Howard Jacobson

New York Times, May 23, 2017


Too cruel anywhere. Any attack on the innocent, whatever the location, whatever the time, and whatever the ideology it serves, offends us to our very souls. But a bomb whose target is the innocent young — children leaving a concert, excitedly full of what they’d seen, looking for their parents who had come to take them home — is outrage piled upon outrage. Twenty-two are dead, at least 50 others injured, in last night’s terrorist attack at a concert venue in central Manchester. With every hour, we hear another fraught eye-witness account, learn of another father or mother in despair, another child still to be accounted for. I have family in Manchester. They are all right. But it isn’t only for oneself one worries. For others, too, the heart will break.


The eruption of indiscriminate violence in a peaceful place is terrorism’s purpose and our greatest dread, the horrible intrusion of menace where we had no reason to expect it, no matter how often we tell ourselves that nowhere is safe now. The unnaturalness of terrorism is its essence. It means to strike out of a clear blue sky. It means to shatter those bonds of commonality we have to take for granted or we cannot live. So, this is terrorism’s perfect expression: the random massacre of kids coming out of a pop concert they’d no doubt been looking forward to and talking animatedly about for weeks, kids united only moments before in music and fun.


Manchester, my home town, is a music city, at the forefront of musical innovation for decades. When I was growing up there, those who weren’t aspiring musicians themselves lived next door to someone who was. I was exceptionally unmusical, but my brother played lead guitar for a well-loved band called the Whirlwinds which, after time, morphed into 10cc. They practiced in our living room.


Liverpool had The Beatles but Manchester had The Hollies, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits. Later, there was punk: Something about its harsh sardonic insolence — born of early de-industrialization, low wages and even lower clouds — made Manchester a congenial venue. Manchester’s music scene exploded again in the 1980s and ’90s, thanks in large measure to the legendary entrepreneur Tony Wilson.


All that Manchester was best at, all its versatility and unexpectedness, all its artfully concealed sophistication, found a home in Tony Wilson, who read English at Oxford, taught drama at a school in Oldham, near Manchester, and founded Factory Records and the Hacienda Club. If I had to define the soul of modern Manchester, I’d point to Tony Wilson: down to earth and dandified, of the people and rarified, all at once; sharp-tongued, honorable, hedonistic, more interested in art and conversation than celebrity and wealth. It was thanks to Wilson that Manchester became known as “Madchester.”


And it’s a city of young people. Even on the most forbidding winter nights, the young congregate outside the bars and clubs, wearing not very much. The less you shiver, the harder you are. We will hear more over the coming days about Manchester’s indomitable nature. How the city will not bend to terror. How death shall have no dominion; nor, either, the faceless men of violence. And it will be as true of Manchester as it can be of anywhere. But there’s a suggestion of bravado, always, about these promises not to bend. Yes, we will overcome; but that’s because we have to. When those we are defying aren’t listening, we might as well be whistling into the wind.


Manchester has been bombed before. In 1996, the Irish Republican Army set off a truck bomb in the center of the city. Aiming at causing maximum damage rather than fatalities, the terrorists telephoned warnings of what was about to happen. There were many injuries but no one died. The wreckage was immense and, in the way of these things, rebuilding presented an opportunity for much-needed regeneration. It would be perverse to attribute Manchester’s economic success to that attack, but the city has indeed, and with proud self-assertion, risen phoenix-like from the ashes.


What has just happened at the Manchester Arena after a concert given by Ariana Grande is another order of catastrophe. There was no warning. The aim wasn’t publicity through destruction of property, but publicity through destruction of life. It is not to forgive the one to insist on how much worse the other is. Terrorists talk of themselves as soldiers, but something like spite enters acts of terrorism of this sort. Though the killing is indiscriminate, it is also personal. Life itself, and the living who exemplify life, are the targets. There is, then, a sense in which Manchester, though it now belongs to a long list of terrorist casualty cities, can think of itself as picked out. It is a city possessed of a rare vigor. And a music arena lies close to the heart of that vigor.


So, yes, this has been an attack on the city’s very vitality. But the risk we face today is universal. If we want to find some consolation, it won’t be in speeches of municipal defiance, but in the stories, now coming thick and fast, of the assistance rendered not only by the emergency services, but by Mancunians of courage and goodwill who obeyed their deepest instincts in the face of danger and did all they could to comfort the injured and distraught. All is sorrow, but we still have kindness and pity.


