Archbishop Atallah Hanna on Wednesday condemned an attack targeting a monastery in west Jerusalem, expressing anger after extremists defiled the holy site with anti-Christian messages.
In a statement, the archbishop said that “what the settlers have done is rejected, and their racism is humiliating. … They didn’t harm us, they harmed only themselves,” he added during a visit to pray at the site.
“We strongly condemn any attack against holy sites for any religion; it is totally prohibited.”
“Death to Christians” was daubed Tuesday in Hebrew on the outer walls of the Monastery of the Cross, an 11th-century fortress-like holy site situated in a valley overlooked by Israel’s parliament.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the words “price tag” were also painted overnight by the vandals, who damaged two cars parked outside the monastery in the rare attack on a Christian shrine in Jerusalem.
The slogan, used by settlers in vandalism attacks on mosques and homes in the West Bank, refers to the retribution they say they will exact for any attempt by the Israeli government to curb settlement in the territory.
Maher Ghuneim, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for wall and settlement affairs, said the attack was intended to inflame sectarian tensions and force a “religious” angle on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ghuneim said in a statement that the attack reflects the lack of interest by the Israeli government in reigning in the settlers, and it shows “how they (settlers) incite racism against anything non-Jewish.”
Also Tuesday, “Death to Arabs” was painted in Hebrew on the wall of a playground of a bilingual school in East Jerusalem, and anti-Muslim slogans were daubed on the walls of several homes in a West Bank village.
Since December, five mosques have been vandalized in attacks by suspected Jewish extremists. An ancient mosque in Jerusalem was torched on Dec. 13, and sprayed with the Star of David, “price tag,” “Muhammad is a pig” and “A good Arab is a dead Arab” in Hebrew.
Settler attacks in the West Bank against Palestinians increased by more than 50 percent in 2011, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In the West Bank, roughly 4.5 percent of the Palestinian population are Christian, a figure of around 200,000 people. In Israel, around 11 percent of Palestinians are Christian, down from 21 percent of the Palestinian population in 1949, a minority rights group says.