Latin Patriarchate Raps Israel Over 'Wave of Extremist Terror'

Says attacks are 'poisoning’ atmosphere before pope’s visit, questions government’s will to stop them.

AP

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal described on Sunday recent settler “price tag” attacks a “wave of extremist terror that stirs up deep concern among any sane individual,” adding that the Israeli government should be concerned at the damage the attacks are doing to Israel’s image around the world.

“It damages, of course, the democracy that Israel purports itself to uphold," Twal said at a news conference. According to the patriarch, the attacks have been met with only verbal condemnation from Israeli leaders and very few arrests. “All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” said Twal.

“Currently, the acts of unrestrained vandalism are poisoning the atmosphere, an atmosphere of coexistence, cooperation, especially now, two weeks before the visit of Pope Francis,” he continued.

Twal, considered the highest Western Christian authority in Israel, questioned police responses to the attacks. “Everyone knows the Israeli police set up special units to track attacks like these. In light of the fact that the great majority of vandalism acts do not lead to trials, we must ask if the government is willing to get down to the root of the problem?”

In connection with the attacks on Arabs, the patriarch also called into the question the move by the government to pass a law making Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. “It can be said that dealing with this sad affair is not only restricted to the realm of law and order. A pressing question rises over how we educate our children, what do they learn about those who are different from them in terms of religion and ethnic and national identity? What effect is created by official discourse on Israel being a state for one group only?” he said.

In response to questions about images of Pope Francis being displayed in Jerusalem, Twal answered that they were put up just as they are throughout the rest of the world, to welcome the pope during his visit. Twal added that in Israel, it is common to put up pictures of athletes and soccer players when they visit, and asked why then should there be such criticism over pictures of the Pope.

Meanwhile, about 400 Arabs and Jews of religious and secular backgrounds, held a demonstration on Saturday night near the Prime Minister’s residence against the recent waves of anti-Arab hate crimes.

The demonstration, which called for more forceful intervention by the government against the perpetrators, was led by a coalition of organizations opposed to racism, dubbed “Tag Meir” (a play on the Hebrew words for Price Tag). The demonstrators, who included Jewish and Muslim religious leaders as well as members of youth movements, bore signs stating that “Price Tag is a terrorist organization”, or “Racism is screaming while the government is silent,” “Price Tag is not my Judaism,” and other slogans.