Netanyahu’s burden of blame
LAST MONTH, ELEVEN Israeli Jews were killed and more than 100 injured in an epidemic of brutal attacks upon Jews throughout Israel. While there is no comfort to be gleaned from these outrages, they do send some clear messages that we ignore at our peril. There has been much media speculation as to whether the Arab perpetrators of these crimes were “lone wolves” — opportunistic villains — or whether they were willing participants in an orchestrated uprising. But this is the wrong question to ask. The facts are that these villains operated in an atmosphere of crude, brazen incitement against Jews (repeat, Jews), and that this incitement came — and continues to come — from within the Arab world and with the enthusiastic endorsement of a variety of Islamic religious leaderships.
We know, for example, that the killer of NehemiahLaviandAharonBennettintheOld City of Jerusalem on October 3 was encouraged by Arab passers-by to kill identifiable Jews. Shot dead by Israeli security personnel as he wentabouthismurderouswork,hehasbeen posthumously honoured by the Palestinian leadership by being buried with “holy soil” from the Al-Aqsa mosque, receiving an honorary law degree, and having a street named after him. We also know that Islamic social media are awash with exhortations to the faithful to kill Jews and to celebrate their killing, and that these exhortations invoke enthusiastic responses. For example, on October 25 it was reported that a Palestinian family in Gaza hadannouncedtheirnewbornsonwouldbe named “Knife of Jerusalem” — “It’s the least we can do,” the proud father declared, “to show solidarity with our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” A friend explained that the idea was his: “we were watching the music video ‘Lovers of Stabbing’ on TV, and I said: ‘How about Knife of Jerusalem?’”
The previous week, during the course of a Hamas Al-Aqsa TV interview, Dr Subhi Al-Yaziji, Dean of Quranic Studies at the Islamic University of Gaza, declared as follows: “All Jews in Palestine today are fair game — even the women… Every single Jew in Palestine is a combatant, even the children.” Terror attacks, he opined “should be carried out in the very heart of the enemy — in Haifa, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and Hadera.” And when asked if the rationale for these attacks was to be found in “the occupation” he calmly responded in the negative: women and even children were to be killed simply “because they’re Jews.” [For those of you who are interested, this interview can be found on the memri.org website]
Why were Jewish women and even Jewish children to be killed? The answer (as I’ve explained before in this column) is to be found in the religiously-inspired, anti-Jewish racism that pervades the Muslim world. It’s not “the occupation” that’s the issue. It’s not “the right of return.” It’s Jewish control over territory that was once part of the Dar al-Islam — the House (or Realm) of Islam. This is the grim but undeniable reality that my short-sighted academic colleagues who signed the infamous boycott statement published in last week’s Guardian would rather ignore. The quarrel is religious. It always was religious. And it always will be.
At the centre of this quarrel is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is only a Muslim holy place because it’s a Jewish holy place. In an attempt to placate international opinion, Israel’s prime minister recently declared that “Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.” On a pragmatic level, I understand why Netanyahu framed his statement this way. But what that statement amounts to is a denial of religious freedom to Jews and Christians. In other words, it’s appeasement pure and simple — made somewhat less unpalatable (I concur) by the agreement with Jordanian authorities to install security cameras on the Mount, which will hopefully allow Israel to monitor the area for terrorist activity.
‘‘Moderate’’ Arab states (I am thinking particularly of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) realise that Palestinian nationalism is little more than jihadism writ small. At this particular juncture, Israel benefits from their co-operation, especially in the face of the common threat that they face from Islamic State. But the banning of Christian and Jewish worship on the Temple Mount is almost certainly a breach of international law, for which Netanyahu must take responsibility.
The reality is that this quarrel will always be religious