Security Sources: 100 Followers of Racist Rabbi Are Behind Hate Crimes

Most of the culprits are known as far-right activists from the settlement Yitzhar and hilltop outposts north of Ramallah and the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank.

Illustration: A suspect tried for a 'price tag' incident. Lod, May 2, 2014.
Moti Milrod

Security officials estimate that close to 100 people have been involved in the recent wave of hate crimes against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Most of the culprits are known as far-right activists from the Yitzhar settlement and hilltop outposts north of Ramallah and the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank.

The activists base their acts on ideas of the extremist rabbi Yitzchak Ginzburg. Many of his students studied in the Yitzhar yeshiva, but there are likely other rabbis in the picture.

Ginzburg is not known to be familiar with the details of the incidents themselves and does not receive reports about them.

On Wednesday vandals scrawled Death to Arabs and Greetings to Fureidis, Price Tag, on the windows of the practice of a Druze dentist in the northern city of Yokneam. On Wednesday night some 250 protesters, mainly youth, demonstrated in the town against this latest act of anti-Arab vandalism in the town.

Also on Wednesday, a 25-year-old Yokneam resident was arrested on suspicion of damaging a number of cars belonging to local Arab Israelis. He is known as an admirer of the slain Rabbi Meir Kahane. The arrest followed a wide-ranging manhunt, which Northern District police carried out in the last several days in response to the series of attacks.

In yet another hate crime on Wednesday, swastika graffiti was discovered in a graveyard in the northern Menashe Regional Council and on a guard post in the northern town of Harish.

Hate crime incidents against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have risen steeply since April 2, when the army destroyed buildings in the settlement of Yitzhar, security forces say.

In the week that followed, the violence worsened, with rioters from the settlement vandalizing a military tent encampment. Since then there have been 16 incidents, 15 involving vandalism of property such as puncturing tires and spraying graffiti. The Shin Bet deems one incident, the setting of a mosque on fire, to be a terror attack that could have cost lives.

By comparison, in the first three months of the year there were 17 hate crimes, popularly known as price tag attacks.

Meanwhile, 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.

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 stiffen the penalty against perpetrators of hate crimes, and said that he would personally follow up on cases like these himself.

Another trend has accompanied the steep rise in incidents: The attacks have moved from the West Bank to within Israel, particularly in the north. There have been 19 incidents inside the Green Line this year, compared with seven for all of 2013.

This phenomenon has two explanations. Some right-wing extremists who were involved in incidents in the West Bank were banned from the area by order of the IDF Central Command chief, Nitzan Alon, and have moved their activities to within the Green Line. In addition, these activists have inspired copycats who live within the Green Line.

In most cases, these copycat incidents are less organized than the original attacks in the West Bank.

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.