Charges against protesting priest to be dropped

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Charges will be dropped against the New Zealand priest who smeared blood on a memorial to Yitzhak Rabin.

On Friday, the case against Father Gerard Burns was held over until May 21 to give him time to fulfill community service tasks in exchange for the charges being dropped.

Burns was charged with willful damage after David Zwartz, former honorary Israeli consul in New Zealand, reported the Jan. 6 incident, which took place during Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Burns led a demonstration of several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators through the streets of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, during the offensive against Hamas. When the protesters reached the monument to the slain Israeli prime minister, Burns sprinkled droplets of red paint mixed with his own blood on the plaque.

Pictured wearing a black-and-white kaffiyeh at the rally, Burns said at the time it was a “symbolic action.”

“It was denunciation of the [Israeli] state, not an attack on the Jewish faith,” the Catholic clergyman told the New Zealand Press Association.

“I have a great esteem for the Jewish faith," Burns said, later adding, "but the Israeli state is another beast altogether."

Despite several calls for an apology, including from Zwartz, who cleaned off most of the red paint just hours after the vandalism, Burns has remained tight-lipped.

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