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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 07, 2003

How the West is being misinformed - an example based on Intifada II

Synopsis

Over the years, anti-Israel propaganda has scored two major victories: it has infected Western thinking with anti-Israel notions (e.g., the existence of a "Palestinian nation" with "inalienable rights"), and it has impsosed its terminology as the basis of Western discourse (e.g., "occupied territories", "illegal settlements").

The object of this article is to provide one example, culled from the British Telegraph, to illustrate the insidious ways in which Western media are biassing the minds of people against Israel. The example refers to the way the Telegraph presents Intifada II, with no reference either to the Israeli narrative or to facts known to all. The Telegraph has been chosen because it may be classified among the less biassed of the European media outlets.

In laying out the "alternative view" about Intifada II, this article includes the perspective given in Bodansky's book, The High Cost of Peace. The article concludes with the implication vis-a-vis the Roadmap.

Links to CAMERA and Honest Reporting, as well as selected other references, are given at the article's end; the links provide both analyses and numerous examples of anti-Israel distortions by the media.


...And now, the detials

In what perports to be an objective resource for researching the Middle East, the Telegraph states about the way Intifada II broke out [bold font added]:
28 September 2000
Violence flares in the Old City of Jerusalem after a provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex by the Israeli Likud leader Ariel Sharon. Mr Sharon is unpopular with Palestinians because of his role in the massacre of thousands of Palestinian refugees during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He has also been heavily involved in the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

The second Intifada begins
The following six days see Palestinian protests against the visit and a brutal military response by Israel in which 58 Palestinians are killed. Gun battles erupt between Palestinian police and Israeli armed forces as the violence escalates into a full scale Palestinian uprising.
Readers of this site probably know all too well that the allegations in this Telegraph piece are ludicrous (to be fair, the Telegraph did get the date, September 28, right...). What is most troubling, however, is the fact that the Israeli perspective on the story is not even mentioned, let alone given equal presentation. For the record, therefore, here is the Israeli viewpoint about Intifada II.

First, let us refer to the Mitchell Report of May 4, 2001. Even this virulently anti-Israel document concludes quite unequivocally that:
The Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aksa Intifada.
Mitchell Bard's "Myths and Facts" adds the following information on this particular point:
Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to go to the Temple Mount - Judaism’s holiest place - only after calling Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit.

Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit to the Temple Mount was conducted during normal hours when the area is open to tourists. Palestinian youths - eventually numbering around 1,500 - shouted slogans in an attempt to inflame the situation. Some 1,500 Israeli police were present at the scene to forestall violence.

There were limited disturbances during Sharon's visit, mostly involving stone throwing. During the remainder of the day, outbreaks of stone throwing continued on the Temple Mount and in the vicinity, leaving 28 Israeli policemen injured, three of whom were hospitalized. There are no accounts of Palestinian injuries on that day. Significant and orchestrated violence was initiated by Palestinians the following day following Friday prayers.
Well, if it was not Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, what did ignite Intifada II?

Before we examine the tangled web that provides the answer, one should note the extraordinary skill of anti-Israel propaganda, aided and abetted by the the willing collaborators in mainstream media. While the picture, as will be presented below, is complex, the Arabs adopted a simple line, so well suited to the mentality of a Sesame Street world: "Sharon did it".

On December 28, 2000, Israel presented a well-documented statement to the SHARM EL-SHEIKH FACT-FINDING COMMITTEE which looked into the situation of Intifada II. The government of Israel stated:
118. The immediate catalyst for the violence of late September 2000 was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on 25 July 2000 and the widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse. The violence was part of a planned campaign by the Palestinian leadership to recapture the diplomatic initiative. As Abu-Ali Mustafa, a member of the Palestinian Authority, stated on 23 July 2000, even before the final breakdown of the Camp David negotiations:

"The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees and sovereignty are one and will be finalised on the ground and not in negotiations. At this point it is important to prepare Palestinian society for the challenge of the next step because we will inevitably find ourselves in a violent confrontation with Israel in order to create new facts on the ground. ... I believe that the situation in the future will be more violent than the Intifada."

119. As this statement indicates, there was, within senior figures in the Palestinian leadership, a clear view, even in the very midst of the Camp David negotiations, that a violent confrontation with Israel was necessary "in order to create new facts on the ground". Violence was part of the agenda - notwithstanding all the commitments to the contrary in the agreements concluded since September 1993. The Palestinian dilemma, even prior to Camp David, was whether to engage with Israel in a serious attempt to address the issues that divided the two sides or to pursue a strategy which would lay the groundwork for a violent confrontation aimed at creating "new facts on the ground".
Mitchell Bard adds:
Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, admitted months after Sharon's visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon's "provocation." "It [the uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions."

The violence started before Sharon's September 28, 2000, visit to the Temple Mount. The day before, for example, an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The next day in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.
To this point, the evidence presented indicates that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount had nothing to do with Intifada II; rather, the riots broke out as part of Arafat's well-crafted strategy to extort from Israel what could not be extorted at the negotiation table.

