Catholic leaders in Israel call for crackdown on attacks targeting Christian, Muslim property

Nic6318744-11095 (1)JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in Jerusalem are increasingly concerned that an apparent uptick in nationalistic hate crimes by Jewish extremists against Christians and Muslims could mar the upcoming visit of Pope Francis.

On Friday, for the second time this week, anti-Christian graffiti was discovered on a church in Jerusalem. It follows a similar incident Monday at the Notre Dame Center, a complex in Jerusalem owned by the Vatican. The defacements come after more than 20 major hate crimes in the past few months have targeted Christian and Muslim communities here.

While such crimes are not unusual — a monitoring group found that 32 religious buildings have been vandalized or subjected to arson attempts in the past four years — the frequency of such incidents appears to have increased in recent weeks.

When they first started in 2011, these so-called “price tag” attacks were part of a campaign to extract retribution for actions against Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The idea was that anytime the Israeli army removed an illegal outpost or Palestinian militants attacked settlers, somebody would pay a price. Today, these attacks have spread into Israel proper and don’t always follow actions against Jewish settlements.

“We are very concerned about the repeated acts of hatred against Christians by the price-tag groups,” the Rev. Jamal Khader, rector of Latin Patriarchate Seminary, said Friday.



Jewish Extremists Threaten Christians, Muslims at Jerusalem Peace School

Both a Christian monastery and a peace school in Jerusalem set up to improve ties between Arab and Jewish children were targets of extremists who wrote hate speech on the facilities’ walls in separate incidents last week, calling for the death of Christians and a “holocaust” for Arabs.

“Death to Christians” was written at a Jerusalem Christian monastery, an 11th-century holy site situated in a valley overlooking the Israeli parliament, while “Death to Arabs” and “Shoah [Holocaust] for the Arabs” was spray painted at a bilingual children’s school. Police are still investigating to determine whether the attacks were carried out by the same group of people, but all evidence points to Jewish extremists.

“Kahane was right” was another inscription found on the walls at the school, U.K. publication the Independent reported. The inscription is reportedly a reference to an ultra-right wing rabbi whose movement, Kach, was barred from contesting Israeli elections in 1988 and listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization in 2002.