Al-Quds International Institution: The Arson Attack against the Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem was encouraged by Israeli right wing governments, international silence and normalization; and we call on forming popular committees to defend the holy sites
An extremist Israeli settler sneaked into the Gethsemane Church in Jerusalem (the Church of All Nations) in the Mount of Olives area in Jerusalem, on 4/12/2020, poured flammable liquid there and tried to set some of the wooden pews on fire but was thwarted by local Palestinian citizens who handed him over to an Israeli police force which arrived at the scene.
Facing this dangerous crime, Al-Quds International Institution stresses the following:
1- Planning for this crime is as dangerous as the crime itself since it reflects a great tendency within the settler community towards extremism, aggression, and encroachment on everything which is not Jewish in Jerusalem. This increased aggression among settlers indicates an unprecedented level of attacks awaiting Palestinians, their property, homes and lands as well as Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
2- This aggression comes within a recurring historical pattern of attacking Christian holy sites in the festive seasons, and around the Christmas and New Year’s Day in particular. This was witnessed, for example, on the Christmas Eve of 2019 when a knife-wielding extremist settler stormed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and tried to attack the worshipers. Also, head of extremist Lehava organization Rabbi Bentzi Gopstein urged his followers, in January 2016, to burn down Jerusalem churches because they “threaten Jewish purity.” Only a few days later, extremists attacked a Christian cemetery in western Jerusalem and wrote insulting graffiti on the walls of the Dormition Abbey; and the list goes on.
3- Extremist settlers would not have gone that far in their aggression against holy sites had it not been for the international disregard for the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers, the hostile environment provided by the Israeli right-wing governments and extremist Jewish groups in addition to the political and moral decline of some Arab regimes embracing normalization. All that have made settlers believe that no law could deter their crimes, and that the Palestinians were left with no support or defense.
4- To defend Jerusalem, its people, and its Islamic and Christian holy sites against the attacks of extremist settlers and the illegal Israeli occupation policies, it is important for the Jerusalemites, and the Palestinians in general, to stand together in determination and resilience and to devise creative methods to confront settlers, including the formation of popular committees to protect Palestinian holy sites and property, provide full support for Jerusalemites, and pursue the Israeli occupation in all available international forums at the diplomatic and legal levels besides other forms of pressure, accountability and confrontation.
5- We demand the Palestinian Authority and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to put more effort and to make all possible contacts to expose the recent attempted arson attack at the Gethsemane Church, and all Israeli crimes in Jerusalem. We also call on all media outlets as well as media people and activists to reveal this and other Israeli crimes to the world for it to act and stop this aggression so that it does not turn into a witness, and even an accomplice, to the destruction of human and cultural heritage in Jerusalem should it remain silent on the crimes of the Israeli occupation and its settlers.
Al-Quds International Institution