so, who shows respect for whom?

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 2, 2003
    Editorial: The other illegal outpost

    At long last the police yesterday managed to uphold the law and demolish the foundations for a particularly gigantic mosque whose illicit construction was under way directly in front of Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation, one of Christendom's holiest sites.

    The demolition was planned like a military operation, for fear that it would inflame tempers and breed extremist ferment. Some Israeli Arabs are already agitated over the trial of leaders of the Islamic Movement's northern branch for funneling funds to Hamas, and Wakf equivocation over visits by Jews to Temple Mount - albeit in small groups and without fanfare.

    Nevertheless, no major confrontation erupted.

    Fears that police action would spark riots were among the reasons that grossly illegal construction was not nipped in the bud earlier. Nazareth Muslims all but explicitly threatened that any move against the mosque would provoke violence. The law enforcement authorities were in a sense held hostage by brazen extortionists abetted by political considerations.

    During his premiership, Ehud Barak tolerated Muslim church-front squatters to avoid losing the residue of Arab support he still commanded. Inaction produced Christian indignation. The Vatican in particular was incensed at the government's cavalier neglect of so holy a site. And the Vatican had a point.

    The Jewish state could ill-afford to be exposed as incompetent in its role as guardian of the Holy Land.

    Besides the ramifications to Judeo-Christian relations, this would have immeasurably emboldened the mockery of the law by Muslim fanatics. Their contempt for the faith of others was already amply demonstrated by their wanton destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount.

    What happened in Nazareth was of the same mold. It was not merely another case of unlicensed construction among numerous unlawful Arab buildings within the Green Line. It was not even like a Jewish settler's "unauthorized" caravan in the wilderness.

    With truly colossal gall, Deputy Mayor Salman Abu-Ahmed began calling Nazareth "a holy Muslim city." He sought to overshadow and dwarf the basilica with a mosque of unusually large proportions and no less than four minarets, calculated to dominate the Nazareth skyline and tower well above any visible crosses. The symbolic significance cannot be exaggerated. Given the illegal project's location, it could be considered nothing but a provocation, unfortunately not a unique one.

    Nazareth's Christian population is dwindling and has been turned into a hounded minority, after the Bethlehem model. In both cases, the culprits are fundamentalist Muslim extremists. While some Christians harbor no inhibitions in blaming Israel, almost no murmur of protest is uttered against the Islamist expansionism in both holy cities, presumably for fear that this would only make things worse for beleaguered Christians.

    Christian emigration is considerable. Trying to survive, Christians keep a low profile. They strive to give no offense and toe an extremist Arab line to evince loyalty. The silence of Arab Christian communities in the face of the recent desecration of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity by Muslim terrorists who invaded it is a case in point. Israel was condemned for seeking to remove the terrorists, but the violent squatters were not denounced. Intolerant Muslims are feared, tolerant Jews are not.

    Israel is hard put to demonstrate its deterrence and reliability, given its lackadaisical law enforcement in the Arab sector, where state sovereignty is being compromised. The police are frequently reluctant to enter Arab communities, even if this means turning a blind eye to serious crimes.

    We are not doing Israeli Arabs a favor by our absence. Shortsighted avoidance of conflict breeds lawlessness, both political and criminal. Middle-class Arab families in Triangle towns complain of increasing difficulty in keeping youngsters on the straight and narrow because of police absence. In Beersheba's suburbs, Jewish residents have begun openly paying Beduin crime bosses protection money, just to keep them from burglarizing homes and terrorizing otherwise tranquil neighborhoods. The police have long stopped pretending they offer anything approaching safety to residents of Omer, Lehavim, and Metar.

    In the face of all this, the police should be congratulated for having at least done its most basic duty in Nazareth.

    It is dangerous to give impudent offenders, especially those acting in the name of a fanatical political-religious cause, the impression that they can get away with anything. For years now, this had been the case in Nazareth and on the Temple Mount, to which journalists and visitors of all faiths should be be given full access. Exercising a minimal level of sovereignty and protecting the innocent from thuggery is not provocative, giving in to threats of violence is.

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