An arson attack on a Palestinian home on July 31 in Duma that killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and injured three other family members brought Jewish and Muslim leaders together on Monday to pray for the victims.
Ahmad Dawabsha, Ali’s 4-year-old brother, and his parents, Saad and Reham, are in critical condition with third degree burns and are being treated at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center.
A delegation of Jewish and Muslim leaders, led by former Israeli government minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, Rabbi Rafi Feurstein and Rabbi David Stav gathered outside the hospital’s Pediatric Critical Care Unit to pray for Ahmad. Senior members of the Islamic Movement were also present along with Rabbi Aryeh Stern, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
The group met with Ahmad’s grandfather and reiterated their solidarity with the family. “We represent many rabbis and none of us are willing to stand silent in the face of such a desperate act of evil,” Rabbi Stern told him, according to a press release.
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinic Organization and Chief Rabbi of the Israeli town of Shoham, said his message to Ahmad’s grandfather was one of condolence as well as remorse.
“We believe we have the right to live in the land of Israel, but we don’t want to pay the price of killing and burning a child in order to fulfill that vision of living in Israel,” Stav told The Huffington Post.
Stav condemned the attack, saying the perpetrators had damaged the international community’s view of Israel and the legitimacy of the country’s settlements.
“The biggest damage that could be done to the settlements in Judea and Samaria is killing innocent children,” Stav said. “We were so proud that Jews were not the enemy, but that image was destroyed a little bit in this terrible event.”
The Dawabsha family’s brick and cement home was destroyed in Friday’s fire, and a Jewish Star of David was spray-painted on a wall beside the words “revenge” and “long live the Messiah.” Authorities also found the words “price tag” on the walls, referencing a term used by radical Israeli settlers to denote attacks on Palestinians in response to the Israeli government’s attempts to evacuate illegal West Bank outposts.
The arson attack sparked clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops during which one 17-year-old Palestinian youth, Laith Fadel Khaldi, was shot and killed. Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement, was quoted by the AFP as saying the arsonattack “makes the occupier’s soldiers and settlers legitimate targets everywhere.”
Israeli authorities arrested Meir Ettinger, grandson of U.S.-born ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, on Monday in a crackdown on Jewish extremism in the wake of Friday’s attack. The Shin Bet security agency said the 23-year-old was arrested for “involvement in an extremist Jewish organization” but did not mention whether he was a suspect.
Jewish leaders and commentators around the world have condemned the arson attack, as well as the stabbing that occurred the following day at Jerusalem’s gay pride festival. Both incidents shine a light on the extremist strains that exist in Israel and which many Jews want to distance themselves from.
“How men who consider themselves religious Jews can so grossly violate the core principles of the Jewish religion is beyond me,” wrote Rabbi Jason Miller in a blog on HuffPost following the attacks.
It is both shocking and embarrassing that these extremists cite my Torah as the blueprint for their brutality. If we Jewish people are to call on Muslims to rail against Islamic extremism, then we in the Jewish community must heed our own call.
Stav emphasized that Jews and Muslims must work together to heal the rift between Israelis and Palestinians. The infant’s death may have had one silver lining, he said, by bringing leaders together across religious lines to realize the human costs of the conflict.
“We have to realize we were sent by God to live in this land together and that nobody is going to disappear in this next couple of years,” he said. “We have no choice but to think and sit down together.”
An ultra-Orthodox Jew who was convicted a decade ago of stabbing people at a gay pride parade here repeated the crime on Thursday, this time wounding six people at the same event, witnesses and officials said.
The man, Yishai Schlissel, had been paroled only three weeks ago after his 12-year sentence for stabbing three other people and was well known in Israel for that, leading immediately to questions about why officials hadn’t been better prepared to prevent it.
The parade began, as it has every year for 13 years, with a cheerful, mellow gathering at Independence Park, across from the U.S. Consulate here, which adorned its outside wall with a banner reading “#Love Wins: The U.S. Consulate General proudly supports your right to love and live with dignity.” Scattered about were circles of drummers, crafts stands offering “pride body painting” and flags with the Star of David imposed upon the multicolored gay pride logo.
