JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arab Israelis demonstrated after a mosque in northern Israel was destroyed in a fire suspected of being set by Jewish extremists.
Residents of the Bedouin Arab town of Tuba-Zangariyye threw rocks at Israeli security forces and set tires on fire during a protest march Monday hours after the mosque in their northern Galilee village was set alight, destroying holy books and prayer rugs.
Graffiti, including the words “price tag” and “Palmer,” were spray-painted on the walls of the mosque, according to reports. Police reportedly have arrested some suspects in the Sunday night arson attack.
Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews. Palmer likely refers to Israeli Asher Palmer, who was killed Sept. 23 along with his infant son after a rock thrown in an apparent terrorist attack crashed through the windshield of his car, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, which then flipped over.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “outraged by the images” of the arson attack and that “this crime contravenes the values of the State of Israel, in which freedom of religion and freedom of worship are supreme values.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres in his condemnation of the attack referred to the High Holidays.
“This is a time for reflection in which we should condemn such acts among us, acts that sabotage the relationship between us and our neighbors and between the different religions living in Israel,” he said.
Residents of Tuba-Zangariyye, which has a population of slightly more than 5,000, have blamed extremists from the nearby town of Safed. The village also is near the Golan Heights.
The American Jewish Committee called the attack “despicable.”
“This assault on a Muslim house of worship in Israel, which has gone to great lengths to protect freedom of worship and foster a spirit of mutual respect, is outrageous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Also condemning the attack was the Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union.