Ultra-Orthodox man arrested in connection to Latrun Monastery vandalism

DANIEL K. EISENBUD, REUTERS – 1/7/13

22-year-old suspected in last year’s ‘price tag’ attack; PM condemns attack, says perpetrator threatens religious freedom.

An ultra-Orthodox man was arrested Sunday for a September price-tag attack on a 19th-century Christian monastery in the West Bank, allegedly carried out in solidarity with other nationalistic Jewish settlers, police said Monday.

Graffiti left on the Latrun Monastery by the suspect referred to Migron, an unauthorized settler outpost evacuated by the Israeli government last year. The words “Jesus is a monkey” were also painted in Hebrew on a wall, and the monastery’s doors then set ablaze.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the unidentified 22-year-old from Bnei Brak, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish town near Tel Aviv, was arrested on Sunday. He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

The crime was promptly condemned in September by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu , who said the perpetrators had threatened freedom of religion and must be punished.

Netanyahu has become increasingly concerned by escalating “price-tag” vandalism by Jewish nationalists who want to “exact a price” by vandalizing the property of Israeli authorities and Palestinians, whom they blame for trying to curb settler activity.

Indeed, Netanyahu recently signaled a significant crackdown on price-tag attacks by empowering Israeli security forces to investigate, detain and interrogate suspects more aggressively, using measures akin to the handling of Palestinian terrorists.

Sunday’s arrest came in the wake of numerous attacks in Arab communities in recent months, including two major incidents within the past couple weeks where dozens of cars were vandalized in Abu Ghosh, west of the capital, and Beit Hanina, in northern Jerusalem.

The vandalism has mostly focused on property in the Palestinian Authority, including vehicles, homes and mosques, but is occasionally targeted toward Christian churches and Arab sites in Israel, resulting in some fearing a third intifada.

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