Minutes after marchers left the park for King George V street, one of Jerusalem’s principal arteries, Mr. Schlissel emerged from an alleyway and stabbed the six marchers.
A number of passersby subdued Mr. Schlissel during his attack before police arrived and arrested him. The attack left two people in critical condition—a female border police officer who was on duty and a 17-year-old girl. The others received light to moderate injuries and are being treated in two Jerusalem hospitals. After the attack, the march proceeded as planned.
Since his prison release, Mr. Schlissel has used numerous ultra-Orthodox online forums and WhatsApp groups to declare his intent to attack participants at the next gay pride parade.
In an interview after the event, Jerusalem police chief Chico Edry said the police had “no knowledge” of his intentions. He said Mr. Schlissel hadn’t been summoned by the police since his release or warned to keep away from the parade. Police weren’t immediately available to comment further.
Gay community leaders and parade participants accused Mr. Edry of overseeing a failure of intelligence.
Nick Kaufman, the Jerusalem prosecutor who prosecuted Mr. Schlissel in 2005, said on Thursday that “Schlissel argued he was divinely motivated. I was of the opinion that he was impulsively dangerous and the 12-year sentence imposed on him was an insufficient deterrent.”
Politicians of all stripes condemned the attack, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said from a visit in New York that it represented “an attack against a community, against the very special texture of Jerusalem and against the entire state.”
Economy Minister Arye Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, told Israel Army Radio, “It is a terrible thing, terrible.” Speaking as the event was still under way and ambulance sirens could be heard in the background, he added, “Nothing justifies violence.”
Asked by a reporter if he stood by his statement about a previous Jerusalem gay pride parade as being a “march of abomination,” Mr. Deri said that “followers of the Torah know the difference between words that condemn something we cannot approve of and an unspeakable act against innocent people.”
Sabi Shajylan, an antiquities dealer who attended a solidarity rally in Tel Aviv, said “this attack is a direct consequence the ongoing incitement in the ultra-Orthodox communities. Its the fruit of that tree.”
Although Israel doesn’t allow gay religious marriages, it recognizes same-sex unions. Major national institutions, including the Israeli army and all universities, don’t discriminate against gays, who enjoy the universal rights.
Wednesday’s stabbings in Tel Aviv left at least nine people wounded. Any upsurge in violence could impact Israel’s parliamentary elections due in March, and politicians, including Netanyahu, were quick to respond.
A young Palestinian man from the West Bank stabbed at least nine Israelis Wednesday in an attack that began on a bus here during morning rush hour. It was the first attack on a Tel Aviv bus since Israel’s 2012 war with Hamas.
The stabbings recalled a string of violent attacks in October and November that were mainly centered in Jerusalem but also included the fatal Nov. 10 knifing of a soldier at a Tel Aviv train station. Those attacks ratcheted up criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from rival politicians, undermining a reputation for being tough on terrorism that had already been damaged by last summer’s Gaza war.
Any upsurge in violence is likely to impact Israel’s March 17 election, analysts said. Though violence usually strengthens parties advocating a hard line toward the Palestinians, it could also threaten Mr. Netanyahu.
It weakens the prime minister’s credibility,’’ says Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for the Haaretz newspaper. “The first duty of the prime minister is to provide security.”
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A Hamas leader, Izzat al-Risheq, a member of the militant organization’s political bureau, praised the attack as “heroic” but did not take responsibility.
Netanyahu and his political rivals on the Israeli right, meanwhile, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, lined up to accuse Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of responsibility.
“The terror attack in Tel Aviv is the direct result of the poisonous incitement spread in the Palestinian Authority against Jews and their country,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The same terrorism tries to attack us in Paris, in Brussels and everywhere.”
