myths about the Israeili-Palestinian conflict - Part II: Arafat started the Intifada

This is a continuation of the previous article, on myths about the Israeili-Palestinian conflict.

Myth 2 - Arafat started the Intifada

This myth often appears in concert with nebulous statements about Arab culture such as "they only respect strength" and other ridiculous stereotypes which in the end, exist solely as rationalizations. As Steven wrote:

Arafat ... concluded that Israel was about to collapse. So he refused [the Barak proposal] and turned on the Intifada and the suicide attacks because he thought he was near to winning.

The truth is that Camp David ended three months before the beginning of the Intifada. It convened July 11th and concluded July 25th.

Arafat and Barak actually met on 25th September for more negotiations.

On 28th September, Ariel Sharon made a political visit to the Haram Al-Sharif masjid site, with 1,000 armed men in escort. This was a show of strength, whose purpose was to send a message (to both Israeili and Palestinian political oppoenents alike) that Israel would always control the Palestinians by brute force.

The Palestinian demonstrations that broke out in reaction to Sharon's visit included stone-throwing, but absolutely no firearms. The Israeli response was tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets, and also live rounds. The violence escalated as Israeili police used more and more lethal force. At this point the narrative becomes murky, but I invite you to read the actual news reports from the BBC detailing these events, and draw your own conclusions:

Israel apportions blame

In pictures: The shooting at Temple Mount

Shots fired at Jerusalem holy site

Strike call after Jerusalem bloodshed

Violence engulfs West Bank and Gaza

Israeli soldiers shot

Fierce clashes in Gaza and West Bank

Mid-East peace 'drowning in blood'

Some background on Ariel Sharon, and how he has made things worse. I also have previously blogged an excerpt from a piece in Ha'aretz observing the two-year anniversary of the Intifada, which also lays out these events in chronologic order very clearly.

Arafat and Barak met again at Taba, Egypt in January, for more negotiations, and these were widely considered much more fair by both sides. Sharon, however, lambasted these meetings, and publicly declared (BEFORE Taba had concluded) that he would NOT honor any results from these negotiations. Negotiators on both sides wanted to continue talks after Taba, expressing the last rays of optimism - declaring that they should continue even after the elections! However, By this time, Barak was a lame duck and Sharon had enormous popularity (in no small part due to his visit to the Temple Mount). It was clear Sharon would win and Taba quickly became meaningless.

Therefore, claims that Arafat started the Intifada after Camp David are absurdly wrong. In fact, the Palestinians tried to negotiate a fair settlement right up until Sharon took office, after which things got much worse. But that's another topic.

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