Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Here's how the New York Times describes the beginning of the second intifada in its obituary for Shimon Peres:

Mr. Peres, Mr. Rabin and Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

But the era of good feelings did not last. It was shattered in 2000 after a visit by the opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the sacred plaza in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The next day, the Israeli police fired on stone-throwing protesters, inaugurating a new round of violence that became known as the second intifada.
There are two major problems with this description.

One is that the years after Oslo were filled with terror attacks against Israelis. In fact, 279 Israelis were killed in the five years following the Oslo accords, more than in the 15 years beforehand - including the entire first intifada. That time period saw some of the worst suicide bombings, particularly on buses, that Israel had ever seen.

1994 Dizengoff St bus bombing , 22 killed

The conventional wisdom that Oslo brought peace is one of the worst myths pushed by the media.

The second is that the NYT is blaming Israeli actions on the outbreak of the second intifada. Here is a good description of the events from Ziv Hellman, a former Jerusalem Post editor:
On the morning of September 28, 2000, a six-member Likud Knesset delegation led by the then-leader of the Israeli opposition, Ariel Sharon, paid a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. From the moment the plans for the visit had been made public four days earlier, there was concern among Israeli security officials that the heavily media-covered visit might inflame some Palestinian nationalist sentiments because it would be viewed as a deliberately provocative symbol of Israeli control of all of Jerusalem, east and west.

These concerns prompted consultations on the matter between Israeli and Palestinian officials, culminating in a telephone conversation between Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Organization, Jibril Rajoub, in which Rajoub indicated, “If Mr. Sharon refrains from entering the Mosques on Temple Mount, there will not be any problem.” Only then did the Israeli police agree to permit the visit–along with a 1,500 member police escort, just in case.

Sharon’s visit was relatively brief, avoiding the mosques. It was completed by 8:30 a.m. and was followed by a vocal demonstration of about 1,000 Palestinians led by Israeli Arab Knesset members who hurled stones at Israeli policemen. But this too was relatively brief and not unprecedented in the context of previous Palestinian-Israeli clashes in that religiously and emotionally charged area of Jerusalem. By the afternoon, despite sporadic flare-ups of further clashes between police and demonstrators, Israeli security officials concluded that the matter was behind them.

They turned out to be seriously wrong.

Within hours, the Voice of Palestine was broadcasting denunciations. Sharon was said to have conducted “a serious step against Muslim holy places.” Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority chairman, called upon the entire Arab and Islamic world to “move immediately to stop these aggressions and Israeli practices against holy Jerusalem.” Repeated broadcasts throughout the evening and night described the visit as a deliberate defilement of the mosques.

By the morning of September 29, Palestinian public opinion was inflamed in way that Israeli intelligence had failed to predict. In the West Bank town of Qalqilya a Palestinian police officer participating in a joint security patrol with Israeli police opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart, leading to the permanent suspension of all joint Israeli-Palestinian security patrols. Following Friday morning prayers in the mosques on the Temple Mount, hundreds of Palestinians rushed past Israeli border guards toward the platform overlooking the Western Wall plaza where Jewish worshippers were praying prior to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

When heavy rocks began raining down from the compound on the Mount onto Jewish worshippers in the plaza below, the Israeli border guard contingent opened fire on the Palestinian rioters with rubber bullets, killing four and wounding more than 100 persons.
There is also convincing evidence that the second intifada was planned by Arafat beforehand. From Wikipedia:
Some have claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had pre-planned the Intifada.[137] They often quote a speech made in December 2000 by Imad Falouji, the PA Communications Minister at the time, where he explains that the Intifada had been planned since Arafat's return from the Camp David Summit in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit.[150] He stated that the Intifada "was carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions".[151] David Samuels quotes Mamduh Nofal, former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who supplies more evidence of pre-28 September military preparations. Nofal recounts that Arafat "told us, Now we are going to the fight, so we must be ready".
Support for the idea that Arafat planned the Intifadah comes from Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who said in September 2010 that when Arafat realized that the Camp David Summit in July 2000 would not result in the meeting of all of his demands, he ordered Hamas as well as Fatah and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to launch "military operations" against Israel.[154] al-Zahar is corroborated by Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of the Hamas founder and leader, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who claims that the Second Intifada was a political maneuver premeditated by Arafat. Yousef claims that "Arafat had grown extraordinarily wealthy as the international symbol of victimhood. He wasn't about to surrender that status and take on the responsibility of actually building a functioning society."[155]
Arafat's widow Suha Arafat reportedly said on Dubai television in December 2012 that her husband had planned the uprising. "Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return.... Camp David had failed, and he said to me, 'You should remain in Paris.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because I am going to start an intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so,'" the research institute [MEMRI] translated Suha as saying.[156]
In the New York Times' view, only Israeli actions count towards destroying "good feelings" and starting conflict. Nearly 300 dead Israelis post-Oslo isn't enough to be considered noteworthy. A visit by Ariel Sharon where there were no casualties is awful, but Palestinians dropping stones onto worshippers at the Western Wall during prayers is reduced to "stone throwing Palestinians."

This is another example where reporters simply regurgitate myths as conventional wisdom - myths that they helped create with their own agendas, including in this case to minimize the deadly attacks in Israel during the Oslo process to "give peace a chance" as well as accepting without checking the Palestinian narrative that Ariel Sharon's pre-planned and approved visit sparked the violence.

(h/t Yenta)

UPDATE: The NYT fixed the first problem and slightly mitigated the second, although it still says that Israeli police "inaugurated" the violence: (h/t Alyssa)

Mr. Peres, Mr. Rabin and Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
But the era of good feelings did not last. Barely a year later, Mr. Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish gunman upset by the accords, elevating Mr. Peres to the post of prime minister. A series of Palestinian suicide bombings undercut Mr. Peres’s authority, and he lost a narrow election to Mr. Netanyahu in 1996.
Conflict between Israel and the Palestinians accelerated in 2000 after a visit by the opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the sacred plaza in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The next day, the Israeli police fired on stone-throwing protesters, inaugurating a new round of violence that became known as the second intifada.

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