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.
…“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.”
Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the country’s population, have long complained of systematic discrimination in housing, education and jobs.
Nazareth, the boyhood town of Jesus, is inhabited by about 74,000 Israeli Arabs, two-thirds of them Muslim and the remainder Christian.
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.” [source]
In case anyone was wondering at the title of this post, I’m well aware that I used “Palestinian Christians” instead of “Arab Israelis”. Fortunately, political correctness was never my forte.
I am however suprised that more Muslims live in Nazareth than Christians. Go figure. It’s one of the many towns I want to visit someday.