It Didn’t Start with Sharon

The bloody riots which erupted a day after the visit by MK Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September should be considered in the context of ongoing violence, threats, and preparation for violence by leaders of the PA. The Arab riots of May 2000 are here selected as the starting point, but other dates would have been equally instructive.

The bloody riots which erupted a day after the visit by MK Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September should be considered in the context of ongoing violence, threats, and preparation for violence by leaders of the PA. The Arab riots of May 2000 are here selected as the starting point, but other dates would have been equally instructive.

It should be noted, too, that during the summer The New York Times, The Washington Post and a variety of American media outlets reported on the existence of Palestinian summer camps for children as young as nine in which guerrilla training (including weapons training) was the focus of activity. The American media also reported, though to a lesser extent, on UN-financed Palestinian Authority-approved textbooks, which teach children that the State of Israel is illegitimate and that Palestine and Jerusalem must be liberated from the Jews.

Sunday, May 21: U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger said of Israeli Independence Day riots by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, (they are) “Both the curse and the blessing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the tragedy that awaits in the event of inaction also constitutes the greatest incentive for immediate action.” (UPI 5/26/00)

Sunday, June 25: Yasser Arafat threatened that if his demands were not met, a renewed Intifada would result, with an unprecedented intensity. Arafat, who orchestrated the May “Nakba” warfare throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to senior Israeli intelligence community officials, indicated that if Israel did not implement a comprehensive land withdrawal soon, he would try to take the areas by force. (IsraelWire 6/26/00)

Friday, June 30: Several thousand Arabs in the village of Dahariya, near Hebron, participated in a PA state funeral for Sufian Sala’am Ravu Tzvich, the suicide bomber who blew himself up in a Jerusalem bus. PA paramilitary troops gave him a twenty-one-gun salute and chanted, “Onward Hamas! We are your bullets.” (IsraelWire 6/30/00)

Sunday, July 16: “Anxiety in Israel has been fed by reports that while talking peace, the Palestinians are in fact preparing for war. Traditionally, in the summer, the Palestinians hold camps for their youth, but this year military-style exercises and training have replaced treasure hunts and basketball. The Fatah wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization is training young people to handle weapons, storm settlements and throw petrol bombs.” (Electronic Telegraph 7/16/00)

Monday, July 17: Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Shaykh Akramah Sabri, and Engineer Adnan al-Husayni, director of the Jerusalem Wakf, announced, “There will be no peace or stability in the region and the world without the return of occupied Jerusalem as an Arab and Islamic capital of the sacred Palestinian state.” Shaykh Sabri said the Higher Islamic Commission in Jerusalem issued a document entitled “The Jerusalem Pledge,” which emphasized that the holy city is occupied and its occupation must end. “We will not allow the false claims by the Jews to pass. We will not allow them to pray in the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque because this place is holy only to Muslims and it is a red line, which we will not allow to be overstepped.”

Sunday, July 23: Reports from Camp David indicated that Prime Minister Ehud Barak was willing to turn over partial control of the Jewish capital to the PA and it was Arafat’s insistence that he receive total control over eastern Jerusalem that prevented the deal from being finalized. (IsraelWire 7/23)

Tuesday, July 25: Speaking on Israel Television’s evening “Politika” program, Deputy Minister of Defense Dr. Ephraim Sneh warned against Arab violence resulting from a failure to reach an agreement at Camp David. Sneh said it would be a grave error to believe that what was not achieved at the negotiating table would be achieved by violence. Israel would do everything possible to preserve law and order, he said, calling upon the PA to do the same. He added that if tested, Israel would respond quickly and appropriately and it would be seen very quickly that in a test of force, Israel would emerge with the upper hand. (IsraelWire 7/26/00)

Wednesday, July 26: President Clinton in his public statements announcing the failure of the Camp David II summit placed the blame on Yasser Arafat. He said Prime Minister Barak was willing to make the painful concessions while protecting Israel’s vital security interests, but his PA partner was unwilling to meet him half way. (IsraelWire 7/26/00)

Friday/Saturday, August 11/12: Palestinian Arabs shot at IDF soldiers in southern Gaza, near Khan Yunis.

Sunday, August 13: Egyptian President Mubarak supported Islamic violence if Israel did not meet PA demands regarding the Old City of Jerusalem, particularly the holy sites. In an interview, Mubarak, who acts as a senior advisor to Yasser Arafat, said, “Any compromise over Jerusalem will cause the region to explode in a way that cannot be put under control and terrorism will rise again.” He added, “No single person in the Arab or Islamic world can squander East Jerusalem or Al Aqsa mosque. In this context, even Arafat himself will not dare to sign a deal to give up these Moslem sanctities.” (Cairo magazine Rose El-Yousef from the second week of August)

