Many Israelis, however, think that goes too far.
Dani Dayan, the former director of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, said that price-tag assaults are generally against property and should be treated as “extreme vandalism” or even “a hate crime.”
Dayan called the attacks “despicable from a moral point of view” and “very, very dumb.” He said nothing has hurt the settlement movement more than price-tag attacks, which cast settlers as racist vandals.
Still, he said, to Israelis “terrorism is a suicide bomber in a crowded mall or someone who shoots people.” Dayan said a price-tag attack that involves deadly force — as when Jewish radicals have thrown a fire bomb at Israeli soldiers — should be considered terrorism, but not spray painting and tire slashing. “There’s no comparison between this and real Palestinian terrorism,” he said.
Immediately after the tires were slashed in Abu Ghosh, Israeli politicians and government ministers rushed to apologize and promise that the culprits would be caught.
Israeli President Shimon Peres went to Ibrahim Hamza’s house and said he was sorry that the town was subjected to such a crime.
Israelis with historical memory were especially stung that a price-tag attack would befall Abu Ghosh, whose Muslim residents remained neutral in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and helped to keep a crucial roadway through the village open during fighting against Arab forces.
“Jewish Israelis were very upset to hear what happened here,” said Salim Jaber, the long-serving mayor of Abu Ghosh. The town is a popular destination with Israelis and tourists who want to eat some of the best hummus in the country, or visit the old crusader church, or watch the construction of a large new mosque, a gift from Chechnya.
Jaber said that security cameras in the town captured shadowy images of three men in the vicinity of the crime scene. At least one was sporting tzizit, the white tassels worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews.
“These are the kinds of people who want us to hate Jews, hate Israel. But we are smarter than that,” Jaber said. He scoffed at the idea — “a sick fantasy” — that some slashed tires would make Muslims leave Abu Ghosh.
But he said Israeli authorities must catch the perpetrators.
“If the government doesn’t solves these cases, they’re going to have a big problem,” said Jawdat Ibrahim, the owner of an Abu Ghosh restaurant who set a Guinness World Record for the largest serving of hummus (9,016 pounds) in 2010.
“It is unbelievable to us that Israel can catch enemies, very sophisticated enemies, overseas, but they can’t catch a bunch of punks who live here,” Ibrahim said. “These attacks happen in an atmosphere, maybe an atmosphere that says, ‘Hey, it’s okay, you’re never gonna get caught.’ ”