Peres: Mosque arson brings great shame upon Israel

President speaks out against apparent "price tag" attack while visiting scene of crime with chief rabbis in Galilee village.

Peres at Tuba Zangria 311 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Peres at Tuba Zangria 311
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
The vandalism and arson at the mosque in the Galilee village of Tuba Zanghariya Sunday evening elicited strong condemnations from across Israel’s senior political leadership on Monday, including from President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and senior religious leaders.
According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu – upon hearing of the incident – phoned Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Director Yoram Cohen and instructed him to “quickly find those responsible.”Peres, speaking at the President’s Residence with Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at the inauguration of a program training high school students towards scientific excellence, expressed his “deep outrage” at the attack.
“It brings great shame upon us,” Peres said. “It is a terrible thing that I condemn in the strongest possible terms. It is a difficult day for the residents of Tuba Zanghariya and a difficult day for Israeli society as a whole. As the president of Israel, I call during these soul-searching days of penitence between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, for the rooting out of such deeds from our midst.
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“Lawless extremists must not be allowed to disrupt our coexistence and the mutual respect between Arabs and Jews,” said Peres, who said those responsible would be brought to justice and punished accordingly.
The words “price tag” were written on one of the walls of the mosque, along with the words “revenge” and “Palmer,” a reference to Asher Hillel Palmer and his one-year- old son killed last month.
Sa’ar described the burning of the mosque as “barbaric, shocking, antihuman and anti-Jewish,” and said he could not conceive of anyone violating a place of worship in such a malicious manner.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) said “if this is truly a ‘price tag’ act, it must be strongly condemned. Burning mosques opposes the values of Israel as a Jewish state,” adding that such events require “national self-examination. It is not enough for Israel’s leadership to fight for Israel’s recognition from the outside, it must also educate for values from within.”
On Monday afternoon, Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger accompanied Peres on a solidarity visit to the burnt mosque, along with Christian, Druse and Muslim leaders, and denounced the attack in equally strong terms.
“We must cry out against this deed, it is a hilul Hashem [desecration of God’s name]. All leaders should speak against this act of terror and hate,” Amar said, calling for religious leaders to preach love and tolerance of the other.
“We remember as Jews when other people burned our synagogues and burned our Torah scrolls. We cannot accept such acts against other religions,” he said. “A church, mosque, temple or synagogue are embassies of God and you cannot harm such places. We strongly protest such actions.”
Other religious groups also condemned the incident, including a group of rabbis of northern communities and yeshivas who said that if it was indeed perpetrated by Jews it should be denounced, calling the incident inhuman, unethical and completely incompatible with the Torah, halacha and Jewish values.
Head of the Reform movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, said that such actions could ignite a wave of large-scale religious and nationalist violence. The movement said it would contribute money towards for the restoration of the mosque.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin condemned the arson, saying that “burning a house of belief is a criminal, hateful deed.”
“These criminals, if they are indeed Jewish, are a danger to the state of Israel as a whole, and specifically to Zionism. They distance the Jewish dream of returning to Zion, and they must be dealt with as strictly as possible,” he added.
According to Deputy Regional Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud), “there is no difference between those responsible for setting the Tuba Zanghariya mosque on fire and members of al- Qaida or any other extremist terrorist group.” MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said that “burning the mosque is a sin on the eve of Yom Kippur.”
“Desecrating a house of prayer of our Beduin brothers is an act that cannot be forgiven,” he explained. “Law enforcement must do everything to catch the arsonists and prevent similar acts in the future. All the people of Israel must decry and condemn this villainous act.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.