As I’ve mentioned before, this column is generally the last thing written before an issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin goes to press, so I often use this space to comment on issues of concern that are in the news while being as up-to-date as is possible when we have to go press 10 days before the official publication date and about a week before the issue begins to arrive in subscribers’ mailboxes.
The two news stories that have dominated my attention as we worked on this issue have been the federal election campaign here in Canada and the terrible wave of terrorism in Israel.
As I write, we are three days away from the October 19 election day. While the votes will have been counted by the time you read this, we can only look at the opinion polls – which may or may not reflect what actually happens at the only polls that ultimately count – and speculate on what will happen and who will form the next government. I expect to have more to say in our next issue on what did happen when we voted.
The latest wave of terrorism has been brutal – at least seven innocent Israelis have been murdered in terrorist attacks in recent days – and so utterly senseless in that the terrorists, many of whom seem to be lone wolves attacking independently, have been inspired, as Barbara Crook notes in her My Israel column, by absolutely false lies and rumours that Israel will seize control or even destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim holy place built on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem.
These rumours are not new. When the Second Intifada was launched in 2000, it was said to be in response to a visit to the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon and his plan to seize control of the Muslim holy place. It turned out, of course, that PLO leader Yasser Arafat
had long planned the Intifada.
Then, as now, Israel has been unequivocal that the Al-Aqsa Mosque will remain under the control of the Jordanian Muslim Waqf, as it has since Israel captured eastern Jerusalem from Jordan in the Six-Day War of 1967 and reunited the city.
While much of this latest wave of terrorism has been propagated by so-called lone wolves – some of them very young teenagers – they have been egged on by the highest levels of the Palestinian leadership. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeated the claim that Israel would take control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and has even followed in Arafat’s footsteps by denying the historical existence of the Jewish Temples.
In what was perhaps his most obscene moment of incitement, Abbas took to Palestinian TV on October 14 to claim that Ahmed Mansara, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, was executed “in cold blood” by Israel.
In fact, Mansara, who was filmed stabbing a Jewish man in Jerusalem, was injured when hit by a car as he attempted to flee the scene of his crime and was recovering well in an Israeli hospital.
Two days later, an unnamed official in Abbas’ office tried to walk back the claim saying Abbas had been misled before making the execution claim. So far, though, Abbas himself has remained silent.
In a speech at Harvard University on October 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank for the terrorism.
Of course, history tells us that Palestinian terrorism against Israel began years before there was ever an Israeli settlement, and that terrorism from Gaza only increased in the years after Israel shut down its settlements there. The next day, the U.S. State Department walked back Kerry’s statements, suggesting what he meant was the settlements pose an impediment to achieving a two-state solution.
There is never any possible justification for terrorism. In fact, terrorism is always counter-productive as no government (of any country) can allow its citizens to live under such threats for long. The quest for a just peace, for a viable two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, is always set back by such violence.
Let us hope there will soon be a return to calm and that the quest for real peace will resume.