PRESS RELEASE – Sunday, May 11, 2014. During a press conference held in Haifa , His Beatitude Fouad Twal spoke against recent “Price Tag” attacks” urging the government to do justice.
Good day to you! On behalf of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries, I thank you for being present for this press conference. I thank the Mass Media for their collaboration. I commend your courage in speaking and writing the truth. I commend your investigative tenacity to get to the root of issues and problems. Keep up the good work!
All of you are well aware of the recent acts of vandalism against Christians, Muslims and Druze. There has been a marked increase of “price tag” provocations within Israel.
This wave of extremist actions of terror, are surely of grave concern to all reasonable persons. 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.
The actions are only drawing condemnation by Israeli leaders but few arrests. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is, that good men do nothing”, to use an often quoted line.
At this point, the unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere; the atmosphere of co-existence and the atmosphere of collaboration, especially in these two weeks prior to the visit of Pope Francis.
At the same time, we are encouraged by the fact that the Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, held an emergency meeting to combat this senseless vandalism. We are aware that, in 2011, “the Israeli general in charge of the West Bank, Nitsan Alon, described the violence by radical settlers as ‘terrorism’ and urged the IDF to ‘do much more to stop it”; and in 2014, Israeli Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, branded settler attacks as “outright terrorism” and that he would show “zero tolerance”. Hopefully, the issue does not remain solely a matter of sound bites and round table discussion. Until these words become acts, we remain skeptical.
Nevertheless, there are many questions arising from the situation.
- Who is behind the violence? Are the attacks solely the work of isolated individuals? Who instructs them in this bad education? How could it be that they don’t catch the perpetrators?”
Carmi Gillon, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency says, its current head, Yoram Cohen, “does not take seriously recent vandalism by ultranationalist Jews on Palestinian and Arab Israeli property.” And that he “does not invest enough resources to stop the vandalism and that he belittles the danger of these activities. He apparently does not prioritize this matter.” If this is so, we ask: Why?
- It is known that Israeli police had set up special units to pursue such cases and the government had designated groups responsible as “illegal associations,” giving authorities broader powers to act against them. Given that the vandals are largely unprosecuted, one must question the priority of the government to get to the bottom of the problem?
- Treatment of this sad affair cannot be restricted only to issues of “law and order”. 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? What is the pedagogical effect of an official discourse, that insists that the State is only for one group of people?
- Today, we are holding the procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin in Haifa. Outside of the Palm Sunday procession, it is certainly the largest gathering of Christians in the Holy Land. We implore Mary’s intercession as we all pray together for strength of Faith in the many challenges we face as Christians. We also pray for the perpetrators of vandalism and their families. We pray, too, that the government will do what is right.
+ Fouad Twal, Patriarch