Anti-Arab attackers should be treated as terrorists, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said Wednesday, after the latest incident in a spate of vandalism in Arab areas in and around Jerusalem that police suspect is being committed by Jewish extremists.
"We will pay a heavy price for the expanding 'price tag' trend," said Peretz, using the widespread term for damage or assault perpetrated by extremist Jewish settlers. Such incidents often target Arabs, but sometimes target Israeli security forces or left-wing activists involved in or advocating the evacuation of settlements.
"This is a group of irresponsible criminals who will do all they can to fan the flames of dispute out of a desire to cause extremists on the other side to respond, thereby causing an escalation that could turn into an uncontrollable fire," said Peretz, a former defense minister and Labor Party chairman. "They must be stopped and treated as terrorist groups, and all measures must be taken to bring them to justice."
Vandals slashed the tires of about 30 cars in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa and spray-painted anti-Arab graffiti overnight Wednesday.
The anti-Arab messages included "Arabs=Thieves" and "There is no coexistence."
Police are investigating the incident, which is the second anti-Arab attack in Beit Safafa over the past several months, and the second in Jerusalem in two weeks. Last week a similar incident took place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor.
Security cameras in the area indicate that the incident took place around 3 A.M. in the Sharafat section of Beit Safafa and was carried out by masked vandals.
"The 'price tag' criminals are continuing to cause mass damage to the property of Arabs in Jerusalem and its surroundings, unhindered," said Gadi Gvaryahu, who heads Tag Meir, a coalition of groups opposed to what are widely known as "price tag" attacks,
"The security and property of the Arabs of Abu Ghosh, Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina, Abu Tor, Beit Safafa and Sharafat has been forfeited over and over again by the Israeli government," Gvaryahu said, referring to Arab areas in and near Jerusalem. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has effectively lost control over the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now