Before sunrise on Friday, on the heels of a Shabbat and Hanukkah sandwich, vandals snuck into a Palestinian village in the West Bank and vandalized a mosque. Holy books and furniture were burnt, and graffiti writing sent messages of intimidation.
The recent attacks on West Bank Palestinians and their property is a response to Israel’s recent halt on settlement construction; the civilian attacks have been dubbed the “price tag” policy.
Binyamin Netanyahu has vowed to catch the “criminals” behind the attack. Israeli President Shimon Peres said:
“The government, the security forces and the law enforcement institutions must take every measure, with the utmost urgency, to find the perpetrators and put them on trial in accordance with the gravity of the actsâ€¦It can’t be that an extremist group endangers the status of Israel as a state that abides laws and respects religions.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said:
“This is an extremist act geared toward harming the government’s efforts to advance the political process for the sake of Israel’s futureâ€¦”
Calling the act a violation of religious freedom, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed:
“The torching of the mosque in Yasuf is a despicable crime, and the settlers are behaving with brutalityâ€¦”
In addition, the U.S. State Department released a statement saying that:
“We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.”
Whether or not the settlement freeze is justified, or a cowardly crumbling under pressure from the west, is a good question.