Stop the Terrorist Wave Against Israel's Arabs

The attacks on Muslim and Christian holy sites are security offenses liable to turn communities against each other and ignite a huge religious-nationalist fire.

On both sides of the Green Line, from the West Bank through Tuba-Zangaria to Jaffa, a wave of terror is sweeping the country. It's not yet murderous terror, for so far, no one has been hurt by the abominable acts rapidly piling up under the innocent-sounding "price tag" label. But the purpose and the results are clear, and it seems likely they will end by claiming lives as well.

Terrorist acts inside Israel reflect the infiltration of the violent culture that has developed on the other side of the Green Line during decades of occupation. The timing is easily understood against the background of the racist, anti-democratic legislation enacted by the current Knesset: The message it transmits is that Israel's Arab citizens are illegitimate.

The burned-out mosque in Israeli Arab town Tuba Zangaria, victim of a radical settler 'price tag' attack in 2011.
Yaron Kaminsky

The authorities must not file this series of attacks on Muslim and Christian holy sites and cemeteries under "criminal offenses against property." These are security offenses that are liable to turn communities against each other and ignite a huge religious-nationalist fire.

The security agencies prepared intensively to extinguish such fires last month, against the background of the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state. But it seems that certain extremist circles in Israel were disappointed that no violent conflict in fact erupted. So they decided to take the initiative themselves, by attacking soldiers and policemen in the territories and inflaming Israeli Arabs in both Arab towns and mixed Jewish-Arab cities in the hope of sparking riots.

The attack on a mosque in Tuba-Zangaria was the first incident of its kind. It's not certain that the desecration of graves in Jaffa is part of the same trend; police are also looking into the possibility that this hooliganism stemmed from other motives, perhaps local ones. Imitating the "price-tag" terrorists requires no special preparations or expertise; all you need is a little paint and a lot of racist chutzpah - a mixture of hatred of Arabs and bigotry against foreigners or immigrants - along with a bit of soccer-field rivalry.

But precisely because the failure to catch those responsible is liable to encourage additional copycat attacks in other places, it is vital for the police and the Shin Bet security service to take prompt action on every front - intelligence gathering, interrogations and operational activity - using all the special tools available for counterterrorism activities. Without such clear, determined action, backed by the state prosecution and the courts, terror is liable to strike again, and to realize its perpetrators' worst intentions.