The Outbreak of the Second Intifada
One of the most pervasive myths appearing in the international media is the accusation that Ariel Sharon’s September 2000 visit to the Temple Mount was responsible for the outbreak of Palestinian violence against Israel.
Sharon made a provocative visit to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, sparking the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.
Palestinians contend that the now-momentous September 2000 Sharon visit to the site – where according to Muslim traditions Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, and where King Solomon initially built the Temple that had become Judaism’s holiest site – launched the intifada.
But, do Palestinians really contend that Sharon’s visit launched the intifada?
Palestinian Communications Minister Imad Al-Faluji, Al-Safir, 3 March 2001. (Translated by MEMRI):
Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is wrong.. . . This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton.
Yasser Arafat’s wife Suha said the following (from Palestinian Media Watch):
On the personal level, I miss him very, very much. [Our daughter] Zahwa also misses him, you can’t imagine. She didn’t know him. She knows that Arafat sent us away before the [Israeli] invasion of Ramallah. He said: ‘You have to leave Palestine, because I want to carry out an Intifada, and I’m not prepared to shield myself behind my wife and little girl.’ Everyone said: ‘Suha abandoned him,’ but I didn’t abandon him. He ordered me to leave him because he had already decided to carry out an Intifada after the Oslo Accords and after the failure of Camp David [July 2000].
Imad Faluji, PA Minister of Communications:
Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque is mistaken. That was only the straw breaking the Palestinian people’s patience. This Intifada was already planned since [Arafat] the President returned from the recent talks at Camp David [July 2000].” [Private filming of speech by Faluji, Dec. 5, 2000]
The Israel Project notes that American diplomat Dennis Ross recounts in his book The Missing Peace how the Israelis called Washington with proof that the Palestinians were “planning massive, violent demonstrations throughout the West Bank and the next morning, ostensibly a response to the Sharon visit.” Washington pressured Arafat to dampen the violence, but the Palestinian leader – again per Ross – “did not lift a finger to stop the demonstrations, which produced the second Intifada.”
In addition, the Mitchell Report submitted by the investigatory committee set up to look into the causes of the outbreak of violence concluded:
The Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
See more quotes from senior Palestinians and media admitting responsibility for the Second Intifada at Palestinian Media Watch.
At least Time Magazine gets it right:
While some Israelis and Palestinians blamed Sharon for provoking the violence, it soon became clear that Arafat, who fanned the unrest, had been spoiling for a fight and would have taken any excuse.