On Topic Links


Manchester: Europe Still 'Shocked, Shocked': Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute, May 24, 2017

The Malicious and Dishonest Media Really Are, as Trump Says, ‘Enemies of the People’: Conrad Black, National Post, May 19, 2017

The Guardrails Can’t Contain Trump: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 18, 2017

How Can Canada Pretend That Saudi Arabia is an Honourable, Peaceful Country?: Robert Fulford, National Post, May 12, 2017






“We have so many opportunities in front of us. But we must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation and there are many, many things that can happen that would never have been able to happen before and we understand that very well.” — U.S. President Donald Trump, on an official visit to Israel this week. Regarding a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Trump stated, “I have a feeling we’re going to get there eventually, I hope.” In his speech at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s residence, Trump said he was deeply encouraged by his conversations with Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia. “Many expressed their resolve to help end terrorism and the spread of radicalization. Many Muslim nations have already taken steps to begin following through on this commitment,” he said. “There is a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran…Most importantly, the United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon – never, ever – and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias, and it must cease immediately,” he said. (Algemeiner, May 22, 2017)


“I look forward to working closely with you to confront the dangers we face together in this violent and volatile Middle East…I believe that together we can roll back Iran’s march of aggression and terror in this region and we can thwart Iran’s unbridled ambition to become a nuclear weapons state…deep commitment to Israel’s security, its well-being and its future.” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After their meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu thanked President Trump for his “reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East…I have no doubt that as we work together, you and I, the alliance between our countries will grow ever stronger.” (Algemeiner, May 22, 2017)


“This younger generation sees Israel much more in terms of practical alliances…So suddenly Israel is not seen in that one-dimensional term of being the occupier of Palestinian land, but rather as a potential partner against the greater evil, if you will, which is Iran.” — Stephen A. Seche, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have longstanding peace agreements with Israel, and both have stepped up their coordination with Israel against terrorist groups on the Sinai Peninsula and in Syria. But the most significant changes in recent years have been in gulf countries, where a younger generation of leaders, like Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, have recognized the role Israel could play in their economic and security policies. (New York Times, May 23, 2017)


“There has to be a fundamental change if we are going to have peace in a deal brokered by this administration…It’s not going to be another piece of paper, it’s not going be a nice summit somewhere. If this happens it’s going to happen for real, because we have the world’s best dealmaker, but it has to happen only after certain things change with regard…to terrorism, payment of terrorist families, and other key issues.” — Sebastian Gorka, a deputy adviser to Trump. Gorka indicated in an interview that the president had registered Israel’s broader anxieties over dealing with the PA – particularly over its payments to terrorists and their families, described by Prime Minister Netanyahu as “the first test of peace” in a recent interview. (Algemeiner, May 21, 2017)


“I’m very pleased that the United States understands the severity of the Palestinian Authority paying salaries to terrorists and the need for fundamental changes by the PA…President Trump should demand of the PA that before Israel even sits down and talks to them, they should change the names of the 28 schools named after terrorists and the three schools named after Nazi collaborators…If the PA can live up to these conditions it may be the beginning of a peace process.” — Itamar Marcus, Director of the Israeli monitoring organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which tracks terror incitement. (Algemeiner, May 21, 2017)


“Israel, the invading country, the cancerous tumor – which we have already called a cancerous tumor in the past – many intellectuals today talk about coexistence and offering our hands in peace, and [say] Israel is part of the region. The noblest Arabs in terms of their Arabness were those who spoke up and said: ‘Israel does not exist!’ Those who did not say that were ostracized. Now, whoever says that Israel should exist is met with approval… They [the Jews] are usurers. See, the usury money and usurer banks, those who control the money in the world can be counted on one hand – a few individuals – and all of them belong to the Jewish world. They control the media, the money, the press, the resources, the plans.” — Imad Hamato, on official PA TV. Last March, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas appointed antisemitic PA TV Islamic teacher Imad Hamato to the post of dean of the Al-Azhar Institutes, a system of schools that prepare students for studies at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza. As dean of students, Hamato now has the opportunity to transmit his venomous anti-Semitism to Palestinian Authority youth. (Jewish Press, May 16, 2017)


“This rubbish about cultural appropriation, if taken seriously, would produce not broad views but unimaginable narrowness, a death by suffocation of dialogue and sympathy. What would To Kill a Mockingbird be without black characters? Or Invisible Man without white ones? If we share Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of judging people by the content of their character not the colour of their skin, we should do the same with books, including efforts to see the world through the eyes of others to explore questions of morality and culture. Like, say, Percy Jackson’s half-brother Tyson struggling against bigotry because he’s … a cyclops.” — John Robson. (National Post, May 18, 2017)