Attacker shot and arrested
The alleged attacker, identified as Hamza Muhammad Hassan Matrouk of Tulkarem, who police said had entered Israel illegally, fled the bus and was later shot by security officers and arrested. Five commuters, including the bus driver, were wounded in the attack and were taken to the hospital in moderate to critical condition. Four others suffered light injuries.
The attack occurred at around 7:20 a.m., shortly after the suspect boarded the bus and started attacking the driver and other passengers. Witnesses travelling behind the bus knew something was wrong when it suddenly started to swerve and abruptly stopped. Passengers then ran away in panic.
“The bus driver fought with the terrorist and tried to resist the attack,” said the Tel Aviv district police chief, Bentzi Sau.
Shlomo Machdad, who works at a shop nearby, said he saw victims fleeing the bus after it stopped at a busy intersection. He said one person had been stabbed in the chest.
A team of prison guards who happened to be traveling behind the bus fired in the air and then pursued the attacker, who managed to stab one pedestrian before being shot and arrested on a side street a few hundred yards away. Minutes later, police shut down the intersection with red police tape and ambulances rushed to local hospitals with the wounded.
Netanyahu was first elected in 1996 after a string of deadly bus bombings by Palestinian groups undermined support for then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres of the Labor party.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s leading election rival on the left, Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog, used the stabbing to criticize the government.
“Israeli citizens don’t have a feeling of security today – neither in Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip perimeter, or in Tel Aviv,’’ Mr. Herzog wrote on his Facebook page. “That reality must change.”
Demands are growing in Germany for the prosecution of protesters in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities who led anti-Semitic chants and incited violence against Jews over Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
“We cannot and should not let this go,” Frankfurt city councillor and head of the local CDU faction Uwe Becker said in comments reported on Wednesday by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
The CDU has now filed formal complaints of anti-Semitism and incitement of the people against participants in a rally on Friday who led anti-Israeli chants, Becker said.
The head of the FDP Liberal Party faction in the Hesse parliament also demanded that the state’s interior minister, Peter Beuth, take action against protesters in Frankfurt who overstepped legal bounds of freedom of expression.
“Regardless of all strategies to de-escalate the situation, do not allow slogans of incitement that hark back to the darkest hours of our history to echo in Hesse,” the deputy head of Frankfurt’s FDP branch, Wolfgang Greilich, wrote to the minister.
Merkel speaks out
Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged the country’s 200,000-strong Jewish community her unwavering support, a government spokesman said.
“The chancellor and the entire German government condemn the anti-Semitic remarks made at pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli demonstrations in Germany in the strongest terms,” Georg Streiter told reporters.
“These outbursts are an attack on freedom and tolerance and an attempt to shake the foundations of our free and democratic system. We cannot and will not tolerate this,” said Streiter, adding that any violence against Jewish people or institutions would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In Berlin, there were also calls for legal action after Danish citizen Abu Bilal Ismail, an imam from a mosque in Copenhagen, used an appearance at a mosque in the Neukölln district on Friday to pray for the death of Jews.
CDU parliamentarian Burkard Dregger has filed a complaint of incitement against Ismail with the city police. “Such people who call for violence are not welcome in our country,” the politician told the Berliner Zeitung.
The mayor of Neukölln, Heinz Buschkowsky, said there was only one adequate response to the actions of the imam: “[Send him] back across the border with a ban on re-entering the country,” he said.
In a video posted online, Ismail is seen imploring, “Oh Allah, destroy the Zionist Jews … Count them and kill them to the very last one. Don’t spare a single one of them.”
Despite the taped comments, he later insisted he was referring only to “Jews who have killed people in Gaza.”
In street demonstrations in Berlin, crowds of pro-Palestinian protesters also shouted “Death to Israel” and “Zionists are fascists, killing children and civilians”.
Anti-Semitic slogans are illegal in Germany, where atonement for the Nazi killing of some six million European Jews in the Holocaust is a cornerstone of the post-war order.
The calls for action were echoed by a senior police officer and professor of law who oversees the police in three of the city’s districts.
