Varsity Column Ignores Palestinian Terrorism, Portrays Jerusalem As Part Of “Palestine” & Falsely Accuses Israel Of Discrimination

March 21, 2023

In a March 20 column and photo essay published in The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper entitled: “A dream of home: barriers bury the beauty of Palestine ­– especially for its people” Safiya Patel, the publication’s Deputy Senior Copy Editor, sought to tell a first-hand story of Palestinian-Arabs living in Jerusalem, portrayed as being part of “Palestine” by The Varsity and the Palestinian territories.

While shining a light on any group of people can help to educate and inform, Patel’s column presented a highly misleading caricature of Israel, and a sanitized version of the Palestinian leadership and society at large.

Patel shared an experience of her entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s 3rd holiest site, which is built atop the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, retelling how she “became used to pulling my Canadian passport out of my bag to confirm my citizenship and reciting verses from the Quran to confirm my religion — which also served as a passport in this highly controlled region,” adding that the experience showed her “just an iota of the discrimination that the Palestinian people experience every day.”

What Patel does not share with readers is how despite liberating Jerusalem from illegal Jordanian occupation in 1967, Israel nevertheless gave de facto control of the Temple Mount site to the waqf, an Islamic trust which acts as custodians of the site. Today, while there are strict limits on the number of Jews who can ascend the holy site, Muslims are able to enter with significantly more freedom and Israel goes to great lengths to facilitate access to Islamic holy sites, especially on important Muslim holy days. Furthermore, according to the “status quo” agreement between Israel and Islamic authorities aimed at preventing an increase in regional tensions, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the site. If Jews are found to be praying, they will be escorted away, detained and possibly arrested.

Thus, it is Jews and those of other faiths, not Muslims, who face limits on their rights and freedoms at the Temple Mount, but this is unacknowledged by Patel.

Patel’s anecdote also shares the polar opposite point, not of “discrimination that the Palestinian people experience,” but of the great pains that Israel takes daily to ensure open and continued access for Palestinian-Arabs to Muslim holy sites.

Tragically, the same cannot be said for Palestinian access to Jewish holy sites.

Joseph’s Tomb, seen as the burial place for the biblical Joseph and is revered by Jews, has been vandalized multiple times by Palestinian gangs, most recently in April, 2022. During the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based Islamist terrorist group, Palestinian rioters positioned themselves atop the Temple Mount and threw rocks and lobbed incendiaries onto the Western Wall plaza below, where Jews congregate daily in prayer.

Patel’s misinformation does not end with the rewriting of history about Judaism’s holiest sites; her article also accused Israel of practicing “apartheid” against Palestinians. One caption showing a photo of Israel’s security barrier refers to the wall as “a tangible symbol of apartheid,” and in the body of the column, Patel explained how mural art on the security barrier has become “a symbol of defiance against the separation, against the settler colonies on the other side.”

Patel doesn’t explain why the security barrier (anti-terror fence) was created, other than vaguely writing that it was during “a time of Palestinian uprising,” when in reality, it was constructed following a multi-year campaign of Palestinian violent terrorism waged against Israel, killing scores of innocent civilians in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks. Victims included innocent pregnant women, babies, children, the elderly, and others, whose only crime was being Israeli. Nor did Patel acknowledge that its implementation has led to a 90% decrease in Palestinian terror attacks and which has reduced friction between Israelis and Palestinians.

Furthermore, taking steps to prevent one’s citizens from being massacred by Palestinian terrorist groups is not merely a right, but Israel’s responsibility, and constructing a security barrier does not make Israel any more of an “apartheid” state than any other country building a fence to protect its people from being murdered.

When Patel writes that the city of Hebron “is home to many historic and religious sites – as well as many checkpoints, guarded by soldiers,” she fails to explain the ongoing daily threat of Palestinian terrorism, including how a number of Israeli civilians have been murdered so far in 2023.

The unfortunate state of the Palestinians is attributable to their leadership, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has refused to recognize Israel’s peace offers and has continued to inflame the violence by inciting hatred against Jews and by refusing to negotiate in good faith with Israel.

Until the Palestinian Authority recognizes the benefits of peace, the Palestinian people will continue to be held hostage by their own regime. That is the true story of the Palestinians today.

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