Netanyahu Vows Israel Will Fight Religious Intolerance, After Jaffa Graves Desecrated on Yom Kippur

Graves in Muslim and Christian cemeteries were vandalized in suspected 'price tag' attacks, just days after mosque in northern Israel allegedy torched by rightists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decried the desecration of graves in Christian and Muslim cemeteries in Jaffa during Yom Kippur, saying that Israel is "not willing to tolerate vandalism, especially not the kind that would offend religious sensibilities."

Israel shows tolerance for religious sentiments and a desire for peaceful coexistence without violence, but will show no tolerance for those who oppose it, said Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Emil Salman

Netanyahus words came after both a Muslim and Christian cemetery were vandalized by graffiti that said Death to the Arabs, and price tag. Headstones were smashed and racist slogans were spray-painted on graves.

The incident occurred less than a week after a mosque was torched, also by alleged Jewish extremists, in northern Israel.

About 200 Arabs and Jews gathered in Jaffa on Saturday night to protest the desecration at the cemetery and calling for an end to violence and racism. At one point during the demonstration, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the roof of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Hanes synagogue in Jaffa. The building was empty at the time and there were no reports of casualties. Firefighters, police and medical teams were rushed to the scene.

Jaffa residents protesting the desecration of local graves, Oct. 8, 2011.
Jaffa residents protesting the desecration of local graves, Oct. 8, 2011.
Desecrated graves in a Jaffa cemetery, Oct. 8, 2011.
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Jaffa residents protesting the desecration of local graves, Oct. 8, 2011.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
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Jaffa residents protesting the desecration of local graves, Oct. 8, 2011.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
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Desecrated graves in a Jaffa cemetery, Oct. 8, 2011. Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Jaffa 'price tag' attack

Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said the attacks on the cemeteries were a serious matter, and pledged that the police will do all they can in order to ensure that situations such as this one end in indictments.

Danino instructed all police districts to put together full mapping plans for pinpointing sensitive locations, and work along with intelligence officials in order to maintain the rule of law and a calming of tensions. Danino is scheduled to meet with members of Jaffas Arab leadership on Monday.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai condemned the grave desecrations, saying that the fact that the attacks happened on Yom Kippur made it all the more saddening.

Tel Avivs Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau also joined in the condemnations, calling the vandalism an act of terror, which serves to strain relations between residents of the neighborhood, the city, and the country.

On Saturday, President Shimon Peres spoke out against the attacks, calling them "a criminal act that dishonors us and is opposed to the ethical values of Israeli society." In a statement released by the president's office, Peres called on law authorities to do "their utmost" to catch the criminals and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

President of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, Sheikh Ahme Abu Ajwa called for calm in the wake of the desecrations, branding the attacks an attempt by extremists to incite the Arab masses. Arab lawmaker Ibrahim Sarsur, who heads the United Arab List-Taal party called upon the perpetrators, whoever they may be, to end the racist attacks.

In response to the vandalism, as well as to last weeks torching of a mosque in the Galilee village of Tuba-Zangaria, members of the Arab community in Israel have become more vocal in calling on the international community to intervene in order to protect sites holy to Islam and Christianity in Israel.

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