Senior Catholic Patriarch calls out price tag attacks as 'poison'
An increasing spate of 'price tag' attacks have been carried out against Muslim and Christian targets in recent months (photo courtesy: catholicnewsagency.com)
The most senior Catholic cleric in Israel, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, described so-called “price-tag” vandalism attacks as acts of “terror” on Wednesday, and said that the recent wave of suspected ultra-nationalist Jewish violence is poisoning the atmosphere in Israel ahead of the visit of Pope Francis’ on May 25.
“This wave of extremist actions of terror, are surely of grave concern to all reasonable persons,” said Twal, speaking in Haifa before the annual Procession of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.
“The government of Israel must be concerned, because it is very bad for the State of Israel’s image abroad. It is also a blight on the democracy that Israel ascribes to itself.
Twal accused the authorities of not doing enough to bring the perpetrators to justice, saying that “the actions are only drawing condemnation by Israeli leaders but few arrests.”
The Latin Patriarch also noted that the increase in attacks had occurred just two weeks before Pope Francis’ visit to Israel.
“At this point, the unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere; the atmosphere of co-existence and the atmosphere of collaboration, especially in these two weeks prior to the visit of Pope Francis,” he said.
Twal did however praise Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for holding anemergency meeting on Wednesday with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney General Yehudah Weinstein, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and other senior security officials in order to deal with the problem.
He also praised Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon for describing the vandalism phenomenon as terrorism back in January this year, but again called on the security services to do more to combat the attacks.
During Wednesday’s emergency meeting, Aharonovitch called for “price-tag” vandalism attacks to be classified as terrorism to enable the use of administrative detention on those responsible for the offenses.
As well as calling for greater police enforcement, Twal criticized the effect of what he called the “pedagogical effect of an official discourse, that insists that the State is only for one group of people,” as being a factor behind the wave of attacks.
“There is a question of how are we educating our children? What do they learn about those who are different from them with regard to religion, nationality or ethnic identity? What is learned in those circles that are producing the young people who commit these acts of hatred?” he questioned.
The latest anti-Christian incident came on Thursday night, when graffiti was sprayed close to an Orthodox Church in Jerusalem on HaHoma HaShlishit Road which said “Price Tag, King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage.”
Tensions have arisen of late surrounding the supposed burial place of King David, which also happens to be in the same complex as a Christian site traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus’ Last Supper, just outside the Old City of Jerusalem on Mount Zion.
Jewish activists have cited unconfirmed reports that the government will give partial sovereignty over the building to the Vatican, and several religious MKs have spoken out against any such move.
Protestors against giving away sovereignty over the site are expected to demonstrate outside the complex Monday afternoon.