The Truth About ‘Intifadas’
Many journalists covering the Mideast are like an old Russian joke during the time of dictator Josef Stalin.
One Russian asks his neighbor: “What’s happening?”
Russian response: Ya ni-znayoo ee-Ni-khatchoo znat: “I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.”
That was the safest way to answer questions under Stalin, and many reporters covering Arab terrorists use the same policy (just ask Tom Friedman and Robert Fisk).
Today’s Mideast-minded media do not know, and do not want to know, but they want you to think that they really know
Many Western reporters and quite a few Israeli pundits have been asking themselves if Israel is seeing a new “intifada” – an Arab term whose real Arabic meaning few Western reporters know and whose strategic significance they do not want to know.
Intifada means “shaking off,” as when a dog shakes off excess water or dust, or a person or a camel has a tremor or shivers with fever. “Intifada” was coined as a political term in 1978 by two militant Palestinian Arab mayors who wanted to “shake-off” the Egyptian-Israeli peace process.
The mayors, Muhammad Milhem and Fahd Qawasmeh, were chosen in the first free voting in the Arab world – the Israeli-run elections in the West Bank in 1972 and 1976. The Israelis allowed people to vote without property restrictions, and then, in 1976, allowed women to vote.
Milhem of Halhoul and Qawasmeh of Hebron were PLO supporters and hated the idea of peace with Israel.
Keep that in mind whenever you hear the term intifada. Its primary meaning is hating Israel and the idea of making peace with Israel.
In December 1987, an Israeli truck driver accidentally struck an Arab car at a road junction, killing several passengers. Islamic Jihad in Gaza put out a deliberate blood libel that the driver murdered the Palestinian Arabs deliberately.
Islamic Jihad even used the Hanukkah holiday – when Jews light menorahs – as part of their Jewish conspiracy theory. They claimed the Jews in the Gaza settlements were lighting torches as they “prepared” to “invade” and “burn down” the Jabalya Refugee Camp. The result was major rioting and terror.
Islamic Jihad and then the PLO (Arafat’s Fatah organization, particularly) called it “Intifada,” which the clueless Western media – particularly CNN – said meant “uprising.”
This is also when Hamas came out of the closet and began publicly attacking Israel, because it could not remain “moderate” when the PLO and Jihad were reaping all the popularity for killing Jews.
Arab propagandists like Jonathan and Daoud Kuttab said “intifada” was not “terror” because it was al-silaah al-abyaad – “the white weapon” that did not employ guns or explosives. But, actually, there were many guns, many explosives, and killing someone with a knife or a rock was still as much a murder as when done with a bullet.
There have been Israeli reporters and pundits who have bought into this nonsense, using an exotic name for a cruel reality. Part of the cruelty is that the Palestinian Arabs killed thousands of their own people under the cover of “intifada.”
Strapping a pregnant woman to a light pole in Ramallah and setting her on fire was still murder, even if PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi dismissed it as not really a human rights abuse because the woman was suspected of being married to someone who “collaborated with Israel.”
Sometimes masked men used the cover of “intifada” to stain and execute rivals as “collaborators of Israel.” In some cases these were political rivals or commercial rivals who wanted an easy way to dispose of someone who had a shop on the same street.
In 1996, three years after signing agreements and pretending to make peace with Israel, Yasser Arafat deliberately sparked what he hoped would be another “intifada” when he claimed that Israel had dug a tunnel under the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to set off an earthquake that would bury Al-Aqsa.
Actually, it was a 2000-year-old tunnel first dug by the Hasmoneans, and it was not near the Temple Mount. Arafat was using the playbook of Jihad from 1987 and the Mufti (Haj Amin Husseini) from 1920, 1928, and 1929, claiming that he was responding to a “Jewish attack.”
In 1996, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led an Israeli military response that put down Arafat’s deliberate attack. About 20 Israelis and 50 Palestinians died, but Netanyahu should have used the attack to overturn the Oslo Accords by showing the video evidence of Arafat’s planned assault.
In 2000, Arafat again deliberately staged a broad attack on Israel that he claimed was a spontaneous “intifada” when it was again Arafat staging a deliberate attack based on a blood libel that Ariel Sharon had “defiled” the Al-Aqsa Mosque during a Temple Mount visit. Actually, Sharon never went near the mosque, and certainly did not defile it.
Signed documents found at Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and in the PLO base in Orient House in Jerusalem prove that Arafat continued to plan terror. I edited some of these documents, and I suggest that they be examined by U.S. policy makers and Israeli analysts like Dr. Alon Ben-Meir who want to believe that the PLO wants peace.
And that brings us to Abu-Mazen, or the man whose real name is Mahmoud Abbas. Any serious examination of Abbas’ policies and statements – especially in Arabic – will show that Abbas is a faithful disciple of Arafat who is even more extreme than him. Abbas has reached out to Hamas as a personal choice for at least a decade, and his disagreement with Hamas has nothing to do with end-goals.
He has not changed from the man who wrote a “doctorate” that belittled the Holocaust and cast the Zionists as accomplices of the Nazis. When Abbas lionized an Arab who deliberately murdered Israelis, including a three-month-old girl, he was showing that he and the PLO are still not worthy partners. His frequent statements still praise terror, and occasionally, when pressed, he will pay lip service to “peace.”
And when analysts use the terms “intifada” or “Abu Mazen” they are consciously or unconsciously contributing to a continuation of terror against Jews. Murdering Jews in a synagogue is terror, not “attacking a Zionist base,” as one PLO spokesman said on Arab TV.
The only way to defeat terror is to recognize it and then to fight it with power and intelligence. The first step is to stop lying to ourselves.
Michael Widlanski is the author of “Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat.” He has served as a reporter for The New York Times, Cox Newspapers, Israeli Army Radio and The Jerusalem Post. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security, and he teaches at Bar-Ilan University.