Canadian Arabic newspaper praises shul massacre

Nazih Khatatba
Nazih Khatatba

TORONTO — A local Arab-language newspaper’s praising of the synagogue massacre in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem, in which four rabbis and a police officer were murdered, is “disgusting, obscene, disgraceful [and] possibly criminal,” says the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Writing in the Nov. 28 edition of Meshwar, a free newspaper circulated in southwest Ontario, editor Nazih Khatatba approved the Nov. 18 Har Nof massacre as a “courageous and qualitative” operation.

The attack “ushers a new phase which should properly be called the phase of the new Fedayeen, fighters who sacrifice their life in battle,” wrote Khatatba, who is also a board member of Palestine House in Mississauga.

An English translation of Khatatba’s editorial, entitled “al-Quds [Jerusalem] operation and the quiet intifadah,” was provided to CIJA by Jonathan Halevi, a Toronto-based researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former advisor to Israel’s foreign affairs ministry.

CIJA said it verified the translation.

“The activities of the occupation in al-Quds [Jerusalem] and Al-Aqsa [Mosque] in particular, and in the other Palestinian territories in general, during a long period of time posed the Palestinians only one option, which is initiating an attack with several innovated tactics culminated in the courageous and qualitative Al-Quds operation, which was carried out on Tuesday [Nov. 18, 2014] by two Palestinians in a Jewish synagogue,” Khatatba wrote.

Khatatba’s article is “clearly anti-Semitic,” Berl Nadler, CIJA’s Greater Toronto co-chair, told The CJN.

“When you extol the virtues of killing innocent Jews at prayer, you’re basically telling people it’s a good thing for Arabs or Palestinians to kill innocent Jews. [It’s] sick and not something that should be tolerated by civilized society,” Nadler said.

He said CIJA “is looking into” laying a criminal complaint with police over the Har Nof editorial.

Nadler said Meshwar and Khatatba are already the subjects of a police complaint filed by CIJA in August over an editorial in the paper that denied the Holocaust.

Though not written by Khatatba himself, the piece referred to the “Holohoax” as “the biggest lie in history.”

The article was accompanied by a cartoon depicting an Orthodox Jew driving a car whose steering wheel was the emblem of the United Nations. The transmission stick bore the face of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Nadler said the editorial lauding the Har Nof massacre was “even worse.”

Readers of Meshwar “are Canadian. What is this telling his readers? Is he trying to incite them to do the same thing?”

Last month, Khatatba wrote an editorial justifying the attacks that killed six Israelis, including a three-month-old infant, in incidents involving stabbing and vehicles used as weapons.

In July, the paper said Toronto police prevented “a massacre” from taking place at Palestine House, where members of the Jewish Defence League staged a vigil and protest following the murders of three yeshiva students in Israel.

Last February, the paper asked why Palestinians “should accept [the Holocaust] as truth.”

Among many articles vilifying Israel, Meshwar has depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with blood trickling from his mouth, standing over a bloodied child, with the caption, “Save Palestinians Kids.”

The bi-weekly newspaper is published by Meshwar Media Printing & Signs, a “discount” advertising and printing broker in Toronto, according to an archived web search. The company prints brochures, flyers, calendars, signs and other materials.

The newspaper reaches 4,000 readers in Ontario, the website stated.

“I don’t want to speak to you,” Khatatba said when reached last week by The CJN. “Is that my right?”

His LinkedIn profile says he was a “director” of the Palestinian Authority from 1994 to 2002. Khatatba’s Facebook page says he is from Nablus and studied modern history at the “Russian Academy of Sciences.”

Meshwar and Khatatba have often registered on the radar of Honest Reporting Canada, a media monitoring group.

Halevi told The CJN he has documented evidence of senior officials of Palestine House calling for violence against Israelis.

“When they say Israelis, they’re talking only about Jews.”

The paper’s views on Israel raise “important questions of freedom of speech versus incitement to violence,” Halevi acknowledged, but “they crossed the line in this case.”

He said Palestine House has been “silent” on the published statements. “This silence is tantamount to approval,” he said.

In 2012, the federal government defunded Palestine House for its “pattern of support for extremism.” In its final year of government funding, it received nearly $1 million for settlement services and language programs.

Calls to Palestine House were not returned.

Editor’s note: This article has been modified since its original posting.