MSNBC host Ali Velshi on Thursday relayed a misleading history of the Second Intifada to viewers, leaving out key details when he claimed the Palestinian uprising in 2000 was triggered by an Israeli politician visiting a holy site in Jerusalem.
Amid fears from journalists and world leaders that President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would lead to violent backlash in the Middle East, Velshi recounted the events of the two intifadas, Palestinian uprisings against Israel. The first period of violence occurred from 1987 to 1993, and the second from 2000 to 2005.
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"The Second Intifada began in the year 2000," Velshi said. "It was sparked when Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited a holy site known to the Jewish people as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary."
Velshi noted that the Second Intifada was more violent than the first one, before adding that, in 2005, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Sharon, who by then had become Israel's prime minister, brokered a truce to end the uprising.
Velshi's explanation that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, sparked the Second Intifada is the official justification that pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists use for the uprising. Palestinians saw Sharon's visit as provocative—arguing it disrupted the "status quo" at Jerusalem's holiest sites, under which Jews have limited access to and are forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount—and began violent protests against Israeli authorities.
That explanation leaves out key details, however. Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, had already planned the Second Intifada weeks before Sharon went to the Temple Mount. Palestinian Media Watch has documented how the Palestinian leadership prepared a violent uprising after the final round of the Oslo peace negotiations and the 2000 Camp David Summit collapsed under President Bill Clinton.
As journalist Eli Lake noted in a column published Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority's former communications minister, Imad Faluji, said in a private speech in 2000 that the Second Intifada was planned before Sharon's visit and those who think his trip started the uprising are "mistaken."
"Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon's visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque is mistaken," Faluji said. "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."
Arafat's widow, Suha Arafat, said in 2011 that her late husband had "already decided to carry out an Intifada after the Oslo Accords and after the failure of Camp David."
Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, explained in a television interview that "[Arafat] saw that repeating the first Intifada in new forms would bring the necessary popular, international, and Arab pressure upon Israel."
Velshi is not the only public figure in the past week to repeat the narrative that Sharon's visit prompted the Second Intifada.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) on Tuesday tweeted out a letter she sent to Trump urging him not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital or to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The senator argued that either move would "spark violence and embolden extremists on both sides of this debate."
"Recall that the Second Intifada, which killed thousands, was sparked by Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount," Feinstein wrote. "This act was perceived by many Palestinians as an act of Israeli provocation and incursion on land they claimed as Palestinian."
Feinstein made no mention of Arafat's plans to launch the Intifada well before Sharon visited the Temple Mount.