(JTA) — Houses of worship have been vandalized, businesses defaced and car tires slashed.
So-called “price tag” attacks have proliferated since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were suspended at the end of April.
Intended to exact a price for Israeli government policies seen as detrimental to the settlement enterprise, such attacks have long been a problem in the West Bank. But suspected Jewish extremists increasingly are targeting Israeli Arab citizens, mosques and churches within the country’s borders.
Israel’s government has been left in the awkward position of confronting a string of ideologically motivated attacks perpetrated by Jews. Now calls are growing for the government to mount a stronger response.
The latest attacks come at a particularly sensitive time — just weeks before Pope Francis is due to make a high-profile visit to Israel. Anti-Christian graffiti has prompted the Vatican to express concern for the safety of Israel’s Christians.
“What began as love of the land has become, in part, a wild west sown with hate toward Arabs, the state of laws and its representatives,” Justice Minister Tzipi livni wrote in a Facebook post May 7.
Attackers have slashed the tires of Arab-owned cars in the Israeli towns of Yokneam, Acre and Fureidis. Graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” was sprayed in Yokneam and eastern Jerusalem.
On Friday, Jerusalem’s St. George Romanian Orthodox Church was defaced with the words “Price tag, King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage.”
Even Jewish and Israeli Defense Forces institutions are not immune. On Monday, vandals reportedly defaced an Israeli army base with slogans demeaning the pope and Arabs. The same day, swastikas inside Jewish stars were found outside Jerusalem’s Conservative Moreshet Yisrael synagogue.
Israeli security forces have responded as they have since the price tag attacks began in 2008 — with investigations and arrests.
Amos Oz, one of Israel’s leading literary figures and a stalwart of the left, likened price tag perpetrators to neo-Nazis in a nationally televised speech on Friday in honor of his 75th birthday.
“‘Price tag’ and ‘hilltop youth’ are sweet, sugary nicknames, and the time has come to call this monster by its name,” Oz said. “We wanted to be like all other nations, we longed for there to be a Hebrew thief and a Hebrew prostitute — and there are Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.”