Friday evening, a troubled Jewish/Christian couple and their daughter entered the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, pushing a stroller. The stroller contained firecrackers, which they set off inside the Basilica. That triggered a panic inside the church, which is understandable. What is not so understandable is that a riot ensued outside the church. Rioters kept the Jewish couple inside, and prevented the police from entering. They burned at least one police car:
Reporting on the riot has been a bit odd, I think. Who, exactly, were the rioters? Israeli Arabs, of course. News accounts suggest, without saying explicitly, that they were Arab Christians. If they were, I am ashamed of them. The Associated Press has seemingly tried to make the riot at least somewhat comprehensible by describing the Basilica of the Annunciation as “one of Christianity’s holiest sites.” But Christianity doesn’t really have “holy sites” in the way that, say, Islam does. And, while Nazareth is of course famous as Jesus’s home town, I’m sure that not one Christian in a hundred has ever heard of the Basilica.
Now Israeli Arabs, both Muslim and Christian–there are far more Muslims, of course–are using the firecracker incident as a political weapon against Israel’s majority Jewish population. The Associated Press reports on Saturday’s demonstration:
Thousands of Israeli Arab protesters marched through the streets of this biblical town Saturday demanding better protection for holy sites after a troubled family set off firecrackers inside a major Christian shrine.
The emotional reaction to the attack on the Basilica of the Annunciation reflected the fragile status of Israel’s Arab minority, which has long claimed it suffers discrimination at the hands of the Jewish majority.
Many participants accused the government of failing to prevent the attack, and rejected the official claim that Friday’s attack was driven by personal distress, and not politically motivated.
This is ridiculous. The couple that set off the firecrackers is obviously disturbed; social welfare agencies have removed more than one child from their custody. And what “political motivation” could there possibly be for the incident?
“The Israeli institution is trying to explain the aggression by saying that anyone who did this is mentally unstable,” said Ramez Jaraisah, Nazareth’s Christian mayor. “We refuse to accept any excuse for this criminal act.”
Several thousand people led by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, local Christian leaders and Arab lawmakers joined the protest, snaking through the town’s narrow streets to the basilica. Marchers clapped and sang songs, amid the chiming of church bells.
Participants held up Palestinian flags and banners with slogans such as “Israel breeds hate.”
In the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, the designated Palestinian prime minister from the Islamic militant group Hamas said the attack was the result “of a hate culture which Israel is feeding its public against the Palestinians.”
And check out this sign, held by Arab children:
“Bombing churches”? Hardly. And “burning mosques”? What burning mosques? Only one thing is missing from the sign: burning, bombed and desecrated synogogues, which is what happened to the synagogues in Gaza when Israel withdrew. But that’s not the “respect” these people have in mind.
It’s sad to see Arab Christians participating in this sick charade–which is, frankly, unChristian.