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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo


"When a killer is freed, society as a whole assumes responsibility for the crime"

01/29/21: Shabbat Candle Lighting Time: 5.04 PM

The free world is in outrage mode at the sudden release of Daniel Pearl's murderer by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Omar Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil were all freed this week. They were charged with the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl, a Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter. To add insult to injury, their release came just days before the date of his murder - which took place on February 1st, 2002.

In reaction, Judea Pearl (Daniel's dad) said: "When a killer is behind bars, responsibility is absorbed by one deranged individual. When a killer is freed, society as a whole assumes responsibility for the crime. Today, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has handed an indictment to an entire nation, institutionally, culturally and morally, for one of the most horrific crime of the century, which forever will stain the moral standing of that nation. We urge the US Department of Justice to vigorously pursue a request for extraditing Omar Schiek to stand a trial in the US, and we hope Pakistan responds positively to such request, to rectify the injustice brought about today by two of the three judges".

Indeed, calls to extradite Daniel's alleged killers to the US are increasing in volume. I was pleased to see America's new Secretary of State Tony Blinken step in with a strong statement saying that America expects Pakistan to review all its legal options and that America would be looking into prosecuting the kidnappers for the "horrific crimes against an American citizen". The international community of course should immediately trigger no-fly lists of the kidnappers, a Red Notice for their arrest should they travel internationally and consider imposition of the Magnitsky Act against any state officials deemed complicit in undermining the legal process.

Since Daniel Pearl was murdered because of his Jewish faith, the nature and impact of this horrific killing cannot be underestimated. As I wrote in my column today in the National Post, we need to address antisemitism and violent Jewish hatred on its whole. While the world may be focused on white supremacism at this moment due to the Capitol riot on January 6th, 2021 - ignoring the antisemitism from the far left and radical Islam such as the one responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl, is a dangerous gambit (a link to my article is provided at the end of this report).

As we marked the 76th anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz and the world came together o International Holocaust Remembrance Day, its important to consider the hypocrisy we often see by nations in this regard. One cannot both say they stand up against antisemitism and for Holocaust remembrance, while looking the other way when Israel is attacked at the United Nations and the international community.

It took my strong letter on January 13th, 2021 to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Development Minister Karina Gould to get Canada to call out UNWRA over recent allegations that antisemitic and terrorism motivating textbooks were still being used in Palestinian classrooms. Minister Gould announced this week that she was "deeply concerned" that educational materials "contained references that violated UN values of human rights, tolerance, neutrality and nondiscrimination".

Holding UNWRA to account is a positive step. At the same time, I call on the Canadian government to immediately suspend any further financial transactions with UNWRA and the Palestinian Authority until a full review by Canadian officials on the ground can be implemented. If the allegations are true, UNWRA has breached its 2017 contract with the Canadian government and Canada therefore has every right to withhold its promised $90 million allocation.

While peace with the Palestinians is preferable, including a two state solution, the world community should not be strident in its approach to the Palestinians. After a 17 year term of a 4 year mandate President Abbas has finally declared there would be elections this coming spring. He has done this previously to gain footing with the west. Even while the Palestinians continue to fund the "pay for slay" program in which terrorists are rewarded for murdering Jews from the international aid money provided, the Biden administration is being criticized for rewarding this behaviour by re-opening the Palestinian mission in Washington D.C.

As disconcerting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this week "there is hope" for restarting the peace process. Referring to the previous US administration, Guterres said, "we were completely locked down in a situation in which there was no progress visible". This of course could not be further from the truth. The Trump administration did offer the Palestinians buckets of cash and an opportunity to reach an agreement with Israel - in what they called a "deal of the century".

The Palestinian Authority refused to even listen to the proposal. It has no intention of reaching a fair settlement with Israel. Meanwhile, it continues to incite its population into attacking Israelis as incidents of this nature continue to spike (a stabbing attempt occurred this week south of Nablus). At this week's UN Security Council meeting, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki called for a revival of the Quartet and called for an international peace conference. The Palestinian Authority knows very well that the international community is ready and willing to throw Israel under the bus, at any sign of weakness.

The Palestinian and the anti-Israel community take every opportunity to paint Israel bad. Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the Security Council on Tuesday: "I would like to shatter the latest blood libel being spread by the Palestinians - false and grotesque accusations about Israel's campaign to vaccinate its people....According to the international agreements, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the healthcare of its own population, just as it is responsible for their education system." The PA "informed Israel they intend to purchase vaccines from the Russian government and Israel has announced it will facilitate their transfer. These are the facts."

Meanwhile, the Middle East is becoming unstable by the day mainly due to the transfer of power in America. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi has been particularly vocal about discouraging the US to make a deal with Iran. He said the US must maintain all sanctions because Iran is now at its weakest and closest to making concessions. Most significantly, Kochavi publicly announced this week that he has ordered the IDF to come up with plans for a possible offensive action against Iran.

The war of words has begun and sabre rattling could prove dangerous for everyone involved. US Secretary of State Blinken said, "Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts. And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance in time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations. So we're not there yet." As Friday comes to a close, President Biden appointed Robert Malley as Chief Envoy to Iran. A member of the 2015 Iranian nuclear negotiation deal, he has often been accused of being too soft on Iran - and this has raised concern in the pro-Israel community.

Still, and with all things, I remain hopeful about the world around us. Yes, we are locked in because of Coronavirus. But good people and people of faith and integrity are reaching out to one another. Some are even making good and positive moves to eradicate antisemitism. This week, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the borough of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace became the first in Montreal to adopt the IHRA definition of Antisemitism.

Additionally, Canadian parliamentarians took a strong approach this week to unanimously "use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacist and hate groups" including the listing of the Proud Boys as a "terrorist entity". This is a step in the right direction in terms of possibly completely outlawing white supremacist and Nazi groups. At the same time, as my article of today in the National Post stated, authorities cannot ignore other forms of antisemitism, including from groups that promote the infamous Al Quds Day event and university groups that promote events like "Israeli Apartheid Week" and the BDS campaigns.

On the other hand, change is underway and in the Middle East, we are seeing people come closer and address Holocaust remembrance due to the progress made by the Abraham Accords. Extending ones hand, building bridges of understanding and collaboration, this will eventually undermine intolerance and promote co-existence. Indeed, this week a number of virtual conferences were held between Holocaust survivors and representatives in Morocco, UAE, Bahrain and even Syria.

If only both Israel and Iran can come together to form peace and tolerance, the prosperity in the region could be imaginable. If only the Palestinians can come to the table as willful peace partners, we will see a greater focus on productivity and shared happiness in the region and if only we could stop antisemitism, racism and discrimination against all peoples, the world would be a better place.

We have to continue working toward that effort, while at the same time, not turning a blind eye to resolving critical issues. Together we must do this!

- Shabbat Shalom, Avi.

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