Settler rabbis give Korans to vandalised West Bank mosque

BEIT FAJJAR, Marco Longari - Six settler rabbis on Tuesday delivered a box of Korans to a West Bank mosque which had been torched by vandals, in an unusual peace gesture welcomed by Palestinians.
The delegation was led by Rabbi Menahem Froman, a founder of Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace), a small group of West Bank settlers who have reached out to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to pursue peaceful coexistence.

They brought around a dozen copies of the Muslim holy book on a solidarity visit to the mosque in Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem the day after unidentified vandals spray-painted Hebrew insults on its walls and set it alight.
Witnesses said the pre-dawn attack was carried out by men who appeared to be Jewish settlers and who were driving a car with Israeli licence plates. The Israeli military and police said they were investigating.
Several hundred Palestinians cheered as the rabbis arrived in two armoured Land Rovers accompanied by Israeli soldiers.
They were met by the mosque's imam and Bethlehem governor Abdul Fatah Hamayel, who gave them a tour of the damaged mosque and showed them the remains of several Korans which were burnt in the blaze.
"We welcome the Jews to Beit Fajjar so they can see with their own eyes the crime that was committed in this mosque, which was against humanity and against religion," Hamayel told reporters.
"We welcome this delegation which is bringing a message of peace," he said.
After talking with residents and examining the damage, Froman, who comes from the nearby Tekoa settlement, held hands with a Muslim cleric as they both raised copies of the Koran in the air.
"My belief is in peace and in God," the white-bearded rabbi told reporters.
"Those who act against peace act against God. God will defeat those who do things like this."
Palestinians at the event expressed a similar sentiment.
"We are all from the same family and we must live as good neighbours," said Abed Farajallah, a Palestinian from the southern West Bank town of Idhna.
The attack came at a tense time, with peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on hold over Israel's resumption of settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak dubbed the arson a "terrorist" attack aimed at hurting the chances for peace and dialogue with the Palestinians.
Washington too spoke out against the desecration of the mosque.
"We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
Hardline Jewish settlers have been known to pursue what they call a "price tag" policy under which they attack Palestinians or their property whenever the Israeli government takes measures to curb settlement construction.
Over the last year, there have been several attacks on mosques in the West Bank, with the perpetrators scrawling Hebrew grafitti on the walls and sometimes setting the buildings on fire.
The Palestinians view the presence of some 500,000 Israelis in scores of settlements across the occupied West Bank, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, as a major impediment to the establishment of their promised state.
They have threatened to abandon peace talks that were relaunched on September 2 if Israel does not go back on its decision to resume building in the settlements.
The international community views all the settlements as illegal.

Wednesday, October 6th 2010
Marco Longari

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