Yaakov Katz
October 4, 2011 - 12:00am

The attack against the mosque in the Galilee on Sunday is a clear escalation – and if proven to have been carried out by right-wing extremists – it will be just the latest sign that Jewish terrorism is gaining steam.

The target chosen raises serious questions about the motivations of the alleged perpetrators. While attacks on mosques in the West Bank have sadly become something of the norm in recent years, an attack on a mosque in an Israeli town is quite rare, particularly in a Beduin village like Tuba Zanghariya, whose residents serve in the IDF.

Not only do the male residents serve in relatively-high numbers in the military, but there is even a branch of the Acharay (“after me”) Movement in town, where one of the locals, a veteran of the Givati Infantry Brigade, works to increase the Beduin youths’ motivation to serve in combat units.

What the perpetrators of this attack were trying to achieve is unclear. Were they seeking to purposely destroy the already fragile and delicate relationship between Jews and Beduin? Did they want to torpedo the local youths’ draft into the IDF? To turn the focus from the West Bank Palestinians to the Israeli-Arabs, or to simply attack an Arab village with total disregard to where it is, or who lives there?

For the Israeli legal system and defense establishment this attack needs to serve as a wake-up call. One that is long overdue.

Already in 2009, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin – who stepped down in May – warned about a growing number of settlers and right-wing activists who he said were prepared to use violence, including even gunfire, against Israeli security forces to prevent the evacuation of settlements.

In addition to these few dozen, Diskin assessed there are hundreds more who are believed to be prepared to use such violence against Palestinians. A few are believed by the Shin Bet to also be prepared to target Israeli politicians.

In recent months, the Shin Bet has recorded a growing number of so-called “price tag” attacks, amounting to several dozen over the past year. These include attacks like the one on Sunday against mosques, the uprooting of olive trees, the puncturing of tires on military vehicles, the harassment of left-wing activists, IDF officers and Shin Bet officials and others.

The fear within the Shin Bet and the IDF is these attacks will continue to increase as the Palestinians move forward with their unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations, and if large-scale demonstrations erupt in Palestinian towns.

Other potential triggers are the upcoming planned evacuations of a number of illegal outposts in the West Bank in the coming months – which The Jerusalem Post reported last week that the IDF is trying to delay – as well as the upcoming annual olive harvest, which always entails settler-Palestinian violence.

There is no clear way to stop this violence.

On the one hand, what is needed, some IDF officers claim, is to create a deterrent to prevent attacks. This is difficult when in most cases no one is ever arrested, and if someone is arrested they are sometimes let off without charges.

Even OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi’s use of restraining orders banning certain settlers from the West Bank – 13 orders have been issued in recent months – does not deter people from perpetrating additional attacks, since the orders only pertain to the involved individual.

For the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to effectively stop this growing phenomenon, it first needs to be set as a priority and receive the necessary resources.

Then too, the Shin Bet, the police, the IDF and the State Prosecutor’s Office need to pool their resources together and create joint task forces to combat the wave of violence. Perpetrators need to be caught, arrested and punished.

Only then, will Israel stand a chance at stopping something that not only damages its image overseas, but undermines the basic democratic principles upon which the state was founded.


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