U.S. condemnations of synagogue attack cite incitement as a factor


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Condemnations of the deadly Jerusalem synagogue attack by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, leading Congress members and top Jewish groups included calls on the Palestinian leadership to roll back incitement.

“The Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path,” Kerry said in London, where he was meeting with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond.

Two Palestinian attackers wielding an axe, knives and guns killed four worshippers in a synagogue Tuesday in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof before police shot the attackers dead. A Druze police officer died that night from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in the shootout.

Top U.S. Jewish groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee echoed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who named Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an inciter in part because Abbas has blamed Israel for unrest on the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews and Muslims.

“Abbas knows full well that Israel has no designs on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem and, in fact, has made every effort to safeguard them,” David Harris, the AJC director, said in a statement.

J Street praised Abbas for condemning the attack but condemned what it called the moral equivalence of other Palestinian figures.

“We reject other comments by Palestinian officials, including one posted on an official Fatah Facebook page attempting to justify this attack as a response to conditions in the West Bank or recent Israeli actions,” the dovish pro-Israel lobby said.

A number of congressional leaders also singled out the Palestinian Authority, calling for greater vigilance against incitement. They included Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee; and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Today’s attack is yet another example of the Palestinian Authority’s campaign of incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews,” Royce said.

In testimony Tuesday following the terrorist attack, Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service, reportedly told a Knesset committee that Abbas was not responsible for the violence. Abbas was not interested in terrorism, nor was he leading Palestinians to terrorism, although some Palestinians might misconstrue his criticisms of Israel as incitement, Haaretz quoted Cohen as saying.

Cohen said the critical factor were Jewish provocations, including high-profile visits to the Temple Mount.

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