Debunking 6 Common Israeli Myths: Myth 6 – Arafat’s Intifada

Although the Camp David summit
ended almost three months before the beginning of
the Intifada, and negotiations continued
between the Israelis and Palestinians even as
violence raged, many pro-Israeli commentators
maintain that Arafat launched the Intifada
as a direct response to the Camp David proposals,
just because he prefers war to peace!

Although the Camp David summit
ended almost three months before the beginning of
the Intifada, and negotiations continued
between the Israelis and Palestinians even as
violence raged, many pro-Israeli commentators
maintain that Arafat launched the Intifada
as a direct response to the Camp David proposals,
just because he prefers war to peace!

This is belied by all the evidence.

The Intifada was a
reaction to years of worsening conditions in the
occupied territories during the period of the
so-called peace process, when Israel doubled the
number of settlers on occupied Palestinian land,
and tightened its noose around the Palestinian
population.

But the spark was Ariel Sharon’s visit
to the Haram Al-Sharif with 1,000 armed men
on 28 September 2000, a deliberate desecration of
a holy site whose purpose was to send a message
that Israel would always control the Palestinians
by brute force.


The Palestinian protests that
broke out in reaction to Sharon’s incursion
included stone-throwing but absolutely no
firearms.

The Israeli response, however, was lethal.


The New York Times
reported on 30 September 2000 that:


“Four
Palestinians were killed at Haram al Sharif, known
to Jews as Temple Mount, in a second day of
rioting that began when Ariel Sharon, the rightist
opposition leader, visited the Muslim compound on
Thursday to assert Jewish claims to the site.

“Wearing full riot gear, Israeli police officers
today stormed the Muslim area, where they rarely
set foot, to disperse Palestinian youths who
emerged from Friday prayer services to stone first
a police post at the Moghrabi Gate and then Jewish
worshipers at the Western Wall.



“Dr. Khaled Qurei, director of the Makhased [sic:
Maqassad] Hospital on the Mount of Olives, said
the hospital had treated more than 150 men, women
and youths, many of whom were wounded by rubber
bullets and some by live ammunition. The Israeli
police denied that live bullets had been used.”



[Source: “Battle at Jerusalem Holy Site Leaves 4
Dead and 200 Hurt,” New York Times, 30
September 2000]


The report did not contain even
an allegation by the Israelis that any Palestinian
had used firearms. But Israel’s killing of unarmed
protestors sparked wider protests throughout the
occupied territories.

Within weeks, dozens of
Palestinians, almost all unarmed civilians, both
inside Israel and in the occupied territories had
been killed.


Despite the clear chronological
order of the events, Israel and its supporters in
the US media continue to maintain that Arafat and
the Palestinian Authority launched the
Intifada.


The high-profile investigative
committee headed by former US Senator George
Mitchell stated in its final report that:


“The
[Government of Israel] asserts that the immediate
catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the
Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the
“widespread appreciation in the international
community of Palestinian responsibility for the
impasse.

“In this view, Palestinian violence was
planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at
“provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as
a means of regaining the diplomatic
initiative.”


The report continued:

“In their
submissions, the parties traded allegations about
the motivation and degree of control exercised by
the other.

“However, we were provided with no
persuasive evidence that the Sharon visit was
anything other than an internal political act;
neither were we provided with persuasive evidence
that the PA planned the uprising.



“Accordingly, we have no basis on which to
conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the
PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first
opportunity; or to conclude that there was a
deliberate plan by the G[overnment] O[f] I[srael] to respond with lethal
force.”



Finally, the Mitchell committee agreed that:


“The Sharon
visit did not cause the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.

“But it
was poorly timed and the provocative effect should
have been foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by
those who urged that the visit be prohibited.

“More
significant were the events that followed: the
decision of the Israeli police on September 29 to
use lethal means against the Palestinian
demonstrators; and the subsequent failure, as
noted above, of either party to exercise
restraint.”



[Source: SHARM EL-SHEIKH
FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE FINAL REPORT – http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/mitchel
l.htm
, April 30, 2001]


Despite the report’s effort to
lay blame on both sides, and thus appear
even-handed, it is clear that on the one-hand
Israeli violence fuelled and led to the spread of
the uprising, and that there is no reason to
accept Israel’s claims that the Palestinian
Authority planned or started the uprising.


Further Reading from The Electronic Intifada:
Historical myths: Responses to current media
mythology, distortion and spin. – http://electronicintifada.net/historicalmyths/index.html

Author: Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish

News Service: The Electronic Intifada

URL: http://electronicintifada.net/coveragetrends/6myths.shtml#6