Pro-settler vandals attack West Bank monastery
Vandals set fire to the doors of a Christian monastery in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday and daubed pro-settler graffiti on its walls in a possible retaliation for the eviction of families from an unauthorised outpost.
The name of the unauthorised Migron outpost, cleared of Israeli settlers following a court order on Sunday, was scrawled on the well-known 19th century Latrun Monastery, alongside the words “Jesus is a monkey” in Hebrew, said police.
Israeli security officials had said they were worried Sunday’s eviction of 50 families from Migron, in another part of the West Bank near Ramallah, might provoke more attacks from a vigilante settler group known as “Price Tag”.
The “Price Tag” name refers to retribution some Israeli settlers say they will exact for any attempt by their government to curb settlement in the West Bank, an area Palestinians seek as part of a future state.
The group has targeted mosques and, less commonly, Christian churches, seeing any non-Jewish religious sites as an intrusion on the land.
Palestinian Christian academic Bernard Sabella told Reuters the attack, and others like it, had been carried out by “groups of extremist Jews who do not want Muslims or Christian to remain in this country”.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat issued a statement accusing the Israeli government of not doing enough to prosecute the attackers.
An Israeli rabbi from a liberal wing of Judaism visited the monastery and called the attack an “ugly event”.
“As a rabbi and as an Israeli citizen I am ashamed today and I am deeply troubled by the fact that this is not the first time that such an event takes place in Israel,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism.
“We need to make sure that the other faiths, other communities feel secure here,” Kariv added.
The Latrun monastery is near Jerusalem on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, and then annexed, in a step that has never been recognised internationally. It is surrounded by a valley where fighting took place in two Arab-Israeli wars.
Police said they had launched an investigation into the attack.
Vandals attacked Jerusalem’s 11th Century Monastery of the Cross and a Baptist church in the city in February. Israeli human rights groups have accused the authorities of being slow to punish the perpetrators.