Threats escalate against Israeli anti-settlement activists
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Peace Now, a group known for its vocal stand against Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, says a senior member of its team has received a death threat.
It was the latest in a string of incidents blamed on Jewish extremists protesting the dismantling of illegal settlements in the West Bank. The targets of these so-called price-tag operations -- which typically involve vandalism in response to government actions against the settlements -- have been individuals, groups, mosques, cemeteries and recently even Israeli army facilities.
The threat against Hagit Ofran, who heads Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project, was found spray-painted in the stairwell of her building early Tuesday.
The vandals wrote “Rabin is waiting for you,” a reference to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish law student. Commemorations for Rabin were set to begin that night. Many Israelis noted the timing and cautioned that the lessons of Rabin's death have not been learned.
The graffiti also included the names of settlements that had recently been dismantled or are slated to be. Earlier this week, Peace Now’s office building was evacuated because of a bomb scare.
Ofran said she would not be intimidated but that police would do well to increase their presence in the neighborhood. Activists called an emergency demonstration outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, declaring in a message posted on the Internet: "We will continue to work for peace."
Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, and a longtime member of Netanyahu's Likud party, had planned to address the price-tag attacks in a speech Wednesday in Rabin's memory. Tuesday's events prompted him to release his comments to the media in advance.
"This is not a 'price' or a 'tag,' this is terror," he wrote. "These villainous criminals who harmed houses of prayer, fields, homes and property belonging to Palestinians, are Jewish, and this is Jewish terrorism that should be called nothing less."
Left-wing commentators warned that the dispute over Israeli policies in the West Bank was heating up dangerously. Lawmaker Zehava Galon said she feared "it might lead to the next political assassination."
Earlier this year, conservative politicians and activists waged a campaign accusing nongovernmental organizations from the left of undermining Israel. This week, Netanyahu expressed support for a bill limiting foreign donations to human rights organizations, which are already required to disclose their foreign government funding.
Yariv Oppenheimer, secretary-general of Peace Now, said such efforts were partly to blame for increasing violence. Speaking on Israel Radio on Tuesday morning, Opppenheimer said the message was that "what doesn't work in the Knesset will work on the street."
-- Batsheva Sobelman
Photo: Israeli President Shimon Peres lights a memorial candle in his Jerusalem residence Nov. 8 to mark the 16th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Credit: EPA/Israeli Government Press Office