BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A recent wave of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and church property in Israel has prompted community leaders to express outrage at the culture of impunity and growing extremism which allow attacks to go unpunished.
On Friday, vandals spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on a Jerusalem church, one of at least a dozen attacks in the past two months by Jewish extremists who have also set fire to mosques, slashed tires of Palestinian cars, and vandalized church property and religious cemeteries.
The pope's visit to the Holy Land on May 25 has increased attention surrounding the incidents, but Palestinian religious and community leaders say hate crimes targeting Palestinians have always existed, and are in some cases encouraged by Israeli government policy.
"The (Israeli) government is not doing enough; with all these attacks we didn't see any arrests. We fear there is a political cover-up from parties in Israel who don't want the incidents to be exploited," Rev. Jamal Khader, spokesman for the pope's visit to Palestine, told Ma'an.
Khader says that there is most likely no link between the increase in attacks and the pope's visit, but he worries that impunity for incidences of vandalism will eventually lead to more serious crimes against Palestinians.
"If they create this wave of hatred the next move will be attacking people. We should not wait until they translate into physical attacks against clergy and local Christians." more