Sunday, September 3: Speaking to foreign ministers of Arab League nations meeting in Cairo, Yasser Arafat called for a continued policy of “tenacity” regarding Israeli demands for concessions on Jerusalem issues. The PA leader reiterated his position that he would not accept a deal at any price, remaining firm in his determination that portions of Jerusalem serve as the capital of the future Palestinian state. Arafat added the key to any future agreement with Israel would hinge on Jerusalem and its holy sites. Arafat insisted that all areas liberated by Israeli forces in the 1967 war be given to him, to serve as the Palestinian capital and rejected any and all Israeli claims to Jerusalem. (IsraelWire 9/4)

September 18: Prime Minister Ehud Barak told his Cabinet that Israel opposes not only the transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians but completely rules out the possibility of transferring sovereignty over the Mount to any Islamic body whatsoever. Regarding the peace process, Barak said despite the ongoing contacts, “there is no development worthy of mention and no movement in the Palestinian position. Therefore, it is still unclear whether there is a partner on the other side who is ready to make decisions and conclude an agreement.” (The Jerusalem Post 9/18/00)

September 27: Regarding the planned visit by Likud MK Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, Israeli Internal Security and Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami was told by Palestinian Preventive Security Service chief Jibril Rajoub that, “there was no reason for concern.” Israeli intelligence understood the same, Ben Ami later said.

The PLO Fatah movement in eastern Jerusalem called on all Palestinians to go to the Temple Mount on Thursday, September 28 in order to prevent the planned visit by Knesset Member Ariel Sharon. Fatah distributed a poster to this effect. And the media reports that Palestinian schools will be closed on Thursday to enable students to join the demonstrations.

Sergeant David Biri, 19, of Jerusalem, was mortally wounded and another IDF soldier was wounded when their convoy was ambushed at night at Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip. A Jewish resident was reportedly also hurt. Shots were fired at them and two bombs detonated nearby.

September 28: The Jerusalem Post reported, “In the past few weeks IDF officials have noted a sharp increase in attacks against security forces and Israeli civilians in the [Netzarim Junction area of Gaza].”

Chief Inspector Yossi Tabaje of the Israeli Border Police was murdered by his Palestinian Authority Police partner while the two were on a joint patrol in the town of Kalkilya.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. MK Ariel Sharon began a visit to the Temple Mount with other members of the Likud Party.

At approximately 12:45 p.m., 30 Israeli policemen and four Palestinians were slightly injured immediately following the visit. According to the Jerusalem Post, “despite the tension, this part of the visit passed without violence although Israeli Arab MKs who were at the site called Sharon a ‘murderer,’ and the Likud officials with Sharon accused [the Arab MKs] of inciting violence.”

Violent disturbances began after Sharon’s group left the site. Scores of Palestinian youths tried to approach the Sharon party but were prevented from reaching them by police. They then started throwing stones and other objects at police who served as a buffer between the two sides.

The Jerusalem Post (9/29/00) reported the following: Rejecting Palestinian claims that the Likud’s visit was nothing but a provocation, Likud whip Reuven Rivlin, who was among the group visiting the site said: “If being here is a provocation, then so is the very existence of the Jews in the Land of Israel. For Wakf officials, the very presence of Jews in Jerusalem is a provocation … This is an area under Israeli sovereignty, and we do not have to apologize for allowing religious freedom of movement in the capital.”

Rivlin scoffed at claims that the timing of the visit was suspicious.

“Before every holiday, I come to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, so I really do not understand what you mean by bad timing. Because of the peace negotiations, should we cancel the Jewish holidays?” he asked.

Despite calls by Wakf officials and Fatah youth for Palestinians to turn out and prevent Sharon’s visit, the turnout was less than expected.

Police had met with Wakf officials over the last 24 hours in an effort to prevent an outbreak of violence.

In fact, Likud MKs charged, it was the three Arab MKs who were at the site, who egged on the violence.

The three, Ahmed Tibi, Talab a-Sanaa, and Abdul Malik Dehamshe, had led chants of “murderer out” against Sharon.

“It really burns me that Israeli Arabs can enter the site freely, but Israeli MKs need 1,000 policemen to safeguard their visit,” Rivlin added.

Later in the morning, sporadic stone-throwing incidents were reported in east Jerusalem. Palestinians stoned an Israeli bus traveling near Rehov Salah a-Din, shattering a window and slightly injuring a passenger.

Police Insp.-Gen. Yehuda Wilk said it was clear that police would allow the visit to take place to prove that the Temple Mount was open to Jews, just as it is to Moslems and Christians, especially to a group of lawmakers representing 15 percent of the Knesset.

At approximately the same time as Sharon’s group was leaving the Temple Mount, The Jerusalem Post reported that Rajoub said, “‘The visit is a provocation which will trigger bloodshed and confrontation … Sharon is putting oil on fire…’ Rajoub said riots would not be limited to Jerusalem, but erupt everywhere in the territories and trigger a sharp response from Arab states as well. He said the Palestinians would not try to calm the riots, since they would be the result of a blatant provocation.”

September 29: A large mob of Palestinians on the Temple Mount hurled bricks and rocks at Jewish worshippers below praying at the Western Wall. Rioting spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza as the official PA media sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the Al Aqsa mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in organized riots.