Another day, another act of extreme "price tag" violence. It's all getting to be terrifyingly, horrifyingly routine.
Early this morning, suspected Jewish extremists -- or heck, let's just call them what they are, suspected Jewish terrorists -- set a mosque on fire on fire in Tuba Zangaria, a Bedouin village in the northern Galilee. The blaze caused "serious damage" to the mosque, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The New York Times, and destroyed copies of the Koran as well as walls and rugs. The arsonists also took the time to spray-paint a message in Hebrew on the outside walls of the mosque: the words "Price Tag," "Revenge" and "Palmer." "Palmer," it is believed, is a reference to Asher Palmer, a settler from Hebron who was killed last week in a car crash that Israeli police have labeled a terrorist attack -- though what the people of a small Bedouin village in northern Israeli have to do with the death of an Israeli settler near Kiryat Arba remains utterly perplexing.
This was the third arson attack on a mosque in the last month, but the first such attack committed inside Israel (the other two mosque-burnings have taken place in the West Bank). It is part of a growing trend of right-wing Jewish attacks on Palestinians, Palestinian property, and Jewish leftists that has grown so frequent and so organized that even the Shin Bet has begun, rather stunningly, to describe the attacks as "terrorist" incidents. According to a September 13th Haaretz article published titled "Shin Bet: Israel's extreme rightists organizing into terror groups":
Extreme right-wing Jewish activists in the West Bank have moved from spontaneous acts against Arabs - following the demolition of Jewish homes by Israeli authorities, or terror attacks against Jews - to organized planning that includes use of a database of potential targets, according to new analysis by the Shin Bet security service.
The small groups of Jewish extremists are difficult to infiltrate and carry out surveillance on Arab villages and collect information about access points and escape routes in the villages. They are also collecting information about left-wing Israeli activists.
The fruits of this all this busy terrorist organizing have been widespread, vicious, and alarming, and have included everything from assaulting and brutalizing Palestinians to torching cars in Arab villages, uprooting and burning olive orchards, setting fire to mosques, attacking an Israeli military base in the West Bank, and vandalizing the property of well-known peace activists. And yet, much of it goes unreported or unremarked upon, gets treated as non-events by Israel's media, security services, politicians, and public. "We’ve become used to it," wrote Yossi Gurvitz in a disturbing article this past June in +972 titled "Settler 'price tag' pogroms against Palestinians go under the radar." "Pogroms are a daily event – nothing to write home about, as long as they are kept within bounds. It’s background noise. A dog bites a man. Nothing to see here, move along."
For whatever reasons, this morning's attack on the Tuba Zangaria mosque did manage to break through the consensus of silence, enough at least to wrench statements out of both Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. Peres later jogged up north with Israel's two chief rabbis to survey the damage and express solidarity with Tuba Zangaira's residents (and, perhaps, try to quell their protests). The only problem is that statements of outrage have only so much meaning when every other act, intention, and ambition of your administration is dedicated to displacing and disempowering the wounded population. They're almost as absurd as, say, condemning the atrocities at Abu Ghraib when you and your advisers have given the green light to waterboarding, Guantanomo, and Shock-and-Awe.
Actually, come to think of it, George W. Bush didn't condemn the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, not really, not initially. As the ever-brilliant Susan Sontag observed, he merely expressed shock and disgust at the photographs, "as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict." And sure enough, Netanyahu harped on the representation of the crime as well: "The images are shocking and have no place in the State of Israel," he said (emphasis added).
Which means: expect more Price Tag attacks.