Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Short History of Israel-Palestinian Conflict: 1929, 2000, 2009, Anti-Jewish Rumors over the Temple Mount Lead to Palestinian Riots

By Barry Rubin

In August 1929, wild rumors that Jews had attacked Arabs, cursed the name of Islam’s founder, and were about to seize the Temple Mount led to inflammatory sermons in mosques, followed by massive Arab riots. More than 105 Jews were killed by Arabs; not a single Arab was killed by a Jew.

The exact same thing happened—albeit with far fewer casualties—in 1996, 2000, 2009, and at several points in between. The pattern tells a great deal about why the conflict doesn’t end and in fact stays a great deal the same.

IN 1929, The worst single incident took place in Hebron, where scores of Jews were murdered or wounded. Some were saved by Arab neighbors. The remaining Jews had to flee Hebron, never to return. Their property was taken by the Arab residents.

True, there had been a right-wing Jewish demonstration at which slogans were chanted claiming ownership of the Western Wall (the surviving part of the retaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple) but there had been no violence against Arabs.

Almost exactly 80 years later, the visit of a French tourist group to the Temple Mount set off wild rumors that Jews were going to seize the Temple Mount. Passions were inflamed by Islamic clerics who were appointees of the Palestinian Authority and organized by Fatah, Hamas, and Hizb al-Tahrir,

Again, days of rioting were set off. But no Jews were killed because they were defended by Israel’s security forces, not British police (as had been the case in 1929). No Arabs were killed because of the restraint exercised by Israeli police. One can imagine if parallel events had taken place in an Arabic-speaking country. Naturally, there will be no international praise for this restraint.

The Western Wall and the rest of the Old City of Jerusalem was captured by Jordanian forces in the 1948 war. All synagogues were torn down or turned into other facilities; all Jewish residents were expelled.

In 1967, Israeli forces captured the Old City in the Six-Day war of that year. No Arab residents were expelled; no mosques or churches were closed down. On the contrary, there was a massive Arab migration to the city which greatly increased the Muslim population there.

Even though the Temple Mount is the holiest place—I would argue the only legitimate Holy Place—for Jews, it was left under Arab Muslim supervision. Jewish prayer was forbidden up there by Israel’s authorities, both to avoid provoking Muslims and also in line with a rabbinic forbidding of doing so lest the Temple’s space be defiled.

The al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock were also under Arab Muslim control. The area was closed to Muslim prayer only during periods of violence and opened thereafter as soon as possible.

In 1996, the Israeli government opened a tunnel which tourists could walk through and see certain features of the ancient wall and Jerusalem. Rumors that the Jews were trying to destroy the mosques were orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership with many lives lost and the peace process placed in jeopardy. As a result, too, 85 Palestinians and 16 Israelis were killed, and more than 1,300 people--mostly Palestinians--were wounded, a terrible bloodshed for no rational reason whatsoever.

In 2000, a brief tour of the Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon—he merely walked through for about an hour, looked around, and then left—was the rationale used to set off an intifada that lasted for about five years and cost several thousand lives.

Afterward, Marwan Barghouti, leader of Fatah on the West Bank, described in detail how he used this as an excuse to set off the uprising. This violence took place about the time that President Bill Clinton, with Israeli agreement, proposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state which would, among other things, control most of east Jerusalem.

All of these things are points of fact, yet thoroughly neglected ones internationally. Both Israel and the Palestinians claim the Old City and there have been a wide variety of plans to solve this problem. Basically, however, the issue is not really closer to solution than it was in that far distant past.

The salient fact is that 80 years after the 1929 riots the same scenario has prevailed of demonization and lies about Jews, deliberately inflamed by Arab political and religious forces, has led to massive Arab violence.

If you want to know why the conflict has not been resolved over such a long time, examine the different behavior of the two sides.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.