Despite three recent mosque-burnings in which no Jews have been implicated, reports of yet another similar incident have sparked anti-settler headlines.
A mosque in Beit Fajar, an Arab village near Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem, was vandalized over the course of the night. Fifteen Korans were originally reported to be burnt, though this was not confirmed, as were small sections of the building’s walls and carpets. Graffiti on a wall included the Hebrew words, “Revenge,” “This is the response,” and a Jewish star. In addition, Arabs in the village said the perpetrators were six men who, they said, drove off in an Israeli-licensed car towards Kibbutz Kfar Etzion.
Vengeance for What?
Though the Arabs’ “testimony” has not been corroborated, headlines in many media outlets had no problem asserting that “Jewish settlers” are suspected of burning the mosque. The alleged act of vengeance was taken to be a response to the freeze on Jewish construction – despite the fact that the freeze began over ten months ago and has since ended.
The incident is under investigation by both Israeli and Palestinian Authority security bodies.
Three Similar Incidents End Uneventfully
At least three similar previous incidents in recent months aroused the same suspicions and accusations – none of which were ultimately verified. Four yeshiva boys from Kfar Hassidim were arrested in the summer after a mosque was vandalized In the nearby Arab village Ibtin, in the Zevulun Valley region – but were released when no evidence was found to implicate them. Around the same time, in the village of Luban, near Shilo, a fire in a mosque was found to be the fault of an electrical short.
In the most widely-publicized case, that of the mosque in Kfar Yusuf near Yitzhar, a rabbi and his students were arrested more than once, but no evidence has ever been found to link them with the act, in which they categorically deny involvement. Ironically, the great amount of press coverage in that case appeared to be inversely proportionate to the damage; only parts of a carpet were burnt.
Sha’ul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, told Army Radio this morning, “We condemn this act, though experience has taught us that Jews did not necessarily commit it..."
Arabs Attack Principal
Elsewhere in Arab-populated areas, parents in the village of Ein Mahal near Nazareth stoned the local school’s new principal and her police escort, leading to the injuring of 16 people, including four policemen. The riot, which occurred Monday morning, was sparked by opposition to the appointment of a principal who does not live in the village; in this case, the appointee resides in Nazareth.