Conflict & Justice

Netanyahu wants right-wing extremists labeled "anarchists" instead of "terrorists"


A Palestinian municipal worker gestures at the vandalized walls of a disused mosque in a central neighborhood of Jerusalem, December 14, 2011.


Marco Longari

JERUSALEM — In another outbreak of right-wing extremist violence, an abandoned mosque located in an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood was vandalized early Wednesday and police were assaulted as they attempted to arrest seven suspects in a previous attack on an Israeli army base.

In a special cabinet session Wednesday the government accepted most of the proposals made by the ministers of justice and police, who asked that members of the vaguely constituted but increasingly violent and active “Price Tag” group, a right-wing extremist organization, be defined as terrorists.

Contradicting his ministers, who have for months been warning of a growing danger on the right-wing fringe, Netanyahu said he views these activists as “anarchists more than terrorists.” Israeli media noted that even former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and current Minster for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon, considered a hawkish electoral threat to Netanyahu, said those involved in the new spate of attacks are “terrorists.”

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Nonetheless, as of today, suspects in acts of Jewish terror will be tried in military courts, as Palestinian terror suspects are, and military and police authorities will have much greater leeway in arresting them on administrative detention.

The seven suspects arrested today were being held indefinitely pending a court date tomorrow. A neighbor of one of the suspects, arrested in the central Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Moshe, referred to their arrest as “a lynch.” Two police cars were vandalized as the police entered homes.

Security services have requested special permission to access IP addresses and other computer-identifying data belonging to people posting on right-wing sites, people making inciting posts using pseudonyms, and those organizing activities deemed dangerous.

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A photographer working for a right-wing newspaper, Major Rishon, was presented with a subpoena for photographs taken during acts of vandalism but the newspaper has so far refused to turn over any material.

Also today, the brigade commander wounded in the attack by right-wing activists on a West Bank military base two nights ago met with settler rabbis in an attempt to reestablish a working relationship. The rabbis told Colonel Ran Kahana that he was attacked by “fringe elements,” not representative of the settler movement at large. Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who also attended the meeting, said that many of the increasingly violent youth “are feeling deep pain” at the prospect of possible evacuations of illegal settlements.

The rabbis blamed “politicians” for inciting the youth to such violence against representatives of the army and the state.