‘Police must respond’
“The police must take action,” Michael Knape told the Tagesspiegel newspaper, adding that the slogans shouted were “right on the border of incitement”.
Public safety was a “central guarantor of the right to assembly”, and since the conduct of the protesters had caused fear among people, legal action was justified. But Knape denied that police in the capital had been lax in enforcing the law during the protests.
In a telephone conversation with German President Joachim Gauck, the leader of the country’s Jewish community, Dieter Graumann, said he had discussed events of recent days and the fear they had created.
“Many members of our community are very shaken, worried and absolutely shocked by the worst anti-Jewish slogans that some out-of-control crowds have shouted, calling for Jews to be ‘gassed’, ‘burned’ and ‘slaughtered’,” Graumann said in a statement after the call. Gauck told him he took Jewish fears “very seriously”.
In Mainz, ex-parliamentarian and former head of the German-Israeli Society, Johannes Gerster, filed charges against the leader of a demonstration on Friday at which participants chanted inflammatory slogans.
The actions of the 1,500 mainly Palestinian demonstrators exceeded legally permissible bounds, said Gerster, who is a lawyer.
The leader of the protest, Fatih Bayram, had “whipped up hatred and called for violence and arbitrary actions against Israel and Jews in Germany, and thereby disturbed the peace in our country,” he told the Allgemeine Zeitung.
Russia‘s pledge to deliver anti-aircraft missiles to Damascus at a time when world powers are trying to end Syria‘s civil war is consistent with a pattern of using the weapons system as a bargaining chip in its power struggle with the West.
Russia has said it is committed to sell the S-300 surface-to-air missiles as a deterrent against foreign military intervention, under a contract struck in 2010 with President Bashar al-Assad.
But Western powers who are trying, along with Russia, to organise an international conference to end the 26-month-old conflict say such a delivery would be hugely counter-productive.
“No one knows if this conference will become a success, but it is the wrong message which has been sent by Russia to the world and to the region by delivering S-300 or other weapons,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Friday.
Secret WikiLeaks cables show that Russia has played this game before, in particular with the long-range S-300 that Israel, for one, sees as a “red line” threat to its airspace.
Russia’s determination to supply Syria mirrors an earlier commitment to Iran, though it long assured diplomats it had no intention of sending S-300s to either country, the cables show.
Russia was well aware of the “destabilising” effect of supplying weapons like the S-300 to the Middle East, one September 2008 cable quoted Viktor Simakov, Counselor for Israel and Palestine in Russia’s Foreign Ministry, as saying.
“Simakov reiterated that Russia understood very well Israel’s concern about either Syria or Iran obtaining the Iskander or S-300 missile systems,” the cable said.
Syria had upset Russia by allowing an earlier delivery of anti-tank missiles to fall into the hands of militant Islamist group Hezbollah, and Russia promised tighter “end user controls” in future.
Syria tried to obtain missiles in 2008 by offering to host Russia’s own missile defences on its territory, matching U.S. missile defences in Europe that Russia objects to. Although Russia did sign a contract in 2010, it did not then agree; Israel’s promise not to sell arms to Georgia during the Georgia-Russia war that August may have outweighed Syria’s offer.
Speculation was mounting in late 2008 that Russia was planning to honour its 2005 contract to supply S-300s to Iran. But Russian officials assured the U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow that the transfer would not be completed until Iran complied with its nuclear obligations, according to one cable.
But by early 2009, the sale looked like it was going to take place, and Washington asked six allied Middle Eastern countries to raise the issue immediately with Russia.
The move appeared to pay off, although then-U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle expected Russia to keep pressing the issue, for financial, political and foreign policy reasons.
The Iran sale was merely “frozen”, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told U.S. Senator Carl Levin in 2009, and hinted that Russia did not want to be challenged again.
“The less we hear from Washington about this, the better,” an April 2009 cable quoted Ryabkov as saying.
