Latest update: May 30th, 2013
American news headlines over the past few weeks have focused on political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of conservative groups. But Israel is experiencing its own form of political targeting by the state. The attorney general is leading an initiative to have a small group of radical juveniles who engage in mischief declared a terrorist organization.
The group of politically-motivated Jewish vandals operates under the name Tag Mechir, or Price Tag. They came together as a response to Arab rock-throwing and general acts of vandalism against Jews perpetrated in the West Bank and in some other areas. Much of their activity consists of writing graffiti on cars and homes of Arabs or Jewish leftists. Their worst acts of misbehavior have involved vandalizing mosques. The local police have been unsuccessful in tracking down and arresting those involved, but they are thought to be young people from settlements in the West Bank.
Most people on the political right in Israel, including most pro-settler organizations and parties, regard the Price Tag radicals as an embarrassment. The vandals have been condemned by nearly every rabbi in the country. The Price Taggers have damaged property and they needlessly provoke Muslims and others in the most explosive region of the world. But they have killed no one. They do not engage in actual violence against humans, except for some revenge-rock-throwing.
(As it turns out, in several cases leftists and Arabs have vandalized Arab property as provocations to be blamed on settlers and the Price Tag group. Presumably, the Price Taggers are happy to accept the “credit” for these crimes even when they are not involved.)
The same leftists who seek to define the Price Taggers as terrorists bend over backward to excuse rock throwing by Arabs against Jews. Members of Israel’s chattering classes are always willing to defend freedom of speech for those holding opinions of which they approve.
Rather than engage the Price Tag juveniles in debate or simply denounce their behavior in the media, the government apparently prefers to deal with them by redefining terrorism to include petty vandalism.
It should be noted here that not one of the many cases of synagogues being vandalized by Arabs has been defined by the government as terrorism.
The initiative to proclaim the Price Tag group a terrorist organization has come from Israel’s politicized attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein. It was immediately endorsed by the leftist herds in media and academia, as well as by political hacks such as the minister of internal security and the justice minister.
Weinstein has a long track record of “differential prosecution.” This is manifested in his refusal to prosecute leftists and Arabs while running a special surveillance agency to spy on right-wing Jews. When an Arab Knesset member who participated in the “Hamas flotilla” seeking to end Israel’s naval control of the waters around the Gaza Strip violently attacked Israeli soldiers, Weinstein refused to prosecute her.
Weinstein has also studiously defended freedom of speech for radical leftists and Arabs while just as studiously seeking its suppression for everyone else. He has repeatedly indicted rabbis and others for “incitement” and “racism” when they dare to express political opinions with which the left disagrees – even prosecuting people for catcalls at a soccer game – but has never indicted any leftists calling for violence or mutiny by soldiers.
So what are we to make of this initiative to declare a group of juvenile vandals and punks a “terrorist organization”?
The most obvious problem with it is that it empties the very notion of terrorism of any substantive meaning. If some teenagers engaging in fraternity-like pranks and malicious graffiti are in the same category as the genocidal suicide bombers of Hamas and al Qaeda, then how bad can the Islamofascist terrorists really be?
But what is at least as outrageous is that the initiative is really nothing more than an assault against freedom of speech inside Israel. It is an arbitrary attempt to criminalize the political behavior of a fringe group while ignoring the violence constantly being perpetrated by groups from the other end of the political spectrum.
For example, the “Anarchists Against the Wall” organization that operates in Israel engages in actual violence against actual Israeli soldiers and police officers every single week. For years the group’s members have been joined by fellow anarcho-fascists from overseas in provoking violent confrontations with Israeli security personnel, supposedly all as part of their “protests” against Israel constructing its security fence against Palestinian terrorists.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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