Vandals Destroy Dozens of Olive Trees in West Bank Hate Crime

Incident near Bat Ayin settlement is latest in wave of anti-Arab attacks; Justice Minister Livni to convene emergency meeting on Wednesday.

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Smoke rising near West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.Credit: Jack Khoury

Thirty-five olive trees were destroyed near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin on Saturday, in another in a recent wave of anti-Arab hate crimes across the country. Graffiti reading "Arabs are thieves" and "price tag" were found at the scene.

According to Palestinian sources, such vandalism has become routine. Just a few days ago 58 olive trees were several damaged in Ras Karkar, northwest of Ramallah.

Also on Saturday evening, an Israeli Arab family found the tires of their car slashed, after returning from an afternoon in a public park in Ein Hashofet, in northern Israel. The car also had the words "price tag" and a Star of David sprayed on it.

According to the car owner, Hassan Subakh, the vandals apparently recognized it as an Arab car because the word "Allah" is written on the back of his car. This is the third hate crime in one week in the Yokneam area.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will convene an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the expansion of "price tag" attacks into Israel proper and the hate crimes in Arab towns in the north over the past week, and the possible law enforcement steps that could be taken.

"We'll not let these cowardly criminals evade justice," Livni said, adding that hate crime must be fought in the same way terror is. "Those who exploit Israel's complicated situation to incite hate and violence must be apprehended and punished.

"The price tag criminals are witnesses for the prosecution in the international trial against Israel. My Israeli flag, which I will hoist this week with great pride, is not the flag the spray over scorched mosques. As justice minister I'll do the utmost to eradicate these crimes." 

Representatives from the State Prosecutor’s Office, Israel Police and the Shin Bet will take part in the meeting.

On Sunday, youths from Shfaram active in the Arab-Jewish cooperative "Shutafut-Sharakah" will help renovate a synagogue on as a way of positively challening the recent hate crimes.

Last Thursday, members of the Islamic Movement found graffiti and the Star of David sprayed on the grave of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in an ancient Muslim cemetery near Nesher.

Last Monday night, vandals spray-painted a Star of David and the phrase “close down mosques, not yeshivas” on a mosque in the Israeli Arab town Fureidis. 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.

Meanwhile on Saturday, police located a car that is identical to the car used in an April 18 arson attack on a mosque in the northern Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. The mosque's door was charred and the building was spray-painted with the slogan “Arabs out". Last week the police arrested two couples from the settlement of Yitzhar on suspicion their car was involved in the attack. The investigation is ongoing.

On Saturday, former shin Bet head Carmi Gillon said that Israel is not interested in solving the problem of anti-Arab hate crimes. "We don't see results, because we're not intended to see them," Gillon said, according to Nana website. "There's no such thing as 'can't do' in the Shin Bet, just 'don't want.'"