Middle East Monitor / October 6, 2023
The Pope is said to be “furious” over the wave of anti-Christian hate crimes carried out by Israeli settlers, the spokesman of the Council of Heads of Catholic Churches in Jerusalem, Wadie Abu Nasser, has said.
Speaking to Israeli Army Radio yesterday, Abu Nasser said that Pope Francis is updated on every incident in occupied Jerusalem and was informed about the viral video showing Israeli settlers spitting on Christian worshippers. The degrading and offensive practice of spitting on Christians, according to Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, “is an old Jewish tradition.” Israeli settlers have also defended the practice.
Abu Nasser is reported saying in Haaretz that the incident had reached the highest echelons of the faith. “It’s reached the whole world, up to the big boss,” he said. “The pope is updated on every incident, he’s furious.”
Israeli leaders belatedly reacted to universal condemnation of the surge in anti-Christian hate crime carried out by illegal settlers in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with members of his far-right cabinet, who are accused of fuelling anti-Christian hostility themselves by embracing ultra-nationalism, finally condemned the settlers after a video of Jews spitting at Christians in Jerusalem went viral.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) in Jerusalem blamed the Israeli government for the “persecution” of Christians. “We feel persecution against our community and religion,” WCC Coordinator in Jerusalem, Youssef Daher, told Anadolu. “There is a Jewish Israeli persecution, encouraged either by police negligence or by statements made by Israeli cabinet ministers,” he added.
Daher went on to state, “if the Israeli police were serious, it would not have allowed such incidents,” and that “there is negligence by the [Israeli] authorities, and this encourages those extremists.”
Israeli settler attacks on Christians have surged in recent months. According to Jewish News, a report by the Religious Freedom Data Centre, which documents anti-Christian attacks, says that 30 assaults have been reported to the hotline between 16 June and mid- August, alone.
With growing numbers of Christian missionaries travelling to Jerusalem, settler attacks are expected to rise. Last month two Christian missionaries were harassed by a group of Israeli children and adults. Footage circulating on social media showed two female Christian missionaries being kicked and punched.
Israeli leaders do not appear to have a solution to the epidemic rise in anti-Christian attacks, beyond condemnation. In July, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called the attacks a “true disgrace” but the spate of anti-Christian incidents has not abated.
Critics argue that Israel has no answer to the rise in anti-Christian attacks because the country itself is founded on the ideals of racial domination and the goal of preserving the supremacy of Jews over non-Jews.