For 2nd time in week, leaders condemn anti-Arab vandalism

Landau: Those responsible need to "rot in jail for many years"; Peres: It’s a crime, it’s against everything Jewish people stand for as a country.”

Cabinet meeting 09-10-11 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Cabinet meeting 09-10-11
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israeli leaders issued wall-to-wall condemnations Sunday against the cemetery vandalism in Jaffa, less than a week after similarly censuring those responsible for arson at a mosque in Tuba Zanghariya.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Muslims, Christians or Jews – it’s an act of vandalism, it’s a crime, it’s against everything the Jewish people stand for as a country and as a democracy,” President Shimon Peres said, referring to graffiti found spray-painted on Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Jaffa on Saturday night.
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“We have to make sure every citizen and every home will be a safe place, but we carry also a spiritual responsibility and an historic one. One that means that everyone can pray to the Lord in his own language, from his own prayer book, and that every holy place is holy for all of us,” Peres said.
Making reference to a firebomb thrown at a Jaffa synagogue after the cemetery vandalism was revealed, Peres said he wanted to tell all the country’s citizens the government has the responsibility to “assure the respect for every holy site.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet at its weekly meeting Sunday Israel was “not prepared to tolerate any vandalism, especially that directed against religious sensitivities.”
Netanyahu said Israelis “need to continue living together in coexistence and mutual respect, without violence, in tranquility and peace.”
But Israel is intolerant, he said, “toward those who oppose these practices and this way of life.” Netanyahu said Israel would act against those responsible “to the fullest extent of the law.”
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau decried the attacks, saying they were “criminal acts” carried out by those on the “extreme of our society.”
He said those responsible needed to be condemned by the society and “rot in jail for many years.”
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias said in an Israel Radio interview that vandalism against the holy sites of other religions runs contrary to Torah values.
“This is like a fool who throws a rock into a well, and a thousand wise men can’t remove it,” he said.
Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen.
Yohanan Danino said the recent incidents against Muslim sites are “serious and must be eradicated. Attacking religious symbols and holy places is an extremely explosive phenomenon that has implications for the general public.”
Danino instructed district police commanders to map out sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian areas, and plans himself to meet with Arab-Israeli leaders to calm tensions. Saying he would work to prevent escalations, he emphasized the need to do “everything” to apprehend the perpetrators, collect evidence and file charges against them.
Danino’s comments came in response to statements by several politicians Sunday morning criticizing law enforcement over the handling of what has been termed “price tag” vandalism, or revenge acts against Arabs or the security forces for steps taken against settlements.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni harshly criticized these acts, calling on police to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.
“Criminals [acting on] hate are causing a dangerous degradation of Israeli society,” she said. “The country’s law enforcement must act with urgency to find those responsible and bring them to justice... Community leaders must speak out clearly and unanimously and clarify that such actions are contrary to Israeli values and the religious values of those who commit them,” she said.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai criticized the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police for demonstrating a lack of initiative in preventing such incidents.
In an interview with Army Radio, Huldai said “price tag vandals have been wandering throughout the country for many years, and have not been caught.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.