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Jaffa Calm After Anti-Arab Vandals Strike Cemetery

Jaffa was quiet on Sunday following a tense weekend in which vandals spray-painted slogans such as “Death to Arabs” in two cemeteries – one Muslim and one Christian – and hurled a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino sought an urgent meeting with the leaders of Jaffa’s Muslim and Christian communities on Sunday, and the meeting was quickly set for that evening in Jaffa. By the time it occurred, police had also learned about similar graffiti in nearby Bat Yam, along with new slogans such as “There will be no Arabs on Maccabi Haifa” (a soccer team) and “Death to Russians.” But Bat Yam residents say this graffiti is more than two weeks old.

Police said that ever since last week’s torching of a mosque in Tuba-Zangaria, in northern Israel, they have been receiving reports of hate-graffiti from all over the country.

Prior to their meeting with Danino, Jaffa leaders met among themselves to formulate a list of demands they planned to present to him with the goal of bolstering security in the city. They agreed that the city’s Arabs felt threatened, and some even said they feared Arabs would soon be attacked en route to prayers at local mosques.

Danino prepared by receiving a briefing on the investigation from Tel Aviv and Jaffa police officers. The police’s current thinking is that even though one of the spray-painted slogans was “price tag,” a phrase usually associated with right-wing extremists, the vandalism was not ideologically motivated, but was rather the work of local hoodlums, possibly soccer fans.

Danino opened his meeting with Jaffa’s leaders by telling them, “I was born in Jaffa and spent much time there as a child. I’m very familiar with the city’s coexistence and fabric of life.”

He then said the force has have recently been working to “bolster policing and service in Arab communities.”

“We view the incident that took place here as a grave one,” he said. “The incident will be dealt with at the highest level; we’ll make every effort to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Our top people will be devoted to this matter. I ask the community to continue to aspire to coexistence and a shared life while upholding law and order.”

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