Rabbis sign petition condemning mosque arson


(JTA ) — Nearly 1,000 rabbis in Israel and America have signed a petition condemning the burning of a mosque in a Bedouin town in northern Israel.

According to the New Israel Fund, which circulated the petition within 24 hours of the Oct. 2 arson, it was presented Thursday to the imam of the Tuba-Zangariya village, where the attack took place.

On Wednesday, the Islamic Society of North America praised a statement released by major American-Jewish rabbis representing the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements that called attacking a mosque or any religious building “antithetical to the most basic values of Judaism, and cannot be justified for any reason.”

The rabbis’ statement also praised North American Muslim leaders for increasingly opposing Holocaust denial and appealing for Gilad Shalit’s release.

“Just as these Muslim leaders bravely spurned noxious calls to communal solidarity and spoke up on behalf of Jews when they saw that doing so was the morally correct course to take,” the statement reads, “so we Jewish leaders now stand in solidarity with Muslims who have been wrongfully attacked, even if the attackers may have been deeply misguided members of our own community."

Meanwhile, police confirmed that they have arrested an 18-year-old Jewish male in connection with the arson hours after the attack and that the suspect since then has been held in prison, according to reports. 

The mosque arson destroyed holy books and prayer rugs. Graffiti, including the words "price tag" and "Palmer," were spray-painted on the mosque walls. 

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews. Palmer likely refers to Israeli Asher Palmer, who was killed Sept. 23 along with his infant son after a rock thrown in an apparent terrorist attack crashed through the windshield of his car, causing him to lose control of the vehicle, which then flipped over.

Israeli and Jewish leaders around the world, as well as the governments of several countries, condemned the arson attack.  

A U.S. State Department statement Tuesday "strongly" condemning the arson noted "that the Israeli Government also strongly condemned the attacks, and we endorse stepped-up efforts by law enforcement authorities to act vigorously to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act and similar attacks that have taken place in the West Bank."

Major U.S. Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the foreign policy umbrella body, also have condemned the arson.


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