First Published: 2014-05-11

Latin Patriarch condemns Israel ‘unrestrained’ hate crimes
Head of Roman Catholic Church says Israeli hate crimes against Muslims and Christians are souring relations ahead of papal visit.
Middle East Online

‘How can it be that they don't catch perpetrators?’

HAIFA - The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land said Sunday that Israeli hate crimes against local Muslims and Christians are souring relations ahead of a papal visit.

"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," Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal said.

"It is also a blight on the democracy that Israel ascribes to itself," he told a news conference in the northern port city of Haifa.

The pope's visit is scheduled to begin in Jordan on May 24 and he is due to spend two days in the Holy Land from May 25.

On Friday, vandals spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on a Jerusalem church, just days after the Roman Catholic church demanded Israel act following the discovery of racist slogans daubed on a Vatican-owned property elsewhere in the city.

"The bishops are very concerned about the lack of security and lack of responsiveness from the political sector, and fear an escalation of violence," the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said in a statement on Wednesday.

In the wake of last week's attack, Israeli police moved to boost security around holy sites.

Israel has been struggling to contain the spiralling number of so-called "price tag" hate crimes by Jewish extremists that target Palestinian and Arab property, including mosques and churches.

Although police have made scores of arrests, there have been no successful prosecutions for price tag attacks and the government has come under mounting pressure to authorise the Shin Bet internal security agency to intervene.

Twal took the Israeli authorities to task for what he saw as laxity in pursuing the perpetrators.

"How can it be that they don't catch the perpetrators?" he asked, saying the attacks were "only drawing condemnation" from Israel's leaders but resulted in few arrests.

"Given that the vandals are largely unprosecuted, one must question the priority of the government to get to the bottom of the problem," he retorted.

Israeli ministers held an emergency meeting on Wednesday, pledging to enforce harsh measures against perpetrators.

"We are encouraged by the fact that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni held an emergency meeting to combat this senseless vandalism," Twal said.

"Hopefully, the issue does not remain solely a matter of sound bites and round table discussion. Until these words become acts, we remain sceptical."

Police and the Shin Bet are reportedly concerned Jewish extremists could increase attacks on Christian sites ahead of the pope's arrival in a bid to draw media attention.

 

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Saudi-led coalition clears passenger flights to Sanaa

Baghdad's Shabandar cafe marks century since opening

Turkey says Trump pledged to stop arming Kurds

Turkey president sues main opposition party leader

Lebanon's Hariri brings status quo back with him

Activists say 'everybody knew' about Libya slave trade

Erdogan says no contact 'at the moment' with Assad

Lebanon's Jumblatt criticises Saudi Arabia, Iran

China says it will make efforts on Syria reconstruction

Turkey to detain 79 former teachers in post-coup probe

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home