MANCHESTER BOMBER WAS LOCAL MAN OF LIBYAN DESCENT (Manchester) — The man who police say blew himself up in a packed concert arena in Manchester, killing 22 people, was named as 22-year-old Salman Abedi. Manchester Police on Tuesday named Abedi as the suicide bomber who struck an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, wounding 59 people in addition to those he killed. I.S. claimed responsibility, although the claim could not be verified. Abedi was a British citizen of Libyan descent. In the south Manchester suburb of Chorlton on Tuesday, police arrested a 23-year-old man in a supermarket then searched an apartment in a nearby area. British media reported that the apartment belonged to Abedi's brother, Ismail. (New York Times, May 23, 2017)


ROUHANI WINS RE-ELECTION IN IRAN (Tehran) — Iran’s state television declared incumbent President Hassan Rouhani the winner of the country’s presidential election on Saturday, giving the 68-year-old cleric a second four-year term to see out his agenda calling for outreach to the wider world. More than 40 million Iranians voted in Friday’s election. That puts turnout above 70 percent. In 2013, Rouhani won the presidential election with nearly 51 percent of the vote. Turnout for that vote was 73 percent. Iran’s president is the second-most powerful figure within Iran’s political system. He is subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel. (New York Post, May 20, 2017)


MB INVOKES ANTISEMITISM IN PRO-HAMAS STATEMENT (Cairo) — The Muslim Brotherhood advocates for "resistance" against Israel and more support to Hamas until "Islamic land is liberated from the usurping Zionists" in an Arabic language statement. The reference to "usurping Zionists," a form of antisemitic incitement, is clearly omitted from the Brotherhood's English language statement. The statement was released to congratulate Hamas after electing Ismail Haniyeh to lead the terrorist group's political wing. Both the English and Arabic language statements include a Brotherhood call for "legitimate resistance" – a term Islamists often use to vaguely reference violence and terrorism aimed at destroying the Jewish state. Hamas recently planned to rescind its status as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in an attempt to alleviate tensions with Egypt. (IPT, May 17, 2017)


SYRIAN CONVICTED OF TERROR IN GERMANY (Berlin) — A Syrian was convicted in Germany of membership in a terrorist organization after he served in I.S. in his homeland and later helped plan an attack in Berlin that was never carried out. 20-year-old Shaas al-Mohammad was sentenced under youth guidelines to five years in prison. During his Berlin criminal court trial, prosecutors said al-Mohammad joined I.S. as a teenager in Syria in 2013 before seeking asylum in Germany two years later. The court found that once in Berlin, he passed information about "soft targets" in the German capital to the group in apparent preparation for an attack. The trial comes as Germany remains under a high-threat terrorist alert following a series of attacks which hit the country in the past year. (Arutz Sheva, May 20, 2017)


NDP LEADERSHIP HOPEFUL SLAMMED FOR 'SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS' (Toronto) — The decision by a federal NDP leadership candidate to attend a rally “in support of Palestinian terrorists” was strongly denounced by B’nai Brith Canada. In a statement, B’nai Brith Canada said NDP MP Niki Ashton’s actions suggest that people should commemorate and mourn the Arab world’s inability to successfully commit a genocide against the Jewish people. Ashton posted on Facebook that she was honoured to stand with those remembering the Nakba. “It was also powerful to join many at a rally in solidarity with those on hunger strike in Palestine today. The NDP must be a voice for human rights, for peace and justice in the Middle East,” she posted. Nakba is an Arabic term that mourns the reestablishment of the Jewish State of Israel. (Toronto Sun, May 19, 2017)


AUSTRIA WARNING SAUDI WOMEN THEIR BURQA IS NOW ILLEGAL (Vienna) — The Saudi Embassy in Vienna has alerted its citizens regarding the Austrian Parliament’s passing of burqa ban. Beginning on October 1, Austrian police will be fining women (and men) who are caught wearing clothes that obstruct their facial features. The $166 fine would also be charged to women wearing a burqa-the enveloping outer garment, and niqab-veil in universities, courts, or on public transportation. Austria followed Switzerland, Belgium, France, and some Spanish regions in banning the burqa and the niqab in public places, as well as other religious symbols. (Jewish Press, May 18, 2017)


