19 June 2015
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa condemns yesterday’s attack by 16 Jewish Israeli settlers on the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. Any attack on a religious site is unacceptable but this Israeli attack on a historic site of such importance to Palestinian Christians and Christianity more generally is reprehensible.
The Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fish near the Sea of Galilee in Palestine-Israel is on the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ performed the biblical miracle of feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. The Church stands in the destroyed Palestinian village of al-Tabigha, ethnically cleansed of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants by Israeli forces in the 1948 Nakba. The village is where Jesus is said to have plied his trade as a carpenter.
According to reports, the church building suffered extensive damage, with the roof partly collapsed and stone walls charred. Several members of the clergy suffered smoke inhalation, and one 80-year-old monk was reportedly hospitalised. Several bibles and prayer books were also destroyed.
Some Israeli officials have criticised the attacks, however, analysts are skeptical suggesting that no action will be taken against the Israeli settlers. Richard Silverstein, an online writercommented that: “In any other country the assault would be dealt with severely. It would not be tolerated. In Israel, it’s not only tolerated – by refusing to investigate or punish the crimes – Israel [also] encourages them. Can you imagine if a Palestinian exploded a bomb that destroyed the Kotel [Jewish Western Wall]? What would happen? The [Israeli] State would turn itself inside out till it found the perpetrator/s and he’d either be shot dead on sight or spend the rest of his life behind bars…But, you see there’s a double standard for Palestinians. Jews are born with a ‘get out of jail free card.’ Palestinians are born with a ‘shoot on sight’ card. Of course, the usual suspects (prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], [Israel’s] president, etc.) will express their shock and horror. They’ll promise the culprits will be brought to justice. They claim this doesn’t represent the views of the mass of Israeli Jews. But their subsequent inaction will speak volumes about their real views.”
Silverstein further added that: “No Israeli media outlet will call this what it is: an act of terror. It is a hate crime. Just as there is anti-Semitism among non-Jews, there is both Isalmophobia and anti-Christian hate among many Israeli Jews. Let’s not pretend otherwise.”
Israeli settlers have increasingly been launching attacks on Palestinian muslim and Christian holy sites. Earlier this year, a Palestinian mosque was set on fire in a village near Bethlehem, with the Star of David and the word “revenge” painted on one of the walls. Last year, Israeli attackers defaced a Palestinian Catholic church in Jerusalem, daubing the words, “Jesus is garbage.”
Last year’s in Israel’s attacks on the Palestinian Gaza Strip, Israeli missile fire destroyed a Catholic school for disabled children, along with the parish priest’s office and other church facilities. A primary healthcare clinic run by the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) and funded by Christian Aid was also destroyed by Israeli missile fire. Previously Israel also damaged the Gaza Baptist Church.
Senior member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, strongly denounced the Israeli settler attack of the historic church saying: “This is an outcome of racist ideologies, and constant incitement, as well as the discriminatory laws of Israel…this is yet another example how Israelis act with impunity, without fearing any legal prosecution.”
The sixteen Jewish Israeli settlers who were taken in by authorities for the attack were released later the same day “due to lack of evidence”.
ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA.