Outrage over Jaffa cemetery vandalism

Jewish groups have condemned an attack on a cemetery in Jaffa as "unconscionable" and "a disgrace" to the religion.

Israeli police found smashed headstones and graffiti scrawled on Muslim and Christian graves calling for "death to Arabs" on Friday evening, as Jews around the world marked the Day of Atonement.

The so-called "price tag" attack follows last week’s arson attack on a mosque in northern Israel, which left the building and holy books inside damaged.

Israeli police arrested a suspect in the case on Thursday.

The World Jewish Congress condemned both incidents as a "disgrace" to the core values of Judaism and the most fundamental principles of democracy and freedom of the state of Israel.

Ronald Lauder, WJC president, said it was particularly shocking that these acts were perpetrated by Jews during the High Holidays.

"They are a desecration and disgrace of the profound moral tradition of Judaism," he said.
He emphasised that while these acts were a stain on Israel's character, they were the actions of "a minority of extremists."

The US hate monitor the Anti-Defamation League described what happened as a hate crime and urged "all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from retaliatory actions that might aggravate the situation."

The Israeli Prime Minister vowed to clamp down on such behaviour. He said Israel was "not willing to tolerate vandalism, especially not the kind that would offend religious sensibilities."

Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet: "Israel shows tolerance for religious sentiments and a desire for peaceful coexistence without violence, but will show no tolerance for those who oppose it."

The President, Shimon Peres, added: "To try and violate the holiness of a cemetery is against everything that we stand for. We shall take all the measures to get hold of these criminals and put an end to it."

Israeli officials have begun repairing the damaged graves.

Last updated: 3:15pm, October 9 2011