The complete picture, however, is even more complex. The most comprehensive elucidation is given by Yossef Bodansky in his book,

Yossef Bodansky. The High Cost of Peace. New York: Random House (Forum), 2002. See especially Ch 15-19.

(Among his credentials, Bodansky includes: director of the Congressional Task force on Terrorism; director of research, International Strategic Studies Association; senior consultant for the US Departments of Defense and State; senior editor of publications and author of eight books.)

As gleaned from Bodansky’s book, the background to Intifada II is the following (in order to enable readers to verify the statements made below, I have included numbers in prentheses, which refer to the pages in Bodansky's book).

During the first half of the year 2000, Arafat reviewed his strategy, noting, in particular, the unilateral Israeli retreat from Lebanon in May, 2000 (p. 306). Arafat had already come to a decision to renew the terrorist war against Israel, appointing Dahlan and Barghouti to make the necessary preparations in Gaza and Judea/Samaria, respectively. For example, what was supposed to be a "Palestinian police force" was re-organized in military formations with military training; this had been accomplished by April 2000, five months prior to Intifada II.

Later in 2000, Arafat and other Arab leaders perceived other weakness in Israeli society, e.g., a split between Barak and the military establishment, severe economic problems, and internal Leftist pressure for concessions. The conclusion was that inflicting further casualties on Israel would bring her to heel, especially if an armed conflict were accompanied by the usual petro-blackmail against the West; the evident Clinton pressure on Israel contributed to this assessment (pp. 348-350).

Arafat's short-term objectives were to use Israel's weakness in order to foment a "war of independence" or a regional war (aided by Iraq), from which a "Palestinian" state would arise (p. 307).

While the Clinton administration pressured Israel to make progressively more and more concessions, Arafat's Intifada was engaged in terrorist acts, such as the Arab assault on May 8 on IDF positions in Rachel's tomb and Ayosh junction. On May 15, 2000, Nabka Day, official PA forces opened fire on Israeli positions all over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, while mobs attacked Israeli positions such as Ayosh junction. On May 18, Arab terrorist groups, including Arafat's Tanzim, called for two "days of rage" (pp. 310-311). These facts alone are sufficient to debunk the Sharon connection to the Intifada, but what makes the proof even more decisive is the fact that the bouts of Arab violence began and ceased in a well-orchestrated manner, indicating a planned operation.

From this phase of the intifada, Arafat learnt that his basic strategy was sound: because of to the media, the Intifada mobilized the world against Israel and led to increased US pressure on Israel. At the same time that Israel was being demoralized - recall the unilateral retreat from concurrent Labanon - Arafat was forging links with Hizbollah in anticipation of the big blow he planned for September (p. 313). Military preparations were also accelerated.

In July, Clinton convened the Camp David summit; in view of Arafat's strategy to gain a state through violence, and to enshrine the right of return in his state's constitution, it is clear why an agreement could not have possibly been reached; indeed, the Summit was discontinued on July 25, 2000 (p. 318). Bodansky's assessment (p. 320):

Arafat had never had a "national agenda" in Western terms. His sacred objective throughout was the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Muslim state in its stead.

Upon his return from Camp David, Arafat accelerated the Intifada preparations, mobilizing his troops and escalating the incitement with Fatwas and calls for jihad (p. 324). Links with Hizbollah, Syria and Iran were also strengthened (p. 326), and links with al Qaeda initiated (p. 328); indeed, on August 21, 2000, Israel announced the arrest of 23 terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.

In mid-September, well before Sharon's visit to al Aksa on September 28, Arafat issued the order to resume hostilities and escalate them gradually. Ambushes and firing on Israelis became routine. For example, the Nezarim Junction saw Arab violence continually as of September 17; on September 27, Arab terrorists, aided by the PA, used road bombs (p. 351).

And thus, when Sharon visited Temple Mount, with the express consent of the PA, Intifada II was already ongoing, contrary to anti-Israel claims, and in accordance with Arafat’s laid down plan.

Bodansky's thoroughly-documented narrative raises a serious question in relation to the Roadmap. Inasmuch as Arafat is still at the helm, and inasmuch as Arafat still controls five armed terrorist groups, why would one assume that Arafat will cease pursuing his objectives - a Palestinian state through violence, to replace Israel - with the same vigour that led to Intifada II? And in this case, what is the meaning of the Roadmap other than the obliteration of Israel?

This article began with a quotation from the Telegraph's distorted, biassed presentation of Intifada II. For numerous additional examples of anti-Israel distortions by the media, as well as for analyses, see:

1. CAMERA

2. Honest Reporting

3. For an article concerning distortions in Israel's Leftist Ha'Aretz, see IMRA.

4. For an examination of "Why the Media Habitually Side with the Palestinians", see Front Page Mag article by Erick Stakelbeck, January 30, 2003.

5. For an article about Thomas Friedman specifically, see "Fighting Tom Friedman", By Caroline B. Glick.

6. For an article about the media war in general, see a JIA article, 27 January 2003, by Chuck Chriss.

7. For a lifetime research on the topic, check out google under “media and bias and Israel” - over 95,000 links appear.