Israel Fears Right-Wing Violence During Papal Visit
Israeli police and intelligence officials fear right-wing Jewish extremists might perpetrate a major hate crime during an upcoming visit by Pope Francis.
Haaretz reports police officials and Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence service, believe right-wing religious and nationalist extremists may attempt to carry out a hate crime targeting Israel’s Christian population during Pope Francis’ May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land.
Security is being beefed up in areas where Christians live and worship, especially in the wake of extremist vandalism attacks on Vatican offices in annexed Arab East Jerusalem in recent days.
Hebrew graffiti reading “DEATH TO ARABS AND CHRISTIANS AND THOSE WHO HATE ISRAEL” was scrawled on a building housing the offices of the Assembly of Bishops of Notre Dame center, located near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Vatican has demanded that Israel take action to investigate and punish those responsible for the attacks.
Israeli internal security minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has announced that the government is prepared to permit detention without charge for suspected “price tag” perpetrators, a hard-line measure usually employed against Palestinian resistance fighters.
“It is the government’s intention to use administrative detention against those carrying out so-called ‘price tag’ attacks,” Aharonovitch told Israeli army radio.
Israel’s administrative detention policy, widely decried by international observers as a grievous human rights violation, allows detainees to be held for up to six months without charge or trial, with effective indefinite detention possible with court permission.
Israeli police also reported new “price tag” hate attacks against Muslims in northern Israel last week, just days after a series of such Jewish extremists attacks made international headlines. A Druze dental clinic was vandalized with the words “DEATH TO ARABS” and “PRICE TAG” in Yokneam last Wednesday.
The United States State Department has recently, for the first time ever, included “price tag” attacks, which it defines as “property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be anti-settlement,” in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism.
Israel has also been criticized, including by the United States, for its failure to prosecute those responsible for “price tag” attacks, who enjoy nearly total impunity.