the town last week, when tires on the car belonging to an Arab man were slashed in a parking lot and the car doors spray-painted with the words "price tag." The Afula police are investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made.