Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: 'Price Tag' Psychology

Revenge is not part of Jewish culture and the Arab world, where it is accepted, knows that.
Published: Saturday, June 14, 2014 9:06 PM


In recent weeks, the abrupt disappearance of the latest cycle of “Price Tag” incidents as quickly as it began made the timing of the previous “Price Tag”
Terrorism here in the Middle East always means murder, and in most cases the murder of Jews.
cycle, just prior to the visit of Pope Francis, noticeably suspicious, since it created fertile ground for the implementation of Mandate period emergency regulations to arrest, detain, and ban Israeli citizens in clear violation of their 1st amendment rights, and their general human rights.

It also created a breeding ground for conspiracy theories as to who is behind that cycle. During this period, the sudden proliferation of “Price Tag” incidents, always limited to wanton acts of vandalism and violation of property, were timed to coincide with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's call that "Price Tag" incidents be classified as acts of terrorism and should therefore be included in the Terror Prevention Ordinance, despite there being no legal precedence anywhere in the Western World to compare acts of vandalism to deadly terror.

According to the Ordinance, a terrorist organization is described as a group of people who act violently in a manner that may cause the injury or death of another person, or threatening to act in such a manner. While the Price Tag incidents are unacceptable, they are certainly not on the same level as terrorist acts according to the law.

There can be no comparing Jews who commit acts commonly referred to as “Price Tag” to the Muslim terrorists who blow themselves up for the sole purpose of killing Jews or kidnap youngsters on their way home. 

Terrorism here in the Middle East always means murder, and in most cases the murder of Jews.

This being said, there can be neither sanction nor sympathy for “Price Tag” incidents. Furthermore, there can be no ‘buts’. You cannot say, ‘I disagree with what they are doing – but – I sympathize with their cause. That too is unacceptable and should be condemned unconditionally.

Yet amid the general condemnation of the behavior of those committing “Price Tag” attacks, which according to most if not all legalistic terminology are within the realm of vandalism,  it is worth noting an important element generally missing from most accounts in the Western press whether reporting “price tag” attacks or allegations of settler violence toward local Arabs.

However wrong these “Price Tag” perpetuators are–and they are dead wrong–their need to respond in the manner that they do has not occurred in a vacuum. To focus only on alleged settler acts of vandalism ignores the context in which terror attacks on Jews in Judea and Samaria are a regular daily and even multi-daily occurrence.

When Arabs "only" commit vandalism against Jewish property it is usually the exception and not the rule, usually Arab vandalism of synagogues. Violent acts by Palestinian Arab against Jews are simply taken for granted, a given, this bigotry of low expectations of Palestinian Arabs and the accompanying hypocrisy and double standard held for Jews is at the heart of the problem. It is chiefly responsible for creating and fostering the growing need to respond in a manner that is known as “Price Tag” vandalism.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who was quoted stating “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless.” Revenge is a primitive, destructive, and violent response to anger, injury, or humiliation and in today’s world is often abused as a misguided attempt to transform shame into pride.

Yet, most acts of revenge fail because they attempt to change the past, and as we all know, the clock cannot be turned back. So why do people continue to conduct acts of revenge, knowing full well that vengeance and retaliation can only spiral toward tragedy and escalation? If the goal of revenge is to erase shame and humiliation and restore pride, if they feel they have to “defend their honor” and that of their family, ancestors, or some other group they identify with, then what is the underlying psychological need to seek revenge? What do they hope to accomplish and should “Price Tag” incidents be defined as acts of revenge?

This idea that the goal of revenge is to erase shame and humiliation and restore pride sounds familiar here in the Middle East. The need to have to “defend honor” they identify with is accepted behavior within Muslim society and is commonly  articulated by terrorists that are captured when asked to explain why they murder Jews.  This need for revenge is also a constant theme in the Palestinian Arab narrative that is broadcasted to the local Arab population on Palestinian TV and radio creating the atmosphere of incitement against Israeli’s that has become a mainstay of the Palestinian Arab narrative in Arabic. 

All too often this need for revenge is directed against those that cannot defend themselves, such as innocent civilians going about their daily routine here in Israel, or Muslim women who are murdered by their own families so as to defend the “honor “of the family.

However, when describing the underlying psychological need for revenge, it doesn’t seem to fit the Jewish population. Other than isolated incidents over the years in which Israeli’s carried out acts of revenge against Arabs, in response, the full weight of the law was applied; apprehending and sending them to long terms in prison, ensuring that acts of revenge by Jews remain just that, isolated incidents. Jews generally do not act out of revenge against Arabs.

Its not in our DNA, and in street language, it doesn’t turn us on as it does our neighbors here in the Middle East. What can describe the general reaction of Jews to Arab terror, incitement, and vandalism is the need not to be perceived as weak, docile, and without the means of self-defense. Jews need to act as a deterrent to predatory behavior, transforming themselves from prey to predator, from powerless to powerful.

Incidents of “Price Tag”, whether they are interpreted as a grass roots response to the inability of the security services to contain and eliminate wanton acts of terror and/or vandalism against Jews and their property or not, are a marginal occurrence here in Israel. Any attempt to project on  Jewish society  by equating incidents of “Price Tag” with acts of terror against Jews should be seen for what it is, perpetuating the myth of treating “both sides” – one a democracy striving for peace, and the other a corrupt, lawless entity dreaming of jihad – as equals.