In October, a disturbed and radicalized Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in cold blood while the reservist stood on guard at the National War Memorial, a symbol honouring the men and women who have fallen for Canadian freedom. Zehaf-Bibeau proceeded to hijack a ministerial car and charge the steps of Parliament, possibly with the intent to kill members of Parliament. If this wasn’t an act of terror, what is?
A few weeks later, in the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in six years, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, murdered four innocent Israelis during morning prayers. Hamas, which is recognized by Canada and its allies as a terrorist organization, swiftly praised the murder. Like the actions of Zehaf-Bibeau, this was a barbaric, evil, and cowardly attack. If this wasn’t an act of terror, what is?
The only difference between the attack in Ottawa and the attack in Jerusalem is that terrorism is a deadly reality that Israelis confront every single day. The only difference between Canadians and Israelis when faced with such heinous acts is that Israelis are not afraid to call a spade a spade.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, from 2000 to present, there have been 1,232 Israeli deaths as a result of terror attacks. The Israel Defense Forces report that, since 2001, over 15,200 rockets or mortars have been targeted at Israel, mostly from the Gaza Strip, an average of more than three attacks every day.
Try to imagine what life would be like if the threat of senseless terror and murder, like the act of Zehaf-Bibeau, were a regular occurrence, as it is in Israel. It is worth reflection.
We shouldn’t be ashamed that we don’t always recognize terrorism for what it is. Canada is a strong, courageous, and peaceful country. Our Parliament, thankfully, spends far more time debating health-care policy and taxation than it does on security and counter-terrorism.
On the world stage we can be counted on to provide meaningful military contributions and take focused action where we can be the most effective, such as our current efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but this action has always been far from home. We are not afraid to stand up for what is right, even when it isn’t fashionable. However, until the recent terror attack, it has been decades since we have witnessed violence at the heart of our nation’s capital.
Canadians should open their eyes to the fact that radicalism does not exist solely on some distant desert battlefield. If we remain ignorant to its proliferation, we do so at our own peril. While ensuring that our civil liberties are protected, it is vital that further efforts be made to appropriately address the issue of radicalism head on.
The poetic justice of this act of terror is that its effect on Canadians was the opposite of what was likely intended. It opened our eyes and hearts, brought us closer together and strengthened our will to continue to face evil as the best country in the world.