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Did Sharon Spark the Riots?

Did Sharon Spark the Riots?

Media reports claim that Ariel Sharon's walk on the Temple Mount sparked the riots. A high Palestinian official claims otherwise.

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Today, months after the violence started, media outlets still cavalierly refer to the Intifada as being "sparked by Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount."

However, Palestinian Minister of Communications Imad el-Falouji has testified on numerous occasions to the contrary -- admitting that the Palestinian Authority initiated the violence that began in September 2000.

Here is a report from Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian Authority daily newspaper (December 6, 2000):

Speaking at a symposium in Gaza, Palestinian Minister of Communications Imad el-Falouji confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had began preparations for the outbreak of the current intifada from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, this in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat himself. Mr. Falouji went on to state that Arafat launched this intifada as a culminating state to the immutable Palestinian stance in the negotiations, and was not meant merely as a protest of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount.

Indeed, Palestinian violence had already begun before Sharon's visit. The prior week, an Israeli Border Patrol soldier was murdered by a double roadside bomb inside of Israel. The morning before Sharon's visit to the Mount, a Palestinian policeman, on a joint patrol with an Israeli partner, used his automatic rifle to murder his partner, and then wounded another Israeli policeman.

The Palestinian Minister reiterated his remarks in Newsday:

Palestinian officials contend that Palestinians rose up in spontaneous anger in September when Israeli hard-line politician -- and now Prime Minister-elect -- Ariel Sharon visited the disputed Jerusalem holy site known to the Jews as the Temple Mount and to Palestinian Muslims as... the Noble Sanctuary.

But, in remarks reported by the Associated Press, Falouji said it was a mistake to think that this was the cause for the uprising. Instead, He said, it was planned after the failure of last summer's failed peace summit at Camp David, MD, which was brokered by then President Bill Clinton... He said the uprising 'had been planned since Chairmen Arafat's return from Camp David, when he... rejected' American pressure for Palestinian concessions as part of a peace deal.

The rioting that followed Sharon's visit was not spontaneous. When Sharon ascended the Mount, he saw the mounds of boulders which had been prepared in advance for pelting Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below. The next day, the preacher at al-Aqsa mosque called at prayers to "eradicate the Jews from Palestine." Official Palestine television began playing over and over archival footage of the Palestinian intifada of 1987-93 showing young people out in the streets throwing stones. Arafat then closed the schools and declared a general strike, causing everyone to go out into the street.

More evidence comes from the semi-governmental, Beirut "Daily Star" (March 3, 2001):

A Palestinian Cabinet minister said on Friday that the five-month-old uprising against Israel had been planned since the Camp David peace talks failed in July, contradicting past contentions of a spontaneous outburst from Palestinians on the street. Imad Faluji, the Palestinian National Authority's Communications Minister, said during a PLO rally in Ain al-Hilweh refutifada, in which more than 400 people have been killed, was planned.

It is time for the media to stop referring to Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount as "sparking the Intifada".

Published: May 6, 2001


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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Mike, August 3, 2003 12:00 AM

Re: Did Sharon Spark the Riots

What about Barghouti's comments in an Egyptian? newspaper. Where he talks about the uprising and dissappointment at first that noone showed up after Sharon's walk on the Mount. How he tried to get everyone there and instead his walk went peacefully?

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