MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) published a column on Thursday morning in the B'Sheva weekly newspaper in which he said the attacks carried out by Jews known as "price tag" attacks should not be considered terrorism.
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"Someone in the Shin Bet [security service] has lost their way," he wrote. "Terrorism is only violence carried out by an enemy within the framework of war against us, and only that justifies taking severe steps who are out of place in normal situations. All the rest are serious crimes, abominable crime, nationalist crime, but not terrorism," he wrote.
Smotrich was referring to the arson attack and murder in the village of Duma in the West Bank in which three members of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family were killed at the end of July: "The murder in Duma, with all its severity, is not an incident of terrorism. Period. Whoever calls it terrorism is deviating from the truth, causing mortal and unjustified harm to human and civil rights ... Cheapening the term terrorism, and as a result at the end of the day damaging the effectiveness of the battle against it. We are not in a war against Jews," he wrote.
"Price tag" generally refers to attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinians, both against their property and people, in revenge for violence against settlers.
Smotrich also mentioned the arrests carried out by the Shin Bet of the suspected attackers in the Duma case, and wrote that in the past few days the Shin Bet has crossed "all the red lines. The logic is simple and even obvious: If 'price tag' incidents are terrorism, then the families of the suspects are 'families of terrorists,' and the residents of their communities and their officials in [the communities] are 'a population that supports terrorism.'"
"When you push an entire group up against the wall, relate to them as terrorists, demonizing them and trampling their rights without inhibition, in the end it explodes. No one should be surprised when that happens, when more and more people are pushed against their will into acts that they must not commit," wrote Smotrich.
"The drastic means the law allows to take in security offenses were intended to prevent an immediate attack on national security, and not to obtain evidence in order to convict suspects in a crime committed in the past," he said. "And here lies the great fear, the fear that the system that has climbed so high up a tree and declared from every forum that these are Jews, is captive to the concept and will do everything in order to find those responsible, even if there are not really such [people.]"
The chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, tweeted in response on his own Twitter account: "Whoever throws a firebomb on a home is a terrorist. Period."
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), the chairman of the Knesset lobby against "price tag" attacks and their perpetrators, responded to Smotrich's article: "This is a serious expression, and possibly even racist, that minimizes the murder of innocent people and could very well [lead to bloodshed]. Terrorism is terrorism and it must be fought against, especially if it comes from amongst us. This is horrible that MK Smotrich chose to defend contemptible terrorists for reasons of political convenience, and the blood test of matching the level of the crime to the type of blood of the murderer is hypocritical and outrageous. In the name of what religion is Smotrich speaking? Because his Judaism is not Judaism."