Wednesday, September 28, 2005
On September 28, 2000, a day when Israelis were celebrating the Jewish New Year, the second "intifada" began. Unlike the first intifada thirteen years before, this was no spontaneous uprising. The pretext for the violence was the visit two days earlier of then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, the holiest place for the Jewish people and the site of the world-famous Al-Aqsa Mosque. Absurdly, many people around the world called Sharon's visit a "provocation." In fact, not only was it coordinated with the appropriate Moslem religious authorities in advance, but Israeli ministers and members of the Knesset often went to the Temple Mount without incident and continue to go there today. I myself was there recently as part of my duties as minister of Jerusalem affairs.
The calculated campaign of terror was designed to gain through violence what could not be achieved through diplomacy. Prime Minister Barak had agreed to offer Arafat everything the PA leader was believed in the "West" to have wanted: a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Jerusalem, even a formula for resolving the Palestinian refugee issue. But Barak demanded one thing in return: that Arafat end the conflict, something the Palestinian dictator had no intention of doing. For six years, Arafat built a society based on fear, maintaining his repressive rule by mobilizing his peopple for war against the Jewish state. He was not about to give up the enemy that stabilized his control over the Palestinians or end the conflict that was his lifeblood.
Barak's offer temporarily wrong-footed Arafat: By refusing it, he became the obstacle to peace. To turn the diplomatic tables on Israel, Arafat waged war. That Arafat would seriously think he could force Israel, with its vastly superior army and in an ostensibly strong diplomatic position, into making concessions may seem hard to believe. But Arafat knew he had an ace up his sleeve: the lack of moral clarity in the free world, which allowed Arafat to be seen as a victim of Israel's superior military capability. Ironically, by conferring legitimacy on him, and by calling on others to do the same, Israeli governments, including those in which I served, had contributed to this lack of moral clarity.
In a world that did not recognize the moral difference between free and fear societies and in a world that expected democracies at war to act like democracies at peace, Arafat had a huge advantage. In this moral confusion, he could turn the aggressor into a victim and a state defending itself according to the highest human rights standards into an international pariah. The wall-to-wall support that Israel should have received from the democratic world in repelling the unprecedented terrorist war Arafat launched never materialized. And with moral clarity in short supply, the boundaries of legitimate criticism of the State of Israel became blurred, helping trigger a new wave of anti-Semitism the likes of which the free world had not seen for sixty years.
It will be interesting to see what the mainstream media publishes today in recognition of this anniversary. With the benefit of hindsight, will it still fault Israel, whether implicitly by dint of false moral equivalence or explicitly? If you see any examples of particularly egregious coverage of "intifada anniversary festivities," please dump the link into the comments.
UPDATE: The BBC is quite helpfully re-running its original article on Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount:
"'Provocative' mosque visit sparks riots"
Palestinians and Israeli police have clashed in the worst violence for several years at Jerusalem's holiest site, the compound around Al-Aqsa mosque.
The violence began after a highly controversial tour of the mosque compound early this morning by hardline Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Arabs in Syria pine for their hero, and call for the war against Israel to continue:
"With the benefit of hindsight, will it still fault Israel, whether implicitly by dint of false moral equivalence or explicitly?"
You joking right?
We are speaking of the
"All the News fitted to print" are we not?