The Arson At The Tuba Zangaria Mosque: Not Such A Simple Story

UPDATE: It has been a quiet night in Israel (except for the event below) which gives your humble servant a chance to thank you, dear readers, for increasing the readership family of over fivefold in the last three months alone. Below please find a partial list of ‘visitor’ cities that have visited this site in the last 48 hours–you may see yourself on the list. Thank you!

+ means multiple guests from that city

Lagos, Nigeria; Brooklyn, New York (+); Pleasangton, California; Cairo, Egypt; Sherbrooke, Canada; Silver Spring, Maryland; Hastings, Minnesota; Merrick, New York;  San Antonio, Texas; Alfred, Maine; Wuhan, China (+); White Plains, New York; Grass Valley, California; Tel Aviv, Israel (+);  New York, New York (+);  Jersey City, New Jersey;  Bangkok, Thailand (+);  Shenzhen, China (+);  Kiev, Ukraine (+);  Vernon, Canada;  Minneapolis, Minnesota;  Ramat Gan, Israel;  Valmontone, Italy; Morganville, New Jersey; Redwood City, California; Central District, Hong Kong (+); Folsom, California (+); Chicago, Illinois; Netanya, Israel; Davis, California (+); Singapore (+); Chickamauga, Georgia; Baghdad, Iraq; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Calgary, Canada; Washington, DC (+); Sitka, Alaska; London, Great Britain (+); Richmond Hill, Canada; Scarborough, Canada; Aurora, Canada; Seattle, Washington (+); Burnaby, Canada;  Sacramento, California (+); Columbus, Ohio; Sydney, Australia; Gainesville, Florida; Mumbai, India; Attard, Malta; Iasi, Romania; Tokyo, Japan (+); Toronto, Canada; Riga, Latvia; La Verne, California; Victoria, Canada; Sarasota Springs, NY.

The interior of the mosque at Tuba Zangaria--notice the burn marks on the rugs on the floor.

The interior of the mosque at Tuba Zangaria--notice the burn marks on the rugs on the floor.

The media is awash this morning with the story that last night, vandals set fire to parts of a mosque in Tuba Zangaria–a Bedouin Arab village in Israel’s northern Galilee region near Rosh Pina, destroying some furniture and doorways within the mosque, and spray-painting the words “Price Tag” and “Revenge” on one of the walls. Let your humble servant say at the outset in no uncertain terms that this was a despicable act and the perpetrators deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.

For those of you who live outside Israel, “Price Tag” is the popular expression that has come to be used by the Israeli media to describe acts of revenge carried out by Jewish community members in Judea and Samaria in retaliation for violent Palestinian acts committed against the Jewish communities there.

It is entirely possible that the price tag event at the Tuba Zangaria mosque was carried out by those seeking revenge for the murder of Asher Palmer and his nine month old son Jonatan and its attempted coverup by the IDF and Israeli police (see my israelstreet blog about this event). In fact, in the wake of that murder, there has been tit for tat violence throughout Judea and Samaria between Jewish community members and Palestinians.

However, as was just pointed out above, Tuba Zangaria is not in what is typically called ‘Judea and Samaria’; it is in Israel and therefore begs the question of could the arson at the mosque be in revenge for something else?

One possible answer lies in the long simmering animosity between the Bedouins of Tuba Zangaria and surrounding ranchers and farmers. Continuous Bedouin harrassment and illegal Bedouin squatting have forced Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi just east of Rosh Pinna and nearby Kibbutz Amiad to abandon nearly 17000 dunams (1700 hectares) of land.

To understand why the land had to be abandoned, you need to understand that what has been happening in the area around Tuba Zangaria is just a tiny part of a much larger problem throughout the country. Most of the open land in Israel is state-owned land leased to farmers and ranchers (or designated as bases and training areas for the IDF).

These farmers and ranchers are terrorized on a daily basis by Arab vandals and thieves who destroy their fences,  burn and trample their crops, kill or steal their livestock, and threaten their lives. In the face of such vandalism and threats and in the absence of any police protection, many farmers and ranchers simply choose to abandon their land and move elsewhere. As soon as it is abandoned, the Bedouins and other Arabs immediately erect illegal buildings.

The problem has grown so acute that an organization called “Irgun Hashomer HaChadash” (The New Guardian) has evolved. Consisting of over 2000 volunteers, this group attempts to patrol the open land areas of Israel–but really does not have the resources to do so. You might want to check out their website by clicking here.

A mounted volunteer patrol passes by a memorial to Alexander Zeid, the founder of the first Hashomer.

A mounted volunteer patrol passes by a memorial to Alexander Zeid, the founder of the first Hashomer.

Again, arson at mosques or at any other place cannot be tolerated. PM Netanyahu has already denounced the vandalism this morning saying that  “The images are shocking and have no place in the State of Israel. Freedom of religion and freedom to worship are supreme values.” At the same time, the government needs to take action to track down the Palmer murderers and take action to protect Israeli farmers, ranchers, and open land throughout Israel.


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