Russian officials told Amos Gilad, at that time head of the political-military bureau in Israel’s Ministry of Defence, that the missiles to Iran would not be delivered for political reasons.
“However, Gilad said the Russians would reassess this political calculation should the United States continue to pursue missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic,” said a cable dated July 30, 2009.
In the end, Russia scrapped the sale in 2010, and in what may have been a quid pro quo, the Israelis agreed to sell Russia surveillance drones that would narrow its technological military gap with Georgia.
“For better or for worse, the delivery of S-300’s have become a barometer of our bilateral relations,” Ambassador Beyrle wrote in 2009.
First came confirmation that the interview was on. We flew to the Qatari city of Doha.
And waited…And waited…Then we were given a day, then two hours notice – a location.
That is an area of the city and a time. No address – just initial directions to the general area.
We proceeded junction to junction; roundabout to roundabout, stopping to receive new directions at each way point.
A Mossad injection 15 years ago very nearly killed the man we were going to see. Three years ago another top Hamas official was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room by a group of Mossad agents dressed up as tennis-playing tourists on faked passports – including British ones.
So the Palestinian group Hamas, do not take chances. Elected to power in Gaza over, yet deemed “a terrorist organisation” by the US and the EU, Hamas remains committed to denying Israel’s right to exist and resisting Israel by force of arms.
We arrived at a villa after several calls for the next stage of directions. “So who owns this place then?”
“It is owned by a man,” came the reply from the genial man in charge of welcoming us to this safe house.
Several times the producer would ask the question, several times, exactly the same smiling reply. We hand in our mobile phones. We walk through an airport-style scanner. The film equipment is carefully, intimately, searched. Then tea, cakes, sweets and we wait.
Finally, the courtyard doors open again and Khaled Meshaal emerges from a 4×4 with guards. The boss of Hamas is with us.
Neatly trimmed beard, soft-spoken with a ready smile, careful to greet all our team and both cameramen with handshakes. Scrupulous not to neglect or ignore anybody in the room. The guards take up postions by the door and outside. Open- necked shirt, neat, dark jacket: the technocrat, fixer, pragmatist, very much intended look.
I start with Syria.
Hamas left Damascus in January last year, for Doha. Goodbye to his longtime friend and ally President Bashar al-Assad: “The military approach is wrong. It makes the crisis worse. It doesn’t solve anything,” he explains, “it only makes it more complicated. What we are witnessing today proves our advice was right.”
So advice to Assad to seek a political solution when it looked feasible. And now Hamas denies the accusations that it is supporting rebel Syrian groups like the Free Syrian Army.
“We do not interfere in Syrian internal affairs nor do we interfere in the Syrian Crisis and this is our policy towards the Arab Spring and all other Arab and non-Arab countries in the world,” he said.
“So when the British government wants to arm Syrian rebels they’re making a mistake?” I ask.
“Hamas policy is against any foreign intervention in our countries.This is our general principle. But at the same time we support the rights of people to freedom, democracy and reform and we are against the use of force and violence, massacres, and military options against them. We support people to win their rights, but we are against foreign intervention.
“The international community has been talking about this for months and I think there is a kind of deception going on, and that there is a hidden agenda from many international parties to prolong the Syrian crisis and destroy Syria. These parties do not want to see recovery for Syria…they use positive slogans but in reality their attitude identifies with the Israeli agenda of destroying Syria, more death, and prolonging the Syrian crisis.”
I ask: “In moving to Doha you are sending a clear message to Assad that he should go?”
“No no, this is not what we meant. We, as the leadership of Hamas, had to leave Damascus the moment we felt that our efforts to convince the Syrian leadership to choose a solution other than the military one failed. On the other hand, the Syrian leadership was not happy with Hamas’ political stance and also, I felt they wanted to put pressure or demand on us to stand by the official Syrian position and support the leadership in their military solution to the Syrian issue … this is why we did not feel then I could stay, so we left – circumstances forced itself on us, but if Assad goes or stays, that’s up to the Syrian people not to us,” is the reply.
