SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A New Zealand newspaper editorial slammed a Catholic priest for his desecration of the memorial to Yitzhak Rabin.
Father Gerard Burns had led hundreds of anti-Israel protestors earlier this week to the memorial in Wellington and then daubed red paint mixed with drops of his own blood on the plaque.
It was “not only in breach of any civilized standard of protest but utterly wrongheaded in terms of his target,” the New Zealand Herald wrote.
“They [the protesters] must know that their message against the killings of civilians, including children, is diverted and made hollow by a calculated insult to Jews everywhere.”
John Dew, the Catholic archbishop of Wellington, joined the chorus of calls for Burns to apologize. Dew said the desecration of the memorial was done without approval.
Burns rejected calls Wednesday from the Kiwi Friends of Israel for a “full and unqualified apology” for what the newly formed Israel support group described as “tasteless vandalism.” Burns, a Catholic priest who was pictured wearing a black-and-white kaffiyeh as he led hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters through the city, said it was a “symbolic action.”
“It was denunciation of the [Israeli] state, not an attack on the Jewish faith,” he told the New Zealand Press Association on Wednesday.
“I have a great esteem for the Jewish faith," he said, later adding, "but the Israeli state is another beast altogether.”
“One of the people that I am very keen to support is the Christian Palestinians," Burns said. "It’s not just Jews against Muslims. It’s a political war with some religious implications.
“Denouncing injustice is a priestly role, he said. Later he added, "I might be failing in my duty if I didn’t do it.”
The call for an apology came as David Zwartz, the former honorary Israeli consul in New Zealand, lodged a complaint Wednesday with local police against Burns. Zwartz cleaned off most of the red paint just hours after Burns vandalized the memorial.