Vandals Desecrate Christian Cemetery in Northern Israel Arab Village

JERUSALEM, April 16, 2015 (WAFA) – Vandals have desecrated a Christian cemetery in village of Kufr Bir‘im near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

International and local media outlets reported on Israeli police that have opened an investigation after receiving a report that vandals have damaged a number of graves and smashed gravestones and crosses at a Maronite Christian cemetery in Kufr Bir‘im village to the west of Safad.

Wadie Abunassar, a Catholic Church official in Israel, was reported by Haaretz as confirming these reports, explaining that some 20 gravestones at the cemetery were found vandalized early Wednesday.

Abunassar was also reported as saying that some gravestones “were shattered, with pieces of stone strewn about.”

Israeli Police Spokeswomen Luba Samri was quoted as saying that the tombstones were “broken and displaced” and that they have opened an investigation.

However, Abunassar has questioned the credibility of Israeli police investigations, saying with certainty that no one will be held accountable. Based on past incidents, Israeli police investigations have overwhelmingly failed to prosecute assailants or vandals in such cases.

During last December, an Israeli settler was arrested for attacking the Dormition Abbey and vandalizing a cross and a statue in Jerusalem. During April 2014, Israeli Jewish extremists vandalized Tabgha church located on the northwestern shore of Lake Tiberias in Galilee, destroying the church pews and smashing the cross.

Similar attacks took place in 2013 as vandals targeted a church in one attack, spraying graffiti on its walls with anti-Christian slogans such as ‘Christians are monkeys’ and ‘Christians are slaves”. In this attack in particular, the church’s guard arrested the settler after the latter jumped over the wall and vandalized the cross and the statue which were at sight.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently denounced ‘all antireligious assaults committed over the past months’ against holy sites during a visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem to express his Easter greetings to heads of the churches of Jerusalem.

In a press release condemning this attack and questioning Rivlin’s condemnation of all attacks against holy sites of all faiths, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Heads of the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land stated: “We have frequently heard such statements during the last few years. However, assaults continue to rife without any serious measures taken in response to seek out and prosecute perpetrators nor to raise all people on the value of respecting others and their holy places.”

The press statement said that “We expected Israel to honor the Israeli Supreme Court’s 1952 ruling with regard to Kufr Bir‘im village and demanded it to achieve justice and take all necessary measures to prevent any further attacks against holy places.

The heads of churches of Jerusalem expressed recently ‘deep distress’ “by the level of violence still being falsely perpetrated in the name of religion in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere in recent times.”

Kufr Birim is a derelict Palestinian village whose inhabitants were evicted by Israeli forces 1948 six months after Israel was established and never allowed to return. The village was almost totally razed by the Israeli army in 1953.

Despite initial Israeli promises and an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in favor of the villagers’ return they remained in enforced exile, owners of more false promises. Many found refuge in the nearby village of Jish. Israeli fighter jets bombed the village in 1953 in an attempt to deny return into eternity; only the village church remained structurally intact.

Israel declared parts of Bir’im a Nature Reserve and National Park in 1965, another Israeli plot to secure the future of the village as part of Israel. Three settlements were also built on its lands but displaced villagers continued to ‘visit’ the village whenever possible and struggle actively for their return.

In 1972 the internally displaced community began reconstruction work on the church and staged a sit-in protest led by village elders which was brought to a violent end by an Israeli police operation during which several people were injured and 20 arrested.