Rocket attacks on Israel have stopped for now, leaving the country to mourn the victims of terrorism, clean up the broken cement and glass and wonder what comes next.
On the evening of May 25, Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto, said in an online briefing she hopes for a return to negotiations with Palestinian leaders toward an eventual two-state solution for the region.
Getting to that goal, however, will require getting Palestinian Authority negotiators back to the bargaining table, she said—and signs of that happening are not positive, as long as Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip and clings to its charter statement calling for the destruction of Israel.
“How can you reach peace with another country when you refuse to negotiate with that country?” she told the gathering, organized by JNF Regional Ontario.
“Our problems are not with the Palestinian people. They are with Hamas,” she added. “We have to get Hamas out of the political game. We have to get Hamas out of Gaza and restore Palestinian control of the area.”
One hopeful sign of movement toward that goal, she said, is the number of Arab countries that have recently normalized relations with Israel. As more countries do that, pressure will mount on the Palestinian Authority to reject the politics of terror, which have contributed to regional instability for so long.
“We hope that more countries in the region will soon realize the great benefit of having regular relations with Israel,” she said.
Until then, Baram added, Israel and its allies must continue to overcome the lies and misinformation flooding social media about the ongoing conflict.
What the country really needs, she noted, is a social media equivalent of its Iron Dome defense system, with individual citizens acting in lieu of anti-missile rockets.
“People who know Israel need to take a stand,” she said. “Without that, there is a limit to what we can accomplish.”
Supporters need to talk about Israel’s social progress that ensures equal rights for women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people and others.
Those are the stories, she said, that will continue to be ignored by traditional media that are interested only in conflict.
“Social media is a very useful tool for us, not the traditional media,” she said. “When we approach the Canadian media to tell our story, we are told frankly that good news doesn’t sell.”
One set of facts being ignored by world media, she said, is the truth of the Sheikh Jarrah dispute in Jerusalem—an area where a decades-old real estate dispute is being presented as a story of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in favour of Jewish settlers.
Sheikh Jarrah is a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Baram explained that in the late 19th century five Jewish families legally purchased property there when the area was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
In 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, those families were forced to evacuate their homes when that part of Jerusalem came under Jordanian control. Israeli sovereignty was established in 1967 and those Jewish families then went to court to reclaim their properties.
“This is a complex case that has been in court for a long time,” Baram said, adding that just before a compromise settlement was to be considered in court, Hamas launched its latest series of rockets against Israel.
“Hamas has used this case very cynically to claim that Palestinians are being evicted from their homes,” she said.
The currency given those claims, she added, has helped fuel a wave of anti-Semitism around the world, including in Canada.
“The manifestation of anti-Semitism on the streets of Canada has shocked me,” she said. “There have been cases of vandalism here that we have never seen before.”
In one of those incidents, the steps of the consulate were covered with red paint symbolizing the blood of Palestinian victims. A Hamilton rabbi has been charged with mischief in connection with that incident.
“This level of anti-Semitism is going to keep Israeli diplomats in Canada busy for a long time,” Baram said.