Price taggers, you ain’t my brothers

Israel critics and newspapers celebrated today, as price-tag activists fed them yet another paper-selling headline.

Following the Israeli Civil Administration’s uprooting of two olive groves Tuesday near the Samarean outpost of Esh Kodesh, a group of Esh Kodesh residents set out, armed with rocks and sledgehammers, “on a tiyul (hike),” to the nearby village of Qusra. While the uprooting of the olive groves was carried out as an Israeli Government procedure, the Esh Kodesh residents chose to direct their frustration with the Administration towards the neighboring Arabs, engaging them in a rock-fight just hours after the uprooting.

After the army broke up the rock-fight things appeared to have returned to norm. However, the Esh Kodesh residents set out again, allegedly with the motive of committing price-tag acts in the nearby village. This time, the settlers were met with a surprise and were surrounded and held captive for more than two hours by local Qusra roughs. During this time, many of them were injured and feared for their lives. Ultimately, they were saved by six local Palestinians who interjected and warded off the mob until the army came and rescued them. Press photos show “Palestinian heroes” protecting the sellers, who allegedly beat up a local Arab youth, shielding them from the ensuing mob – not exactly great PR.

Ever since the “price-tag policy” began sprouting its roots, in the aftermath of Sharon’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, I was appalled by this disgraceful phenomenon, which was both un-Jewish and inhuman. But I was consoled by the fact that it was merely a group of, at best, ten-or-so hot-headed youths and the army seemed to be dealing with them appropriately. I was sure the price-tag phenomenon would be short-lived. However, following the brutal demolition of Amona in early 2006, the price-tag-activists stepped it up a notch, moving from demonstrations and road-blocks to routine vandalism of Arab property.

It’s important to point out that these extremely-extreme-right-wing activists don’t represent any political part or religious faction. They are merely a group of completely random, unorganized, violent extremists, seriously lacking direction.

The worst thing about price-tag-activism is the randomness and baselessness with which they choose their targets. Just as Palestinian terrorists strike blindly at any Jew they can find, regardless of race, gender, nationality or political orientation, so too price-tag activists choose too to strike any accessible Arab target regardless of who they are. These acts are completely baseless and hate-motivated, lacking any clear agenda or motive.

The price-tag policy and modus operandi is so un-Jewish and so un-menschlich that it is simply unacceptable. Worse still is the added workload for Foreign Ministry and IDF spokespeople and anyone else advocating for Israel’s image in the world’s eye. It’s no secret that Israel isn’t exactly a favorite country and you don’t have to be a genius to understand that we are always held to a double-standard and heavily scrutinized under the global-microscope. Do price-taggers think that they are making our job any easier? The world already prefers to think of IDF soldiers as child-murdering terrorists – is that an image we want them to associate with all Israeli citizens? If that is the price-taggers’ goal, than they are doing an excellent job. As one who is forced to advocate on Israel’s behalf almost daily in conversations with people who aren’t exactly our best friends, price-tag activism is making my job that much harder.

You may have noticed that I continually refer to the price-tagger’s “Jewishness”. There is a reason for this. As Jews, we represent something. It’s no coincidence that Israel has the most moral army in the world, provides high-end medical assistance to disaster areas the world over, and is virtually the only democracy in the Middle East. It is our nature, as Jews, to be menschlich. We are like a child who is playing in the park and a bully hits him. The child runs to his mother for consolation. After recouping, he picks himself up and declares “I’m going to hit him back.” But the mother catches her son, rebuking him: “Don’t hit him, you are better than him. If you hit him back, you are stooping to his level – if he is a bully, you be a mensch – “such is the way of our fathers.”

As a Jew, I feel it is unfair. I am Jewish and as a Jew, as a human-being, I strive to be a mensch, always aware that I represent Jews everywhere, regardless of what they wear (or don’t wear) on their head. But it seems that precisely those who externally claim to represent the Jewish people repeatedly disappoint. This refers both to the Charedi-Chassidic communities whose dirty-laundry has plastered the headlines of the world-media again and again over the past year, exposing sexual violations and embezzlement scandals of the worst kind (this is not a generalization, I’m referring only to the communities who have been repeatedly scandal-ridden over the past year – you all know who they are) as well as the price-taggers whose shameful acts have hijacked the attention of the world press. Both these groups’ dress represents the classic “Jew-look” as perceived by the average individual. Both these groups carry out their acts shamelessly with their tzitzit flying and their kippas bobbing on their head. Have they no shame? Why do they not feel the same feeling of shlichut (mission) that I feel? Don’t they understand that when they carry out their hideous deeds, they represent me as well, and you? Furthermore, the uninformed [most of the world] don’t differentiate between me and them – as far as they are concerned, I might as well be a price-tagger myself.

Our Rabbis taught: “Kol Yisrael Areivim Ze Laze” – we [Jews] are all responsible for one another. “Achainu Kol Beit Yisrael” – all of Israel are brothers. I’m sorry but you guys aint’ no brothers of mine…

If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, we’re in this together, and divorcing myself from you won’t do either of us any good. In fact, quite the opposite, we already lost one Temple because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred among our own – we have to be stronger than that.

And so, I appeal to you, my estranged brothers, stop.

Think about the result of your actions and ask yourself – is this really going to advance my goal? After all, extreme left-wing NGO’s like B’tselem have thrived off your foolish acts – you are feeding into their stereotype, that all settlers are hotheads with guns and all they want to do is kill Palestinians. Show them who is better. Like the mother in the park, reprimanding her son, be the bigger one. Be the mensch.

About the Author
Yitz Hammer lives with his wife and two children in Netanya; He made aliyah from the U.S. in 2000, studied in Otniel Hesder Yeshiva and served in the Combat Engineering Corps; Yitzy is currently studying towards an LL.B. in Law and a B.A. in Government at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliah, where he works as a research assistant in the subject of Jewish Law; Yitz's interests include photography, history, international law, music and writing. Most recently, Yitzy has joined the ranks of StandWithUs, the pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, as a participant in their Israel Fellowship.