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Mid East Turmoil has Local Impact

Anger, Frustration, as Muslims, Jews see no peaceful end

Tom Barrett, Journal Staff Writer

Edmonton Journal

April 1, 2002



Anger and frustration is rising in Edmonton's Jewish and Muslim communities as the Mideast is rocked by the worst violence and bloodshed in many years.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says his country is fighting for survival and at least one local rabbi says the only possible solution now is military action.

A local Muslim leader says the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is the root of the problem, however, and the chief obstacle to peace.

Both men see the Canadian government's stance as too sympathetic to the other side.

Rabbi Ari Enkin says it's time to face the fact that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has no interest in peace, and will settle for nothing less than the destruction of Israel.

"Arafat is identical to Hitler and bin Laden," he said Sunday.

"His goal is to kill Jews wherever he can, however he can."

Enkin says the five suicide bombings in the past five days, including two that killed at least 15 Israelis on Sunday, underline what has been clear since Arafat rejected a generous peace offer at Camp David, and stepped up the fight.

"They don't want peace," he says.

"He was offered 90 per cent of what he was asking for and wasn't interested."

Enkin says it's time to put aside the myth that most Palestinians are interested in peace, and send the tanks rolling in.

"These people must go," he says. "Ship them to Libya or Syria or Iran." The rabbi doesn't include the Palestinians who are willing to live in peace beside Israel, but notes that 75 per cent of the population supports suicide bombers.

He says it's time for the Canadian government to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and condemn them for committing and encouraging violence against innocent Israeli citizens.

Ali Assaf, a spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Centre, admits he's been glued to his television the last three days as violence has escalated, but says it's just a continuation of what's been happening for more than 60 years.

"There have been massacres left and right over the years," he says. "There's been occupation in Palestine since the late 1930s and it can't get much worse."

Assaf says the Israeli occupation is the heart of the problem.

"If the occupation ends, I'm sure the trouble will end," he says. "People are defending their lands and their honour."

He would like to see the Canadian government take a stronger position, condemning the Israeli occupation.

Assaf is more concerned about American policy.

"The total one-sidedness of the United States isn't helping," he says. "The U.S. has done zip since George Bush became president."

 Copyright  2002 Edmonton Journal