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Who Buys ‘Price Tag’ Crimes?

Prominent religious Zionist rabbi blames radical education for vandalism

Marc Tracy
September 13, 2011
Graffiti in a West Bank village last year.(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)
Graffiti in a West Bank village last year.(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

Rabbi Yosef Blau, head of Religious Zionists of America, has an important, honest, and self-aware op-ed in the Jerusalem Post questioning whether mainstream religious Zionism is responsible for “price tag” responses. In the West Bank, tag mechir has come to mean writing graffiti or otherwise vandalizing Palestinian structures, including mosques, after the Israeli authorities have removed settlement outposts. Settlement leaders are on record as opposing such acts. But Blau asks if that actually amounts to anything:

The criticized actions flow directly from what these adolescents have been taught. The roots of their behavior can be found in a number of ideas, some taught in a more widespread fashion than others, promulgated by broad sections of the dati leumi (Religious Zionist) world.

Thus even those who do not support revenge or violence may actually contribute to it.

One of these ideas is that Jews are intrinsically superior beings of a higher order than non-Jews.

This axiom leads to the conclusion that a Jewish life is worth more than that of a non-Jew. The Arabs in particular are viewed as intractable enemies of the Jews and often equated with Amalek, whom the Jews were commanded to wipe out.

Elizabeth Rubin touched on price tag operations in her Tablet Magazine piece last week. In fact, in what turned out to be a preview of this essay, Blau commented, “As a zionist and religious Jew I am appalled by the manipulation of teen age girls in a school which focuses on indoctrination rather than education. … It is not surprising that in a black and white world a response to government forces removing settlers from a site based on court decisions and elected government policy is to destroy a Mosque and vandalize an Army base.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.