An apparent arson attack damaged the revered Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha in northern Israel overnight, authorities said June 18. The Byzantine-era shrine, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is where Christians believe Jesus fed the 5,000 in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. Father Matthias Karl, a member of the Benedictine Order which oversees the site, said an external atrium was "totally destroyed" in the blaze. "The church, thank God is in good condition," he told AFP. Graffiti in Hebrew was left on another building within the complex, reading, "The idols will be cast out"—a quote from the Aleinu prayer, pointing to the work of Jewish extremists. Wadie Abu Nasser, an adviser to the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, said the attack would reverberate throughout the Christian world. "Israel's global image will be harmed," he told Israeli public radio."When you put one and one together, between the graffiti and the arson, you can reach a conclusion regarding the potential suspects." Police said 16 settler youth from the "Samaria" region of the West Bank were detained and questioned in the attack, but later released. Tabgha was targeted in a previous attack in April 2014, in which church officials said a group of orthodox Jewish teenagers damaged crosses and attacked clergy. (Times of Israel, Times of Israel, AFP, AP, June 18)
Separate Israeli Supreme Court decisions issued on May 5 open the way for state authorities to forcibly evict residents of two Arab villages from their homes. The inhabitants of both villages, one in Israel and the other in the occupied West Bank, have previously been displaced following actions by Israeli authorities. "It is a sad day when Israeli Supreme Court decisions provide legal cover for forced evictions, as in the case of these two villages," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch. "The Israeli government should let these communities stay where they are, not force them to move yet again."
We don't use the word "fascism" lightly, but the growing consensus in Israel for a Jewish-supremacist state and genocidal solution to the Palestinian question has been further consolidated in the frightening election results. The coalition deal just announced forms the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Likud has signed a pact with the Jewish Home party, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the 61 Knesset seats needed to form the next government. The openly chauvinist Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett (who calls for annexing the West Bank settlements), won eight seats in the March elections. Under the pact, Bennett will hold two cabinet seats—education and diaspora affairs. The justice portfolio will go to the far-right party's Knesset member, Ayelet Shaked, while agriculture will go to Uri Ariel, another of its sitting Knesset members. The party is to get a further two cabinet posts, including that of deputy defense minister. Netanyahu has already formed coalition pacts with the centrist Kulanu Party (10 seats), the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party (seven seats), and the Shas Party (six seats). (Middle East Monitor, May 7)
Organizers are claiming that up to half a million marched in the pouring rain in Buenos Aires Feb. 18 to demand justice in the case of Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who was found dead in his apartment exactly one month earlier, just after he had filed a criminal complaint charging that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman (among others) had conspired to cover up Iran's role in the deadly 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building. Although slogans against the government were not heard, the "silent march"—called by a group of prosecutors—was seen as a direct challenge to Fernández de Kirchner's administration. Members of Nisman's family, including his eldest daughter, also attended the march. Opposition parties such as the left-wing Broad Front UNEN and centrist Radical Civil Union (UCR) had a visible presence, but prosecutors who had taken on figures close to the Fernández de Kirchner government won the loudest applause, despite the official "silent" nature of the march. Significantly, the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police—under Mayor Mauricio Macri, who was also at the march—put the figure of attendees at 400,000, while the Federal Police—under Security Secretary Sergio Berni, a member of Fernández de Kirchner's cabinet—estimated only 50,000. (Buenos Aires Herald, BBC News, Feb. 19; InfoBAE, Feb. 18)
An arsonist set fire to a mosque in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna Dec. 25, injuring five people. Some 20 worshippers were attending midday prayers when the fire broke out. Police said the blaze began when assailants hurled an incendiary device through a window of the mosque, on the ground floor of a residential building. The attack comes amid a fierce debate in Sweden over immigration policy. The far right wants to cut the number of asylum-seekers allowed into Sweden by 90%. On Dec. 3, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats brought down the minority governing coalition after it had been in power for just 10 weeks, refusing to support its proposed budget and forcing a special election. The new election is scheduled for March. (BBC News, Al Jazeera, Dec. 15; EurActiv, Dec. 18; Daily Mail, Dec. 3)
Two Palestinians armed with a pistol and axes attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof district during morning prayers on Nov. 18, killing four Israelis. A police officer later died of his wounds. The two assailants were shot dead. (JP, Nov. 19; Ma'an, Nov. 18) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, but in the same statements reiterated its "demands an end to the ongoing incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers." Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the Popular Resistance Committees all praised the attack. (Ma'an, Nov. 18)
India has opted to buy Israel's Spike anti-tank guided missile, a New Delhi defense ministry source told Reuters—evidently rejecting a rival US offer of Javelin missiles that Washington had lobbied hard to win. India is to purchase at least 8,000 Spike missiles and more than 300 launchers in a deal worth 32 billion rupees ($525 million), the source said after a meeting of India's Defense Acquisition Council. Spike beat out the Javelin weapons system, built by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had pitched during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington last month. (Reuters, Oct. 25)
Some 7,000 gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square July 26 in the largest Israeli protest against the bombardment of Gaza thus far. Slogans included "Stop the war," "Bring the soldiers back home," and "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies." Several hours before the demonstration was slated to begin, police announced that it was canceled for fear of rocket fire, but it was given the green light when news broke that the ceasefire would be extended. The protest was called by the left-wing Hadash political party and the organizations Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle Families Forum. The more prominent Meretz left-wing party and Peace Now anti-war group opted not to take part in the rally.