“But you moved to Qatar,” I say, “which more than any other supports the rebels in Syria. You’ve betrayed a great friend in Bashar al-Assad and betrayed Iran.”
“I explained to you why we left and this not a betrayal of any one We did not mean to anger any party by our political position, we just stuck to our principles.”
But it’s clear the move has been difficult. Relations with Syria are strained to put it mildly. Qatar has long been the key sponsor of the uprising in Syria. The Emir recently visited Gaza, and as we speak Qatari money is rebuilding the ruins of Israeli bombing back in Gaza.
And then Israel itself.
Bizarrely Hamas and Israel may even find themselves close to being on the same side over Syria. Israel bombs, Hamas leaves Damascus and seeks refuge in the coutry supporting the rebels. How deep is the rift with Assad? If profound, then on the basis that my enemy’s enemy is my friend Hamas could be uncomfortably close to The Zionist Entity as they would have it:
“If you use this kind of description,” says Mr Meshal, “how can you explain the Israeli assault against us in Gaza months ago?
“The aggression that killed our great leader Ahmad Al-Jaabary after we left Syria. Israel looks after its own interest and has its own policy of assault no matter which country it’s assaulting, if it’s Lebanon or Syria or any other country in the World. Israel is our enemy.”
So does Hamas continue with its position of stating that Israel clearly exists de facto but has no legitimacy to exist in law?
“I am surprised that the world keeps concentrating on the recognition of Israel and its right to exist, while it is an existing state on the ground, occupying the land and expelling its people while practising all manner of killings, aggression and terror. In all civil and religious laws in the world, there is no legitimacy to any one who establishes themselves by means of violation and the seizure of land and the rights of others. Does the international community accept this equation?”
“So yes or no? Does Israel have the right to exist Mr Meshal?”
“You ask your question your way, so let me answer you in my way. I’m telling you, we are the real owners of the land. We have the right to live freely without occupation, settlements, aggression, prisons and Jewishisation of the land.The law I believe in and I think it’s the same for every human being in the world, not only the Arabs and all Muslims is that there is no legitimacy or future for occupation or aggression.”
I wondered if there were any circumstances in which he could conceive of shaking hands with the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu?
“Although the question is legitimate, how can I have peace with a killer like Netanyahu. Think logically. I am the Palestinian victim, my land is occupied, and my people are displaced. Netanyahu is waging war against my own people, and denies my rights, so why would the world expect me to shake his hand in the future? There was a historical handshake between Rabin and Arafat, God bless his soul, in the White House Garden when they signed Camp David Agreement, but what was the result? This hand, Arafat’s, the hand that shook Rabin’s hand was poisoned and killed by Rabin’s followers after that.”
He accuses Israel of somehow relishing concessions from Arabs in the Middle East for their own sake and here the historical self-image of Hamas is tellingly revealed.
“It’s a kind of sadism because it enjoys and relishes the Arab concessions. This is why the only answer to this situation is to take a rigid stance.
“You are in Britain and you are a respectable TV station. Why are the British proud of Churchill when he was dealing with Nazism when they occupied France and bombed Britain? Why did De Gaulle call for resistance to the German occupation of France from London? Why did he become a hero instead being criticised because of his lack of flexibility?”
With that, he takes his leave in a leisurely fashion. There are more talks with others in side the house before the guard shepherd him into the 4×4 and he leaves the house “owned by a man” and we can now retrieve our mobile phones and, after a suitable time has elapsed, leave the villa as well.
Within the last couple of weeks we all seen the Words of the ProphetsIsaiah besiege upon us.
We have seen changes in Egypt, uproars in Libya and now the Devastating earthquake in New Zealand, these are happenings that Isaiah told us about, words that was handed down from God.
The big question is how much do we believe in Gods word, and are we truly ready to honor him to the fullness of his words as God will not stop punishing us until we all repent of our sins.