Attackers spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti in Hebrew on a Franciscan monastery just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, the church and Israeli police said on Tuesday, in an apparent “price-tag” hate crime.
Photos on a church website showed blue graffiti scrawled on the monastery’s front door denigrating Jesus, the central figure in Christianity, and adding the words “price tag” — a euphemism for revenge hate crimes by Israeli extremists.
The graffiti had been removed by mid-morning, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Israeli police confirmed the incident.
“What took place is that a church on Mount Zion was targeted. On it was written graffiti against Christianity, and ‘price tag,’ and now we’re investigating the incident,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“It happened during the early hours of the morning,” he added.
“Price tag” is a term given to hate crimes carried out by Israeli extremists, normally targeting Palestinians and Arabs and often involving the torching and vandalism of cars, mosques and olive trees.
But attacks have widened in scope in recent months, and have also targeted the Israeli army, Israeli anti-settlement activists and several churches.
In a statement, the Roman Catholic bishops of the Holy Land expressed their “deep dismay” over the incident.
They added their “concern about the education given to young people in certain schools, where contempt and intolerance are taught” and noted that the “price-tag” language used suggested that Israeli extremists were responsible.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that such attacks were the cultural legacy of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“After 45 years of Israeli occupation, a culture of hatred and racism has become mainstream among Israelis,” he said in a statement.
“School textbooks and official statements advocating that Jerusalem should be exclusively Jewish, with total rejection of the Palestinian Christian and Muslim identity of the city, have paved the way for gangs of terrorists to attack Christian and Muslim holy sites,” he added.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said that such actions “go against the morals and values of Judaism and do great harm to the state of Israel.”
“It is forbidden to harm the holy sites of religions and faiths,” he said during a traditional visit to Israel’s chief rabbis to mark the Jewish Sukkot festival, or Feast of Tabernacles.
Last month, vandals burnt the door of a Catholic monastery west of Jerusalem, scrawling anti-Christian graffiti on its walls.
The incident targeted the Trappist monastery in Latrun, which sits on the border between Israel and the occupied West Bank, by the 1949 armistice line, and is one of the most famous monastic sites of the Holy Land.
The Israeli government has strongly condemned such incidents in the past, but the Palestinians and Israeli anti-settlement activists say police have taken little action to apprehend those responsible.
Washington and the European Union have also condemned such attacks, which often spike after Israeli government action to move settlers from settlements in the West Bank.