A fiery leaflet disseminated by Muslims in Nazareth against the Pope’s scheduled visit next month has Israeli police concerned they could riot during the visit.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive in Nazareth in another three weeks and tensions in the city can be easily seen.

The Shihab a-Din Mosque, known as the “mosque of contention” between Christians and Muslims because of the work-cessation order on the mosque issued by Israel against the its plans to erect a 325-foot tall minaret overshadowing the Church of the Annunciation in the late 1990s, is where the leaflet originated. The mosque is located adjacent to the church and is where the Pope is scheduled to say Mass.

Young Muslim worshipers recently handed out the leaflet following Friday prayers held in the courtyard adjacent to the church.

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The leaflet attacks the Pope for statements he made about Islam and Muhammad during a lecture he gave in Germany more than two years ago. In the talk, he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Muhammad had only brought inhuman and evil things into the world. The Pope subsequently apologized for how his statements were understood.

“We announce from Nazareth that we are oppose to the Pope’s visit. A person who cursed the prophet, who stood at the head of the effort to convert Muslims in Darfur, Indonesia and the Muslim world, attacked Islam, praised America and drew near and fraternized with the butcher of Gaza-is unwanted here,” the pamphlet reads.

The supporters of the leaflet also voiced their opinions about those Muslims who intended to participate in any reception for the head of the Catholic Church.

“The mayor and his deputy will receive the Pope, but no sheikh or imam will dare do that – only crooks who disguise themselves as Muslims,” said one Islamic activist “When someone curses my father, I’m not willing to accept that, so I certainly won’t accept it when they curse the prophet.”

However, to place matters in perspective, this group represents a small minority among the Muslim population of Nazareth. Most of the residents are pleased with the flourishing economy and the flood of tourists and look forward to the Pope’s arrival.

Still, the Northern District of the Israeli Police is not taking the matter lightly.

Operation White Cape, the codename for the police operation for the Papal visit, is ready for all eventualities.

“The State of Israel cannot afford to be disgraced with respect to the Pope,” said one Israel Northern District Police officer. “So we are monitoring all developments.”

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.