Please use the following talking points to help you respond to ongoing coverage of the crisis in Israel.
1. WHEN DID THE VIOLENCE BEGIN?
The violence did not begin with Ariel Sharon’s Thursday, September 28th visit to the Temple Mount. The evening before, on Wednesday, September 27th, an Israeli soldier was fatally injured by a roadside bomb at the Netzarim Junction in Gaza.
While there was heckling and pushing and shoving, there was no serious violence during Sharon’s visit. Later that day, on Thursday, another bomb was set off near an Israeli army vehicle patrolling the border between Gaza and Israel, but fortunately no one was harmed. Not so lucky was an Israeli soldier serving in a joint patrol with Palestinians in the West Bank town of Kalkilya. One of his Palestinian "partners," without any provocation, shot the Israeli soldier dead on Friday.
The intense violence between Israelis and Palestinians didn’t start until Friday, when Muslims during mosque services were falsely told that the Jews wanted to tear down the Al Aqsa Mosque.
2. ARAB VIOLENCE NOT "SPONTANEOUS"
Whatever one thinks about the advisability of Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, the Palestinian response was not "spontaneous," but highly orchestrated by the PA. On Wednesday, students of all ages were told that classes would be canceled for Thursday and they were exhorted by PA radio and TV to go to Jerusalem to "defend the Al Aqsa mosque." They were subjected to nationalist, inflammatory rhetoric on the TV and radio throughout the day, and on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, the incitement escalated. The sermon given at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday incited the worshippers with fabricated rumors that there was a new plot by the Jews to destroy the mosque to make way for a new Jewish Temple. Muslims were encouraged to "eradicate the Jews from Palestine." Muslims streamed out of the Friday service and a melee began that soon included hurling stones and bricks at the Jewish worshippers who were praying at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount. The Israeli police were compelled to intervene to put a stop to the potentially lethal stone throwing.
If the Arab attacks on Jews were spontaneous and not planned by the PA, why didn’t the Palestinian policemen try to stop the attacks on Jews? If the PA opposed the violence, why did Arafat-controlled radio and TV incite more violence rather than try to minimize it with calls to stop the riots and violence? And why were PA officials actively involved in directing and escalating the violence?
Charles Sennott of the Boston Globe is one of the few reporters to take a serious look at the official orchestration of the violence. In an October 7th article, Sennott wrote:
A senior Palestinian official acknowledged that yesterday’s protest was orchestrated. The rockthrowing youths…quit the protest quickly after a request to do so by the same Palestinian official who encouraged them to demonstrate…After the [Sabbath mosque] service, Israeli police had a normal presence around the mosque and appeared to be showing restraint. But hundreds of Palestinian youths — at the direct encouragement of Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister for Jerusalem Affairs — began throwing rocks on Israeli police near the plaza of the Western Wall…The cycle was in motion.
Sennott further writes:
All day, rock throwers – referred to in Arabic as ‘shebab,’ or ‘the boys’ – were provided with wheelbarrows full of rocks that came from inside the Al Aqsa compound. And the rock throwers stopped in unison at almost precisely 5pm…Husseini [admitted] that he turned off the rioting in a matter of minutes…
Asked about assertions over previous days that the escalating violence was a spontaneous outpouring of rage, Husseini paused and then said, “Yes…in Haram Al Sharif I can tell you we were in control. But that is not the case in the West Bank and Gaza.
However, contrary to Husseini’s assertions that the PA leadership has nothing to do with controlling the violence in the West Bank and Gaza, Sennott notes in an October 10th Boston Globe article:
The violence emanates from built-up anger among the young men, but the fighting itself seems highly coordinated. Leaflets from Fatah, the largest political party within Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, were handed out at yesterday’s funeral. They stated, “The resistance continues on all fronts and Fatah calls on all of its sons to be on the front lines. We must escalate in the coming days.”
3. IS THE PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE AGAINST JEWS JUSTIFIED?
Anyone who claims that Sharon’s visit "caused" the violence is implying that it is justifiable to stone, firebomb, and shoot Jews (both civilians and soldiers) throughout Israel — just because a Jewish leader the Arabs don’t like visited the Temple Mount, a site that is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims.
