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.

 

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Key oil producers face uncertain outlook in 2015

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll

Islamist militias launch air strike near key Libyan oil terminals

Egypt refers 312 Islamists to military courts

Turkey rejects EU criticism over media arrests

Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator

Saudi cleric sparks uproar for showing wife’s face

15,000 march against country’s ‘Islamisation’ in eastern Germany

Gulf stock markets tumble

Australia mourns Sydney cafe siege victims

Hostages flee as police storm Sydney café

Erdogan to EU: Mind your own business!

Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally

22 Swiss jihadists fighting abroad

#illridewithyou: Australians stand in solidarity with Muslims

Sydney siege 'lone wolf' or IS-led attack?

EU support UN efforts for Aleppo ceasefire

Saudi policeman killed in Riyadh hostage-taking

Saudi king receives Jordan monarch

Palestinians push UN bid to end Israeli occupation

Hostages held in Sydney cafe, Islamic flag held up

Hamas stages show of strength to mark 27th anniversary

France 'neutralised' 200 jihadists in Sahel region of West Africa

Kerry in Rome ahead of Palestinian push at UN

Drive-by shooting kills two Egypt policemen in Sinai Peninsula

Libya pro-government forces push back Islamist fighters

Wave of arrests targets Gulen supporters in Turkey

Security Council fails and Bashir declares victory!

UAE calls on Arabs to invest in future amid ‘rapid changes’

Dawn collision kills more than 10 Egypt fishermen in Gulf of Suez

ICC prosecutor suspends investigations into Darfur war crimes

Libya Islamists form new coalition ahead of expected assault

Sudan minister announces new army offensive against rebels

Yemen troops kill five Qaeda suspects disguised as women

Sea of devotees descends on Karbala in defiance of jihadist threats

Palestinian shot after throwing acid at Israeli family

Saudi to build Africa’s tallest building in Morocco