Hours after a meeting between the Israel Defence Forces' Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, and his Palestinian interlocutors in Bethlehem, Israeli settlers have set fire to the Ambiya Mosque south of the city. This despicable act was not the first of its kind and there is no doubt that it will not be the last. The arson attack is part of a growing campaign of vandalism and terror carried out by illegal settlers against Islamic places of worship across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Even as we at the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) draw attention to this attack, at best it is likely to feature as a minor footnote in the mainstream media; at worst, it will be ignored altogether. If this had been Muslims attacking a synagogue somewhere, the reaction would be completely different, of course. World leaders would be condemning another "Islamic terrorist" attack and warning of a renewed onslaught by Al-Qaeda, and media coverage would be widespread.
In this latest settler outrage, a large section of the mosque was damaged and hostile graffiti was scrawled, in Hebrew, on the mosque's interior walls. The graffiti needs no translation; as far as the settler-colonists are concerned, there is no place for Islam in Palestine. Only last week, Jewish settlers distributed posters calling for the destruction of another mosque in the village of Bourin to the south of Nablus in the West Bank.
During the past year, many mosques have been attacked and vandalised by marauding gangs of settlers. In December 2009 they burnt Yasuf Mosque and scrawled their obscenities against Islam on its walls. The following month they desecrated the cemetery in 'Awarta village near Nablus. In April, the Hawara Mosque was vandalised and on that occasion a Star of David was drawn on the walls.
Given the security apparatus at its disposal, there is no doubt that the Israeli government could stop such attacks easily if it wanted to. But it won't because of its institutional antagonism towards the symbols of Islam in Palestine. Last month, the Israeli authorities prevented the call to prayer being made in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron 79 times because it "disturbs" the fanatical settlers in the city. This is in addition to the many measures adopted to prevent the local Muslims from having full access to and use of the historic mosque.
In the current climate of global Islamophobia these uncivilised and intolerant acts will evoke little or no condemnation or censure. It is regrettable that many people in the West have been indoctrinated to believe that it is morally justifiable to attack Islam and Muslims as a response to the 9/11 attacks. The timing of the latest Zionist settlers' attack coincides conveniently with the Europeans and Americans raising security levels against a perceived terrorist threat; from Muslims, naturally.
Israel's apologists within the political establishment will rely on the spurious logic proclaimed recently by Spain's ex-premier, Jose Maria Aznar, for their inaction: "We consider Israel not as a Middle Eastern country, but a Western country in the Middle East. We share the same traditions, roots, values… Israel is a cornerstone of our Western civilization… because Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization… Therefore, the interests of Israel are our interests."
Of course, it would be wrong to lay all the blame for Israeli aggression at the doors of Aznar, Bolton, Tremble and the rest of the Zionist-neocon alliance; they are, after all, only acting according to their ideology and interests of the paymasters. Unfortunately, though, not a single country from the so-called Islamic world has issued as much as a protest. As for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, it remains committed doggedly to its policy of security collaboration with the Israeli occupation authorities (and dependency on their largesse). Bereft of any political will or freedom, the PA lacks even the ability to lodge a formal legal complaint to hold the Israelis accountable for their crimes. This can only lead to one thing: the intensification of Zionism's dirty war on Islam and Muslims in Palestine.