Israel's senior Catholic cleric: 'Price tags' poisoning atmosphere ahead of Pope's visit

Just two weeks before Pope Francis's scheduled visit, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal accuses state of not doing enough to bring ultra-nationalist perpetrators to justice.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The most senior Catholic cleric in Israel, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, described “price-tag” attacks as acts of “terror” on Sunday, and said that the recent wave of suspected ultra-nationalist Jewish violence is poisoning the atmosphere in Israel ahead of Pope Francis’s visit on May 25.
“This wave of extremist actions of terror is surely of grave concern to all reasonable persons,” said Twal in Haifa before the annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession.
“The government of Israel must be concerned, because it is very bad for the State of Israel’s image abroad. It is also a blight on the democracy that Israel ascribes to itself.”
Twal accused the authorities of not doing enough to bring the perpetrators to justice, saying “the actions are only drawing condemnation by Israeli leaders but few arrests.”
The patriarch noted that the increase in attacks had occurred just two weeks before Pope Francis’s visit to Israel.
“At this point, the unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere, the atmosphere of coexistence and the atmosphere of collaboration, especially in these two weeks prior to the visit of Pope Francis,” he said.
Twal did, however, praise Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and other senior security officials in order to deal with the problem.
During Wednesday’s emergency meeting, Aharonovitch called for “price-tag” attacks to be classified as terrorism to enable the use of administrative detention in dealing with those responsible for the offenses.
Twal praised Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for describing the vandalism phenomenon as terrorism back in January this security services to do more to combat the attacks.
Besides calling for greater police enforcement, Twal criticized what he called the “pedagogical effect of an official discourse that insists that the state is only for one group of people” as being a factor behind the wave of attacks.
“There is a question of how are we educating our children? What do they learn about those who are different from them with regard to religion, nationality or ethnic identity? What is learned in those circles that are producing the young people who commit these acts of hatred?” he questioned.