The Provocation 

Uri Avnery

It's no use accusing Ariel Sharon of the bloodshed which followed his visit to the compound of the mosques on
the Temple Mount. Since the Kibia massacre of 1953, through his bloody reign in Gaza at the end of the 60s
and the Beirut events of 1982, he has left behind rivers of blood wherever he has gone. As the man in the Bible
cried out: "Come out, come out, thou bloody man!" (Samuel II, 16,7)

The cynical purpose of the visit is obvious. Its timing speaks for itself: Sharon wanted to divert attention from Benjamin Netanyahu, who is trying to stage a comeback, to himself. So the price was some dozens of dead and some hundreds ofwounded. So what?
The provocation itself follows an old tradition of the right- wing. The riots of 1929, including the Hebron massacre, were theresult of a provocation by Betar (the forerunners of today's Likud) at the Western Wall, in contravention of the rules imposed by the British administration in order to maintain a fragile peace in the temple area.
But it is no use accusing the bull for ruining the china shop. That's how bulls are. The entire blame lies on the shoulders of those who let him enter the shop: Ehud Barak and Shlomo Ben-Ami.
Barak played a shameful part in the provocation. As the Prime Minister, he is responsible for the peace process. As Minister of Defense, he is responsible for the life and security of the country's inhabitants, Israelis and Palestinians. Both offices obliged him to prevent Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, the bloody results of which could be easily foreseen.
Instead, he committed two sins: giving his blessing to the visit, fully knowing what the results would be, and afterwards denying any connection between the visit and its results.

Why? Like most of Barak's acts and omissions during the last year, the motive was fear. Sad to say, the battlefield hero lacks civil courage, not to mention political courage. He was afraid that if he had prohibited the visit, he would be blamed for giving in to the Muslims. Out of fear of being accused of surrendering to the Arabs, he surrendered to the Likud. And where, during all these events, was the Minister of Police (or rather the Minister of Internal Security, by his high- sounding title)? Where was Shlomo Ben-Ami, he who aroused so many hopes, the man of political and humane vision, the man of pure intellect and social conscience, who was going to change the face of the police, root out its racist character and turn it into a people-loving force?
Ben-Ami was a partner to the decision to let Sharon into the compound of the mosques and at this time. He concentrated an immense force - some 1000 to 2000 police officers - to defend the band of provocateurs. Thus, he enlarged in advance the dimensions of the inevitable outburst.

Like Barak, Ben-Ami committed a double sin. As Prime Minister, Barak came to the rescue of Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Ben-Ami came to the rescue of Police Minister Ben-Ami. There was no need for a brilliant intellectual in order to allow the police to run riot on the Temple Mount, any primitive ruffian as Minister of Police could do that. But Ben-Ami used some of his own peculiar talents: he justified the evil deeds with honeyed words, he added some new sophistication to the methods of brain- washing, lies and half-truths which follow all acts of oppression against the Palestinians.
But all the words of hypocrisy will evaporate into thin air, and what will remain is the picture seen by hundreds of millions around the globe: a little child, Rami al-Duri, crying in mortal fear with his last breath, before being killed by the soldiers, together the para-medic Ghassam al-Balbisi, who tried to rescue him, while his father was mortally wounded. This will remain like the mark of Cain on the forehead of Sharon, Barak and Ben-Ami. And in the background there echo the words of Bialik, the national poet: "The revenge of the blood of a little child has not yet been conceived (even) by Satan."
This whole chapter of violence. stupidity and cowardice will take revenge on its creators. It has proved to the world that under no circumstances can the Haram al-Sharif compound be left in the hands of Israeli politicians, this cynical bunch that talks reverentially of "the holy places of the nation" with its mouth full of pork. It has shown the Israeli public that an end must be put to the charade called "political process" and that a peace agreement must be signed, leaving the Temple Mount to Palestine and the Western Wall to Israel.
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Uri Avnery