Arab Activists Massacred the Facts

ONCE again, the news is filled with images of Israeli soldiers mercilessly beating and shooting apparently defenseless Palestinians. Once again, Harvard is the scene of protests against alleged Israeli brutality.

Tuesday afternoon Harvard dorms were plastered with posters provocatively asking: "How many Palestinians were killed yesterday?" The posters allege 23 dead, and while there is some controversy over this figure, they are right in publicizing the fact that many Palestinians were slain by Israeli police on Monday. Unfortunately for readers of the propaganda, this generality marks the pinnacle of the posters' truthfulness.

The posters, most of which bore the approval of the Subterranean Review in their bottom right corners, are riddled with so many circumlocutions and outright fallacies that they amount to nothing less than a blood libel against the Jewish state.

Monday's turn of events, far from being a cold-blooded Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians--as the posters claim--was in fact the result of a premeditated Palestinian attack on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall and subsequent rioting by the same group of Palestinians.

ACCORDING to news accounts, at 3:30 a.m. Monday the first of what would soon be 4,000 Palestinians gathered on the Temple Mount, stockpiling stones, bottles, and other heavy throwables. Although it was a regular Muslim workday, the large crowd had excellent reason for being up so early. Soon thousands of Jews would be assembling to worship at the Western Wall in celebration of the fifth day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth.


On the orders of local intifada leaders and Muslim preachers, the Palestinian mob attacked the 45 or so police who serve as the security force on the Temple Mount. They set a nearby police station ablaze and barricaded any exits the police might have taken to escape.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained what ensued: "If a...raging mob of thousands of people is coming at you trying to tear you to bits, you try to use whatever method of crowd control you can short of live ammunition. And if that doesn't help, if you're outnumbered roughly 100 to one and you know that you have to save your life, you will use live fire. That happened here."

Tragically, at least 19 Palestinians were killed by the gunfire; had the Temple Mount police not used deadly force, however, many of them would almost surely have died at the hands of rioters.

In light of these facts, the assertion by the Mufti of Jerusalem that Israeli soldiers attacked Palestinians praying peacefully at the Al-Aqsa Mosque becomes ludicrous.

It is also outrageously galling. Not only were the assembled Palestinians violently attacking the police force present to protect the Temple Mount, they were at the same time bombarding Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall. From their vantage point atop the Temple Mount, the Palestinians were in a perfect position to attack the unarmed, prayer-shawled assembly down below.

This vicious unprovoked action was duly recorded on television; news footage depicts worshippers fleeing as thousands of rocks and bottles were thrown at them. When the dust finally settled, rocks and broken glass were strewn all over the area around the Western Wall.

THE claim advanced by Palestinians that their "demonstration" was in response to a Jewish attempt to lay the cornerstone for a third temple stands out as a sham as well. A group of Jews known as the "Temple Mount Faithful" does fantasize about a return to the Solomonic era, but they are a radical fringe group of Jews, an organization probably no larger than the Crimson Key Society.

As a matter of public record, the "Temple Mount Faithful" did not come remotely close to conquering the Temple Mount. Earlier this month the Israeli Supreme Court, in response to the Faithful's threat to march on the Temple Mount, barred the extremists from the Temple Mount area. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli police and local government officials guaranteed Muslim clerics several times that they would enforce the Court's decision, which embodies long-standing Israeli government policy.

So when the Palestinian stone-throwing occurred, the Faithful were more than a half mile away, prevented from entering the Old City walls by Israeli police.

Ironically, the almost non-existent threat that the Temple Mount Faithful actually pose to Arabs was used--with great success--as an excuse for more Palestinian violence against Jews.

The charge that Jews want to retake the Temple Mount from its current Muslim caretakers in order to build a third temple is not new. Monday's events bear an uncanny resemblance to the events of 1939, when Arabs used the same pretext for conducting pogroms in the course of which many Jews were murdered.

With at least 19 martyrs under their belts and renewed television exposure, the Palestinians are again in the spot-light. Who can blame them for resorting' to such extreme measures?

The intifada had all but fizzled out, the P.L.O. leadership had completely discredited itself in the eyes of the world by siding with Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf, and the American news media had found more important events to cover than Palestinian rabble rousing. By staging a violent display sure to result in severe casualties and intense media attention, Palestinians rudely reminded the world that they still exist and still can stir up trouble with the best.

The question remains: With their increased violence, their frenzied support of Saddam Hussein and their lack of leadership, will the Palestinians ever accomplish anything more substantial than mere attention grabbing? Israel and its friends become more suspicious every day.