Jerusalem’s Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum has called the desecration of a Protestant cemetery in Jerusalem a “clear hate crime,” days after Israel swore in the most far-right government in the country’s history.
“This act is not just cowardly but disgusting, and any person with blood through their veins would reject such behaviour,” Naoum told a press conference on Wednesday.
“This really shows a clear hate crime towards Christians in Jerusalem which we absolutely reject and condemn,” he added.
Two unidentified men broke into Jerusalem’s Protestant Mount Zion Cemetery and desecrated more than 30 graves on Sunday, local media reported.
Security footage circulated on social media shows one man of Orthodox Jewish appearance entering the graveyard, pushing over a cross-shaped tombstone and smashing it with rocks with the help of a second man.
CCTV footage shows Jewish Israeli settlers desecrating graves in the Protestant Cemetery in occupied Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/N9yQflyzO3
— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) January 3, 2023
The graveyard, founded in 1848 and maintained by local communities, contains the graves of 73 men of the Palestine police service who were killed during the second world war.
It is also the burial place of many senior Christian leaders including Samuel Gobat, the former bishop of Jerusalem.
“We hope the Israeli authorities can take accountability and arrest whoever is responsible for this cowardly act, so such an event doesn’t reoccur,” the archbishop said, adding that Israel was sadly facing “religious radicalism”.
“The point is that people living together from the three Abrahamic religions need to learn how to coexist and respect each others’ freedom of worship and holy sites, that’s very important,” he said.
“This is all we ask. We aren’t asking for something impossible.”
The graveyard is located in the proximity of the burial site of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed on May 11 by an Israeli sniper as she reported from the Jenin refugee camp.
Tensions have flared since Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Israeli prime minister, inaugurating the country’s most far-right, religiously conservative government in history.
Far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Tuesday entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, in a move Palestinians called a “deliberate provocation”.
The minister, widely regarded as a provocateur, has previously called for the displacement of Palestinians.