The grave of notorious Muslim extremist Izzedine al-Qassam was desecrated Friday and spray painted with a Star of David and the words “price tag,” the latest in a recent wave of Jewish extremist vandalistic actions against Muslim sites in the north of the country.
Located just outside of Haifa, the grave has been desecrated in the past on several occasions during times of tension between Jews and Muslims.
“Graffiti was found sprawled on and around a grave in the al-Qassam cemetery in Nesher,” north of Haifa, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.
The red spray-paint graffiti also featured the names of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israel’s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, implying their denunciation.
Born in Syria, al-Qassam was a Muslim extremist who fought against French colonialism in Syria and later the British rulers of Mandatory Palestine as well as Zionist settlers. He orchestrated many murders of Jews in Palestine during the 1930s. Hamas’s military wing is named after him (‘The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades’) as are the crude Kassam rockets often fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers in the south of the country.
Dozens of local Muslims subsequently gathered at Nesher’s cemetery, where the local mayor and security forces calmed tensions by ordering the grave cleaned of the offensive graffiti, Army Radio reported.
Meanwhile thousands gathered in the Arab town of Fureidis — a victim of a similar attack earlier this week – to listen to a Friday sermon by Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the radical wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
Salah asserted that the identities of the ‘price tag’ perpetrators were known to police and accused law enforcement officials of failing to act against them.
“We will not take this quietly and don’t test the wrath of Muslims,” Salah said to what Channel 10 reported were around 4,000 people. “Those who play with fire will get burned.”
Friday’s vandalism followed a week of similar attacks against Muslims in the north. Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Thursday authorities have made progress in their investigation of the cases. Arrests are likely to be made sometime in the next few days, which will lead to indictments, he told Channel 2.
According to the police, he added, the suspects are “extremist, right-wing Jews” from West Bank settlements — “individual activists” who do not represent an organized group.
A US global terror report on Wednesday for the first time included the so-called ‘price tag’ attacks, politically motivated vandalism, often targeting Palestinians and their property, with their trademark Hebrew graffiti.
The State Department’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism cited UN figures of some “399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage.”
The phrase ‘price tag’ is used by a small group of Jewish extremists to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government’s pro-Palestinian policies. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by nationalist vandals in recent years. The acts have been condemned by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum.
On Sunday, a vehicle belonging to an Arab contractor was defaced in the Lower Galilee city and the words “price tag” — accompanied by a picture of a Star of David — were etched on its exterior. Two of the vehicle’s tires were slashed as well. On the same day an Acre school was vandalized, with the words “Death to Arabs” and graffiti against the school’s administration spray-painted across a wall in the building.
In Fureidis, residents on Tuesday woke up to a vandalized mosque and dozens of car tires slashed. Residents held a demonstration on Tuesday night against the vandalism and President Shimon Peres spoke with Yonis Meree, the head of the Fureidis local council, to apologize for the attack.
The violence continued Wednesday, with vandals slashing the tires of a vehicle belonging to an Arab contractor parked in the northern city of Yokne’am and daubing it with the price tag slogan and a Star of David.
Knesset opposition head Isaac Herzog (Labor), in a visit to Fureidis on Wednesday, said that the attacks against the Arab population are terrorism and are opposed by the whole of Israeli society.
“I came here today not as the opposition or the coalition, but because all of the Israeli people are appalled and outraged at the terrible and unacceptable Price Tag phenomenon,” Herzog said as he viewed first-hand the damage in Fureidis and spoke with local residents.
“It is terror. I say that to the legal system and to anyone who is trying to fan the flames on the basis of religious belief.”
MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra’am-Ta’al) said Wednesday he intends to introduce new legislation that will allow Price Tag victims to be compensated by the state as terror victims, Israel Radio reported.
Stuart Weiner, AFP and AP contributed to this report.