More Hate Crimes against Arabs, As Death Threats Are Made toward Three Human Rights Organizations

Police are investigating a settler “price tag” hate crime in the Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa, on the coast just north of Caesarea, after the tires of 21 cars were punctured on Wednesday night, July 30, and a house was sprayed with graffiti saying, “The hill in [the settlement of] Izhar [in the Occupied Palestinian Territories], we won’t forget and won’t forgive.”

Hadash MKs Cassif and Touma-Sliman near the death threats sprayed in Tel Aviv outside the offices of Amnesty International; the Hebrew graffiti reads: "An evil one will die in his sin."

Hadash MKs Cassif and Touma-Sliman near the death threats sprayed in Tel Aviv outside the offices of Amnesty International; the Hebrew graffiti reads: “An evil one will die in his sin.” (Photo: Zo Haderech)

A member of the local council, Mohammed Lufti, said that until recently, no such incidents had occurred in his community. However, he said, “It is a warning and a sign of things to come.”

MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) called the incident “an act of terror whose goal is to threaten the town’s residents and sow fear.” Cassif added “When the prime minister tries to interfere with Arabs voting at the polls, the message is clear – the ‘price tag’ is the continuation of the government’s policy by other means.”

On the same day, death threats were sprayed in Tel Aviv outside the offices of Amnesty International Israel and ASSAF, an organization working to assist refugees and people seeking asylum in Israel. At the same time, a box containing death threats and a dead mouse was left at the entrance to the Elifelet Children’s Activity Center for African refugees. On the same evening, Hadash MKs Aida Touma-Slima and Cassif paid a solidarity visit to the offices of Amnesty, ASSAF and Elifelet.

On Sunday, July 28, settlers damaged several trucks and spray-painted racist hate messages such as “Death to Arabs” in the central Arab town of Kufr Qassem. Some of the trucks had their tires slashed and others had their windshields smashed, police reported. Xenophobic and chauvinistic graffiti on the vehicles and on adjacent walls of homes included the slogans “End assimilation,” “Racism or assimilation,” and “The people of Israel lives!”

Attacks on Arab towns in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are increasing, but police have yet to apprehend suspects. Amnesty International demanded that “Israeli authorities urgently investigate death threats targeting three civil society organizations in Tel Aviv. In recent years, the climate for human rights defenders in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has rapidly deteriorated, and the Israeli authorities have unduly restricted the right to freedom of expression and association within Israel, with officials intimidating human rights defenders critical of the government and introducing legislation to silence dissent.”

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research and Advocacy Director, said: “These are deplorable and malicious acts targeting civil society organizations carrying out human rights work. The Israeli authorities must also take steps to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society organizations more generally are effectively protected, and can carry out their work free from threats, intimidation or harassment.”

“Price tag” attacks are usually limited to arson and graffiti but have at times included physical assaults and even murder. Earlier this month Channel 12 reported a huge increase in the annual number of reported hate crimes against Palestinians: In 2016 there were 52 such incidents; in 2017 the number rose to 75; and in 2018 there was a near tripling to 205 attacks.

Related: Dramatic Rise in Racist “Price Tag” Attacks in the Occupied West Bank