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8/30/2003

The Roots of Palestinian Violence Revisited
By Jonathan Schanzer - GenerationJ.com - August 22, 2002
http://genj.com/issues/aug_02/politics_rt.html

Twenty-two months after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, or Palestinian War of independence, history has come full circle, exposing the roots of this violence.

Recently, Israeli Parliamentarian Michael Kleiner (Herut Party) visited the hotly contested religious site in Old City, Jerusalem revered by Jews as the site where their holy temple once stood, and by Muslims as the home of al-Aqsa Mosque, seen by some as the "third holiest site in Islam."

Kleiner, who wished to demonstrate that non-Muslims had a right to visit the site when they pleased, 1 is considered a hard-liner relative to other politicians in the Israeli spectrum. He belongs to the small but radical National Jewish Movement with the stated goals of preventing a Palestinian state, maintaining all of Jerusalem for Israelis, and even re-occupying parts of the disputed territories Israel has already ceded to the Palestinians. 2

Accordingly, when Kleiner visited the contested site, he was accompanied by religious demonstrators wielding posters imploring Israelis to "Free the Temple Mount." Others wore T-shirts proclaiming that "The Temple Mount is for the Jews, Mecca is for the Arabs." 3

The next day, the Jerusalem Post reported a half-hearted demonstration of a mere two dozen Peace Now supporters (Israelis), toting signs that read "Sharon and Kleiner: A twin disaster." Meanwhile, Arab passers-by simply watched. 4

Surprisingly, there was hardly a word about the visit in the Arab press. Just al-Quds Newspaper, an official Palestinian Authority mouthpiece, filed an infinitesimal, four-line report with a headline that read: "The Police Prevents Followers of Kleiner From Entering Al-Aqsa." The last line of the report noted that, "in another matter, the police allowed Knesset member Kleiner to approach the western gate without allowing him to enter the al-Aqsa courtyard." 5

In other words, Kleiner's visit elicited a yawn from the Arab world.

Interestingly, nearly two years ago, on September 28, 2000, then-Likud party leader Ariel Sharon toured the same area with a radically different outcome.

A secular nationalist, Sharon's visit held almost no religious significance. There were no zealots, signs or t-shirts, just a sizeable entourage for his own personal security.

The Palestinians, however, claimed that Sharon's visit somehow started this current Intifada, which has since left more than 1,490 Palestinians and 585 Israelis dead. 6 They claim that he "pushed" the Palestinians to violence, including rock-throwing, Molotov cocktail-launching, sniping at civilians, laying mines and suicide bombings, that continues to this day.

After Sharon's visit, the Palestinian and Arab world press was deluged with invective. Speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmed Qurei said his visit was a "clear expression of the Israeli designs to eliminate the Islamic and Arab features of the Temple Mount." 7 Dozens of other figures echoed his sentiments.

So, what do these similar visits with dissimilar outcomes say about the ongoing violence?

It says that these 22 months of terror are not the result of spontaneous Palestinian anger, or defense against Israel "aggressions," as Palestinians would have the world believe. The disparate outcomes of the visits by Kleiner and Sharon show that this war was a choice, a deliberate Palestinian military decision.

This was verified by Imad Faluji, a member of the Palestinian Authority, and minister of post and telecommunications, who was quoted as saying that the violence was "planned since Chairman [Yasir] Arafat's return from Camp David" when those talks failed in July 2000. 8

The talks failed when the Palestinians rejected a U.S. brokered peace plan granting their people more than 97% of their territorial goals. As it turns out, the Palestinians had other plans.

Earlier that year, in May 2000, Hizbullah, a radical Islamic group funded by Syria and Iran, had just succeeded in forcing the Israelis to withdrawal from Lebanon's south after nearly 20 years of a brutal guerrilla war. In an attempt to emulate their neighbors to the north, Hizbullah, the Palestinians opted to reject diplomacy and choose violence. In other words, Yasir Arafat and company used Sharon's visit as a convenient pretext to launch a guerrilla war that continues to this day.

Kleiner's recent visit is yet another stark reminder that Sharon's visit was merely a pretext for Palestinian aggression. The violence was—and still —a tactic employed in the hopes of exacting Israeli concessions through murder, rather than diplomacy at the negotiating table.

Footnotes
[1] Etgar Lefkovitz, "MK Kleiner visits Temple Mount," Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2002,
[2] See http://www.herut.org.il/english/
[3] Etgar Lefkovitz, "MK Kleiner visits Temple Mount," Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2002,
[4] Etgar Lefkovitz, "MK Kleiner visits Temple Mount," Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2002,
[5] http://www.alquds.com/today/front/news6.html (my translation).
[6] Jeffrey Heller ,"Palestinians Say Sharon Out to Undermine U.S. Talks," Reuters, August 9, 2002.
[7] "Palestinian Speaker Decries Sharon's Visit to Temple Mount," People¹s Daily, September 29, 2000.
[8] David Schenker, "The State Department's Annual Terrorism Report: Politics as Usual," PeaceWatch, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Number 322, May 1, 2001.

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