There’s a phrase that’s become common parlance among a number of extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It gets sprayed on mosques, schools and homes following acts of violence and vandalism against Palestinians: “Price tag.”
The slogan has been adopted by settlers who’ve vowed to avenge any removal of illegal settlements by the Israeli government.
Today it was sprayed on a rock above a Palestinian-owned orchard close to the Jewish settlements of Avigayll and Ma’on, in the remote southern Hebron hills. Sprawled out below, their limbs snapped and twisted into the sky, were 44 vandalised olive trees.
“Price tag – for what? For forty years of occupation? It makes no sense,” says Abed NaMohammad, who lives in the nearby village of Yatta.
‘Price tag’ attacks cost Palestinians dearly. In recent years the campaign has seen mosques burned, property destroyed and communities intimidated with hateful graffiti. In some cases, the violence is so intense that Palestinians are forced to leave their homes and move towards larger urban areas of the West Bank for safety.
But for settlers, the campaign comes with almost no price tag whatsoever.
This month the UN reported that the number of attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property has risen by about 150 percent each year since 2008, with 154 attacks in the first half of this year alone.
At a press conference organized by UNICEF, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), and the human rights groups B’Tselem and Al-Haq, international journalists were told that the Israeli authorities are failing to respond to mounting settler violence against Palestinians.
Over 90% of complaints regarding settler violence monitored by the UN in recent years have been closed without indictment.
According to Nasser a-Nawaj’a, who lives in the nearby village of Susiya, the two men who own the wrecked olive trees are unlikely to bother raising a complaint with the Israeli authorities, because they know nothing will come of it.
As Leah Levane, my EAPPI colleague and a board member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, put it as she looked at the rows of broken trees: “It doesn’t matter what the Bible says about your right to the land. There’s no excuse for this.”