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Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh railed at Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remarks Sunday at a special cabinet session on the attack at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
Olmert called on citizens to show restraint following the incident. "It is fortunate that things turned out the way they did. This was a sad incident, the results of which could have had much more serious consequences," Olmert said at the opening of the meeting.
Barakeh called Olmert's response the product of "a mind diseased with racism and brutal condescension. The attempt to drive a wedge between Arabs is a dirty game that the Arabs know well."
"I call on all the people involved to demonstrate restraint and responsibility not to utilize this sad incident, which to our great fortune, ended calmly, to generate instances of religious conflict that have no connection to what occurred," Olmert said, castigating the statements released by many Arab lawmakers following the incident.
"There is something almost absurd that the Muslim public, which has not been remarkable in its tolerance toward Christianity, and that the heads of this public are marching at the head of the protest over an incident caused by a weird couple and are trying to raise this as an issue during the elections period."
Olmert continued by saying that Israel is concerned with maintaining freedom of religion and tolerance for the institutions of all of the religions that operate in Israel.
In the aftermath of the incident, leaders of the Arab sector pointed accusatory fingers toward the government, which they claimed was responsible for the attack on the Basilica of the Annunciation.
"We see the Israeli establishment as directly responsible for this incident," said Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's northern faction, said on Sunday morning.
Nazareth, a city with a mixed Muslim-Christian population, has seen tension in the past between the two groups. But upon discovering that Muslims were not responsible for the attack, Muslims and Christians joined together in the protest march on Saturday.
Leaflets distributed Saturday by Balad Party activists in Nazareth called on residents not to show forgiveness toward the government agencies expressing their apologies for the incident, as Balad Chairman Azmi Bashara joined the chorus of Arab leaders complaining of government mismanagement, blaming Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra for slander and incitement against Arabs.
After convening Saturday afternoon in Nazareth to discuss Friday evening's attack, members of the Higher Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee, made up of Arab MKs, Christian and Muslim religious leaders and other Arab community leaders, called on the Israeli government to "take full responsibility for the incident in the Church of the Annunciation, and to deal with forces considering attacks on holy sites, forces that developed against a backdrop of hatred and defiance toward the Arab public."
"We object to the forgiving attitude that the Israeli system has toward all the [Jewish] inciters," Nazareth Mayor Ramzeh Jaraiseh told The Jerusalem Post. "Look at all the calls for transfer [of Arabs outside the country]. As long as the swamp of racism exists, frogs grow in it. The swamp must be dried out. And it's possible to do that."
Regarding Havivi, MK Ahmed Tibi of the UAL-Taal list said: "I understand that this man has a personal problem. But why bring it up by burning a mosque or blowing up a church? The reason is the anti-Arab atmosphere in Israel."
MK Abdul Malik Dehamshe of the Islamic Movement told the Post that it had become acceptable to attack Arabs and their holy sites in Israel. "The State of Israel raises its Jewish citizens on hatred of Muslims and the religious sites of both Muslims and Christians," he said. "The Muslims and Christians are not [considered] equal to the Jewish citizens. You can kill them and destroy their holy sites. It's not a crime. It's easy. It's a culture of hatred. It's Arabs, it's no big deal."
Dehamshe was thankful that the attackers were caught. "They were trapped in the church so they could not run away," he said. "If they hadn't caught them, it would have developed into ethnic conflict between Christians and Muslims. Now instead of creating rivalry between Muslims and Christians, it caused unity."
Committee chairman Shawki Khatib said the Jewish people should realize that the Israeli Arabs want to live with them as equals. "The strategic decision of the [Arab] people is to live with the Jews. But the government and the Jewish sector have not accepted this. Our ability to endure is running out," said Khatib. "We warn the leaders of the state against another attempt at harming the Arab public." He also said that the protests held by Nazareth residents were impulsive and were based on the emotional response to the attack on the church.
The head of the communist Hadash Party, Mohamed Barakeh, said that "there are those who are interested in setting the Arab street ablaze. They are known to the security forces." Barakeh rejected what he defined as "excuses to explain the acts of the Havivi family" and said that "also some of the Palestinian suicide bombers carried out their crimes against a background of financial hardship."
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