Jewish settlers’ “Price Tag” mosque-burning campaign spreads to Israel

October 6, 2011

A Palestinian stands near a vandalised mosque door in the West Bank village of Yatma near Nablus September 8, 2011. The graffiti includes the Hebrew acronym for the words "Price Tag."/Abed Omar Qusini)

They strike in the dead of night, setting fire to mosques and daubing their walls with “Price Tag” graffiti, the defiant slogan of Israeli settlers waging a vigilante campaign branded as “un-Jewish” by President Shimon Peres.

The “price-taggers” have vowed to avenge any move by Israeli authorities to uproot settlement outposts built in the occupied West Bank without Israeli government permission.

Dozens of those outposts, which Israel has repeatedly promised its main ally, the United States, to remove, remain on lonely West Bank hilltops on land to which many settlers claim a Biblical right and where Palestinians want to build a state.

On some of the few occasions when Israeli army bulldozers have torn down structures at the outposts, Palestinian villagers have awoken the next morning to find a local mosque charred by fire and with the now-familiar graffiti on its walls.

Israeli leaders have condemned the incidents. But no one has been charged in the three arson attacks in the West Bank over the past year, an indication, Palestinians say, of indifference by a right-wing government that includes pro-settler parties.

Now the “Price Tag” campaign has widened to include vandalism at an Israeli army base in the West Bank and the torching of two mosques, one this week in a Bedouin village inside Israel, touching a nerve among the country’s leaders and the public.

At stake is the delicate fabric of co-existence between Israel’s Jewish majority and its Arab minority, which makes up some 20 percent of the population.

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