Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennet has unfairly accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence and laid the blame for Wednesday’s terrorist attack in the holy city of Jerusalem squarely on the shoulders of the Palestinian Authority leader. The attack occurred when a Palestinian man drove his vehicle into a group of pedestrians and cars at a light rail station on Wednesday, killing one Israeli and injuring at least a dozen others. As usual, rather than focus on the real reasons behind the ongoing violence and rioting within Jerusalem, Israeli officials have seized the chance to heap as much slander as they can upon their Palestinian counterparts in the hours following the attack.
The driver, according to an Israeli spokesman, was identified as Ibrahim al-Akari, who was in his early 50’s and lived in the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. According to witnesses, the man rammed into a group of pedestrians and cars before he exited the vehicle and attacked police and bystanders with an iron bar. He was shot and killed by police.
The reaction of Israeli officials to the attack has been unfair at best and, at worst, outrageous as they continue to lay the blame for every incident within Jerusalem directly on the Palestinian government. Bennet, as usual, was perhaps the most outspoken, accusing Abbas of being “the driver in the car of death” throughout Jerusalem and labeling all terrorists as his “emissaries.” Minister Danny Danon stated that Abbas had encouraged this attack by sending a letter of condolence to the family of the man who shot Jewish activist Yehuda Glick last week.
The accusations that Abbas is to blame for the attack in Jerusalem and the obvious belief of Israeli officials that they are perfectly innocent is completely out of touch with the reality of the situation. Violence and rioting within the city has been increasing by the day, especially in the city’s eastern reaches, where hundreds of Arabs are being forced from their homes as Israel continues to approve the construction of new settlements for Jewish families. The driver of the car that killed three-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun two weeks ago lived in the Silwan neighborhood, one of the many areas of Jerusalem that has become a focal point for violence after Israeli settlers evicted families from 25 apartments in September. Al-Akari was also from east Jerusalem.
Israel’s move to block access to the Temple Mount last week did little to help the situation and only incited more violence. The move was condemned by Abbas, who labelled it a virtual “declaration of war,’ leading to Israel quickly succumbing to massive international pressure and reopening the site the following day. The brief closure, however, was enough to fuel Arab anger even further.
These actions prove that Israel, though it is quick to seize any opportunity to blame Palestinian officials the moment an incident occurs, truly has no interest in the pursuit of a peaceful solution between the two states. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated this even further when he called an emergency meeting of the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee earlier this week, which subsequently approved the construction of another 500 new apartments in east Jerusalem.
Despite its continued antagonism and its aggressive policy of expansion in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel still acts as if Palestine is the real instigator. In response to this latest attack in Jerusalem, officials have called for increased security and harsher punishments against rioters and rock-throwers. Israel, it seems, has already forgotten the fact that Palestinians are angry and violent because they are being forced from their homes. Instead of actively pursuing the process of peace like it has promised to do by halting construction within Jerusalem and allowing Arabs to simply exist, Israeli officials are calling for the increased punishment of those who are fighting simply because their rights as human beings have been challenged.
It is hard to believe that Israeli officials can so easily accuse Abbas of inciting the terrorist actions of al-Akira and every other Palestinian who has been driven into violence by its aggressive methods of colonial expansion. They continue to blame him nonetheless, perhaps hoping that they will appear as the victims instead of the real instigators of a humanitarian crisis that has gone on far too long and only appears to be growing worse.
Opinion by Mathew Channer