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Israel dismisses probes into 90% of anti-Arab religious hate crimes

June 17, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Father Antonio Scudu, caretaker of Saint Stephen Church in the Beit Jamal Salesian monastery, looks at overturned crosses in a graveyard that has reportedly been vandalised near the central Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem on 18 October 2018. [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel has reportedly closed nine out of ten investigations into anti-Arab religious hate crime cases between 2018 and 2020 on account of not being able to locate the perpetrators. The cases entailed the vandalising of at least ten mosques and churches in both the occupied West Bank and within Israel. A decision by the State Prosecutor’s Office is yet to be made regarding the tenth case.

The Beit Jamal Monastery’s Christian Cemetery close to Beit Shemesh, Israel, faced four vandalisation instances from 2013 to 2018. In October of 2018, monks responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery found approximately 30 smashed headstones. In 2016, unknown assailants desecrated the monastery, smashing several statues. In 2013, a firebomb was launched at the door and hateful messages were graffitied along the monastery walls.

A freedom of information petition advanced by Israeli advocate Tal Lieblich of the Lieblich-Moser legal firm targeting the police gave Haaretz information on the cases. The police responded to the petition with the data, though they neglected to include any details concerning the last open case.

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Despite the fact that all of the investigations are of cases of public interest that have already been reported in the media, once the petition was filed, the police provided the information without linking it to a specific investigation file. Amidst the hate crimes that took place within the two years were the destruction of the Beit Jamal Monastery’s cemetery, the vandalisation of a mosque in Jish, as well as the slashing of tyres and damaging of dozens of cars.

Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din litigated that three of the cases of vandalisation of religious buildings in the West Bank were closed. One such case occurred in 2019 when a mosque was destroyed in the village of Deir Dibwan, with graffiti reading “Am Yisrael Chai” or “the people of Israel live”—a slogan for Israeli nationalists—spray-painted along the walls. Only two months later, the case was closed due to the inability of authorities to identify the perpetrators.

In the village of Aqraba in 2018, a mosque was not only vandalised with graffiti but set on fire. Although the assailants were recorded on security cameras, the case was closed two years after the incident in June 2020.

As these crimes occurred over the years, the Israeli police have consistently failed to identify perpetrators of anti-Arab hate crimes carried out by Jewish extremists. Data provided by the Yesh Din organisation—which only accounts for cases in the West Bank—82 per cent of such hate crime cases that occurred from 2005 to 2019 were closed.

This week, District Court Judge Anat Singer resolved not to compel the police to reveal details of the final open case, which is awaiting a decision from the State Prosecutor’s Office.