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Articles on arson attack against West Bank Mosque

Peace Now called the incident "a Jewish pogrom" and warned that continued provocation by extremists could lead to a new Palestinian intifada.

See the articles:
  • Jerusalem Post: "Palestinians protest mosque arson"
  • AFP: "Officials Blame 'Extremist' Settlers for Arson Attack on West Bank Mosque"

Jerusalem Post: "Palestinians protest mosque arson

Dec. 11, 2009 staff and AP

Hundreds of Palestinian protesters from the village of Yasuf gathered near the neighboring settlement of Tapuah on Friday afternoon to protest vandalism caused to a local mosque earlier that day, allegedly by settlers.

The perpetrators used graffiti to write in Hebrew on the floor of the mosque, also setting fire to its library, causing damage to Islamic holy books.

The demonstrators from Yasuf confronted security forces who were deployed to the area, with some rioters hurling rocks at the troops. One border policeman was lightly wounded a rock. The forces used non-lethal weapons to disperse the rioters, and six protesters were hurt in the skirmish, apparently from tear gas.

According to Channel 2, the protests only died down after civil administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai personally assured Munir Abushi - the head of the Salfit governorate, where the village is located - and other Palestinian Authority leaders that security forces were doing all they could to apprehend those responsible.

Following the incident, Mordechai spoke with Abushi, who expressed his dismay over repeated settler attacks, and accused Israeli security forces of doing little to protect Palestinian civilians from the settlers.

Earlier on Friday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called the vandalism a "despicable crime," characterized settler behavior as "brutal" and demanded that Israel put a stop to their "wild antics."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the attack. In a statement issued by his office, Barak said he viewed the attack with grave severity and called it "an act of extremism designed to hurt any attempt by the government to make progress" toward renewing peace talks with the Palestinians. Barak said he had instructed the defense establishment to find those responsible as quickly as possible.

A flurry of responses from politicians and activists soon followed.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List - Ta'al) said after the attack that "Barak and the army bear responsibility for this crime and for the continued riot wild behavior of settlers against Palestinians."

Kadima and opposition leader Tzipi Livni echoed Abbas's statement by saying that the vandalism was a "severe, despicable act of provocation" and stressing that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

"While a human rights march goes on in Tel Aviv, in Samaria extremist elements set fire to a mosque," she said during a Herzliya speech on Friday afternoon. "We must turn to introspection and contend with what is happening within Israeli society."

Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines called the attack "a dangerous escalation intended to devolve the region into bloodshed." The lack of government preparedness against the "price tag" strategy which has been in use for years is a serious and dangerous failure, he added.

"The fire in the Yasuf mosque may have gone out," MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) said in a statement, "but the blaze could yet get out of control, spread and lead to disastrous consequences."

Peace Now called the incident "a Jewish pogrom" and warned that continued provocation by extremists could lead to a new Palestinian intifada.

Danny Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said in response to the incident that he hoped police would find those responsible. "Whoever did this is not helping the settlements," Dayan said. "This is a wrong and foolish act."

Meanwhile, far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir laid the blame on Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying their decision to stop construction in the West Bank was causing anger and unrest. "Netanyahu must freeze these racist edicts to calm the atmosphere," he said.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) also stayed shy of condemning the attacks, saying that "those who wish to wipe out the Jewish people must not expect us to identify with their symbols and centers of incitement" - an apparent reference to mosques and Islamic prayer relics. /servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447414906&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

AFP: "Officials Blame 'Extremist' Settlers for Arson Attack on West Bank Mosque"


Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images On Friday, Palestinians inspected the damage done to a mosque that was set on fire in the West Bank village of Yasuf.

On Friday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said an arson attack on a West Bank mosque was part of a campaign by Israelis living in the occupied Palestinian territory to protest restrictions on the expansion of their settlements.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, the mosque in the village of Yasuf was vandalized before dawn on Friday. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the vandals "burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, and left graffiti on the floor reading, 'Price tag - greetings from Effi.' Effi is a Hebrew name." Yedioth Ahronoth, another Israeli newspaper, noted that the graffiti, written in Hebrew, was accompanied by the more direct threat, "We will burn all of you."

As Haaretz explained, the graffiti suggested that the vandalism was the work of "settler extremists" who "have recently attacked Palestinians and their property in response to Israeli government moves to curb settlement construction. These protesters have dubbed the attacks the 'price tag' policy."

In October, James Hider of The Times of London reported that after "the Israeli Army tried to demolish an illegal Jewish settlement outpost" in another part of the West Bank, "the settlers took revenge -- not on the army, but on the local Palestinians," by burning a field of olive trees nearby. Mr. Hilder wrote:

It is a new and effective settler tactic known as the "price tag": if the Government sends police or soldiers to dismantle an outpost that is being built, the settlers make the Palestinian population pay the price. "It's quite simple and smart but evil," said Michael Sfard, a lawyer with the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. "They attack Palestinian property, people, and blockade roads every time the Israeli security forces do something they don't like" -- such as demolish outposts.

Haaretz reported on Friday that the Israeli police said that their investigation into the assault on the mosque "points to the likelihood that settlers from nearby Tapuah are behind the attack." Last week the Israeli journalist Chaim Levinson published an interview with "an extreme right-wing activist" who lives in that West Bank settlement.

Politicians from both communities were quick to blame settlers for the vandalism of the mosque. According to Haaretz, Mr. Abbas said, "The torching of the mosque in Yasuf is a despicable crime, and the settlers are behaving with brutality." He added, "The settlers' unruly behavior must be stopped."

Ms. Livni, who is now the leader of Israel's opposition Kadima Party, reached a similar conclusion, saying that "extremist elements set fire to a mosque in a severe, despicable act of provocation." In remarks printed by The Jerusalem Post, Ms. Livni also said: "We must turn to introspection and contend with what is happening within Israeli society."

Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, and the United States State Department also denounced the attack. Mr. 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 future." Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, said the defense minister was partly to blame. According to The Jerusalem Post, Mr. Tibi said, "Barak and the army bear responsibility for this crime and for the continued riot wild behavior of settlers against Palestinians."

The Post also reported that the Israeli group Peace Now called the attack "a Jewish pogrom," while Danny Dayan, a settler leader, said the vandalism was "a wrong and foolish act."

Mr. Dayan also spent part of his day denouncing a decision by the British government to advise supermarkets in Britain to change their labeling policy in order to distinguish between food imported from the West Bank that is produced by settlers, and food produced by Palestinians.

As The Guardian reported on Thursday:

Until now, food has been simply labeled "Produce of the West Bank", but the new, voluntary guidance issued by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), says labels could give more precise information, like "Israeli settlement produce" or "Palestinian produce."

On Friday, Arutz Sheva, a pro-settler radio station, reported that Mr. Dayan called the British decision a " hostile step" and insisted that "products from our communities in Judea and Samaria should be treated as any other Israeli product."

Sarah Colborne, a spokeswoman for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Britain, welcomed the British government's recommendation. In a statement posted online, Ms. Colborne said:

Goods labeled "West Bank" are grown on stolen Palestinian land, in illegal Israeli settlements. Consumers have bought goods labeled "Produce of the West Bank" because they thought they were aiding the Palestinian economy, then phoned us up distressed and angry when they realized they were economically aiding Israel's illegal occupation.