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AFP said that attacks initially targeted Palestinian property in response to Israeli government moves to squelch unauthorized Jewish settlements. The scope has recently grown to what appears to be a full-blown racism against non-Jews.

Some evangelical Arab Christians living in Israel said they believed it was a new development, emerging with price-tag attacks moving from Jerusalem and predominately Palestinian areas up into the Galilee region of northern Israel.

Alex Awad, dean of the Bethlehem Bible College and an Arab Christian, offered this explanation during a CT interview, when Jewish settlers feel their interests are threatened: "They then resort to attacking either Christian or Muslim holy sites. Jewish settlers in the West Bank are becoming stronger and stronger. They are armed." He added, "Certainly they can intimidate the Palestinian population, including the Christian presence in the Holy Land."

The U.S. State Department mentioned price-tag attacks for the first time last month in its 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism. The report appeared to indicate that the Obama administration does not believe Israel is adequately prosecuting perpetrators of such hate crimes. Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said he will ask the courts to sharpen penalties against the perpetrators of hate crimes, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Attacks on Jewish Sites

Israel National News or Arutz Sheva 7 reported that anonymous assailants carried out price-tag vandalism earlier this week at the Conservative Moreshet Yisrael synagogue in Jerusalem.

On a sign at the entrance to the synagogue, Jewish stars were scrawled with Nazi swastikas in the center.

Arutz Sheva 7 reported a spokesman for the synagogue saying it was the third case of vandalism in recent days. It said that Attorney Yizhar Hass, director of the Conservative movement, held Jewish rather than Arab leaders responsible.

"The serious graffiti on the Conservative synagogue in the center of Jerusalem . . . again reminds how much hate crimes are a slippery slope. Those who yesterday gave Jewish legal justification, explicit or intimated, to 'price tag' criminals, today give justification to the attack on liberal synagogues," Hass said.

The synagogue's rabbi, Rabbi Adam Frank, reportedly said, "We're no longer on a slippery slope, we're in free fall."

Officials respond

Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited several sites in the Galilee area of Yokne'am subjected to price-tag attacks earlier this week and spoke about the troubling development with the town's mayor, the Israeli press reported.

For their part, the Palestinians are demanding that price-tag attacks be designated as acts of terrorism. The Palestinian Authority's Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki said his government has prepared a case against price-tag attackers and has written a letter to the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and other world organizations, demanding to have the perpetrators put on the list of international terrorist organizations.

Maliki claims Israeli officials already internally refer to price-tag attacks as terrorism. "We have quotes from Israeli officials that already refer to them as terrorist organizations operating out of hatred for Arabs," the letter reportedly read.

Palestinians living in Israel are normally referred to as Arab Israelis. An Arab Israeli member of Israel's parliament or Knesset, Issawi Frej, proposed a bill stating that victims of price-tag attacks against Arabs will be recognized and compensated on the same scale as terror attack victims. But the Knesset's Ministerial Committee for Legislation categorically rejected the bill on Sunday, May 11.

Dale Gavlak is a journalist based in Amman, Jordan.

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