Since Sharon is Barak’s opposition, and does not represent the elected government of Israel, it is especially odd for such a violent reaction against Israelis in general.
More importantly, why should a visit to a site holy to both Jews and Muslims be a provocation at all? Why is the press not pointing a finger at the Palestinians for their lack of religious tolerance?
Contrary to many reports, Sharon was not there to visit the two mosques (Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock) on Haram al Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site and the Muslim name for the Temple Mount. He was there to visit Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. The two mosques sit atop the Temple Mount, but do not encompass the entire site. So if reports look back at the alleged "start" of the violence, and describe Sharon’s visit as a wish to visit or intrude upon the mosques, this is inaccurate and prejudicial.
4. WHAT DOES PALESTINIAN REACTION IMPLY ABOUT PALESTINIANS’ COMMITMENT TO CO-EXISTENCE?
The extreme, violent response to Sharon’s visit by the Palestinians points to a deep lack of respect for Jews and Judaism. This violent reaction also displays an utter lack of commitment to co-existence.
Jews may or may not agree with Muslims that Mohammed actually visited the Haram al Sharif (the Temple Mount), but Israeli leaders do not publicly deny Mohammed’s visit or ridicule Islamic beliefs. Israelis do not prevent Muslims from having access to Muslim holy sites. This is done for reasons of common courtesy and respect for Muslims’ beliefs and sensitivities and mostly because Israelis value co-existence.
Notably the press fails to ask why the same tolerant attitude does not prevail among the Palestinians. In numerous expressions of bigotry, Arafat and other Palestinian leaders have claimed there never was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. And that furthe
rmore, the Palestinian Authority has no intention of sharing Muslim holy sites, such as the Haram al Sharif, with Jews. They also claim that the Western Wall has Muslim significance and should not be shared with Jews.
Why is Muslim devotion to a holy site considered by Palestinians to be so much more valid than Jewish devotion to the same holy site? This view is apparently shared by many in the press, who often overwhelmingly use the term Haram al Sharif to refer to the Temple Mount, instead of more objectively alternating between the Muslim and Jewish terms. And why is it considered acceptable that Muslim devotion must necessarily exclude Jews from visiting a site that can be easily shared?
This intolerance for Jews and Judaism is highly evident in the recent wanton destruction of Joseph’s Tomb. Although it was supposed to be safeguarded by the Palestinians, they destroyed it, along with all the Jewish prayerbooks inside.
5. ARE THE ISRAELIS USING EXCESSIVE FORCE?
Contrary to most reports, the Israelis are using notable restraint. If they were trying to kill Palestinians, rather than working to repel them and stop the mob attacks, there would be thousands, not tens, dead. Thousands of stones, firebombs and bullets are being directed at the Israelis by Palestinian mobs, and Israel has the military power to kill all the perpetrators, yet they haven’t to the best of their ability.
When at all possible they shoot in the air, then use tear gas; if that doesn’t work they use rubber bullets and try to shoot at the legs. When all else fails, they use live ammunition, but still do not aim to kill.
Please note that stones can be lethal, and that in most of the attacking mobs, guns and firebombs are also being used by the Palestinians. CAMERA is preparing a detailed analysis of the issue of excessive force, and we will provide you with more details on this question soon. [now available, click on Middle East Issues, excessive force]
6. PALESTINIAN CHILDREN PURPOSEFULLY PUT IN THE FRONT LINES
But in the meantime, please keep in mind that the Palestinians purposefully put their children in the front lines. The Palestinians’ hatred for Israelis and their desire to hurt Israelis seem to trump even their deep love for their own children. This is a tragedy for all involved. The PA has indoctrinated a new generation of children to hate Israel and the Jewish people through hatemongering in textbooks, children’s television shows, summer camps, newspapers and mosque sermons. Where is the consistent and prominent emphasis in news reports on this key obstacle to co-existence?