FLORIDA MAN KILLS NEO-NAZI ROOMMATES OVER ISLAM DISRESPECT (Miami) — A young man arrested after leading police to the bodies of his two roommates told officers he killed them because they were neo-Nazis who disrespected his recent conversion to Islam. The Tampa Police Department says 18-year-old Devon Arthurs told police he had until recently shared his roommates' neo-Nazi beliefs, but that he converted to Islam. Arthurs told police he was angry about anti-Muslim sentiment. Police identified the victims as 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. (CBS, May 22, 2017)


DUTERTE DECLARES MARTIAL RULE IN BESIEGED SOUTH PHILIPPINES (Manila) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the country’s south under martial rule for 60 days after Muslim extremists allied with I.S. laid siege to a southern city. Martial rule took effect Tuesday in the southern region of Mindanao “on the grounds of existence of rebellion.” Defense Secretary Lorenzana said troops raided the hideout of a top terrorist suspect in southern Marawi city, sparking a gunbattle. Several terrorists were killed in the fighting in Marawi city, about 830 kilometers (520 miles) south of Manila, but others continued to lay siege to the largely Muslim city of more than 200,000 people, officials said, adding that power was cut in the city in a chaotic scene. (Washington Post, May 23, 2017)


INDIA AND ISRAEL INK $630M MISSILE DEAL (Jerusalem) — Indian state enterprise Bharat Electronics Limited signed a $630 million contract with Israel Aerospace Industries to jointly produce four long-range surface-to-air missile systems for the Indian Navy. Under the contract, BEL will produce a major portion of the multifunction active electronically scanned array naval radar system, or MF-STAR, and the rest of the weapon control systems. The company will also carry out system integration and commissioning activities. The LRSAM system is meant for both Indian and Israeli defense forces. Each unit comprises one command and control system, an MF-STAR radar system and two launchers that can send eight 150-kilometer-range radio frequency surface-to-air missiles. (Defense News, May 22, 2017)


OVER 100,000 PALESTINIAN PATIENTS TREATED IN ISRAEL IN 2015 (Jerusalem) — In 2015, Israeli hospitals treated over 97,000 Arabs from the West Bank (allowing over 100,000 people to accompany them). In addition, over 31,787 Gaza patients and escorts arrived in 2015. At any given time there are 60-70 Gazans receiving care at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv alone. Only 10% of the cost comes from the PA. The rest is paid for by Israeli taxpayers. (Jewish Press, May 17, 2017)


IVANKA AND MELANIA TRUMP PRAY AT WESTERN WALL (Jerusalem) — On Monday, Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall while in office. Trump, after hearing a lengthy explanation from the Wall’s rabbi, walked solemnly to the wall and stood by the ancient remain of the Jewish temple for about a minute. He then followed the Jewish tradition and inserted a note into the crevice of the wall. Trump’s wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner stood alongside the president as he listened to the explanation at the entrance plaza, but when it came time for prayer at the wall, the group split up. Trump walked by himself to the wall, while his wife and daughter were taken to the separated part of the wall designated for women’s prayer. (Forward, May 22, 2017)




On Topic Links


Manchester: Europe Still 'Shocked, Shocked': Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute, May 24, 2017—When ISIS attacked the Bataclan Theater in Paris in November 2015, it did so because, in its own words, it was "where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice." A year earlier, ISIS had forbidden all music as haram (forbidden). Many Islamic scholars support the idea that Islam forbids the 'sinful' music of the West.

The Malicious and Dishonest Media Really Are, as Trump Says, ‘Enemies of the People’: Conrad Black, National Post, May 19, 2017—Even allowing for the astonishing pyrotechnics of current American politics, the Canadian journalistic reaction has been rather disappointing. Canadians have a unique ring-side seat on American personalities and events, and flatter themselves that they know that country better than any other foreigners do.

The Guardrails Can’t Contain Trump: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 18, 2017 —The pleasant surprise of the First 100 Days is over. The action was hectic, heated, often confused, but well within the bounds of normalcy. Policy (e.g., health care) was being hashed out, a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, foreign policy challenges (e.g. North Korea) addressed.

How Can Canada Pretend That Saudi Arabia is an Honourable, Peaceful Country?: Robert Fulford, National Post, May 12, 2017—If you believe the official word from Ottawa it appears Saudi Arabia and Canada are on good terms. A Canadian government website, dealing with trade, takes care to assert that we share with the Saudis “many peace and security issues, including energy security, humanitarian affairs (including refugees), and counter-terrorism.” It also says admiringly that “The Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability.”