Myth: “In an unprovoked attack, Israeli police murdered 17 Arab worshippers on the Temple Mount in 1990.”

Folks, 15 years ago on October 8, 1990, a myth surfaced that Israeli police murdered 17 Arab worshippers on the Temple Mount.

The ostensible reason for the October 8, 1990, riot that led to the deaths of 17 Arabs, was that a Jewish fringe group known as the Temple Mount Faithful was going to attempt to lay a cornerstone for the rebuilding of the Temple.

The group had won the reluctant permission of police to march around the Temple Mount carrying Israeli flags. But seeing a large crowd of Muslims gather on the site, police revoked the permit to march. When the riot broke out, the “Faithful” were praying peacefully nearly a mile away.

Arab radicals had helped pave the way for the violence. Leaders of Fatah and Hamas were struggling to “mobilize an upsurge of the intifada in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem.”22 When members of their groups heard calls from sheiks to “defend” the Islamic holy places, they mobilized on the Temple Mount.

“Once the violence began,” the Washington Post reported, “Palestinian youths attacked police with a ferocity and persistence unprecedented in Jerusalem during the nearly three years of the intifada. Arab sources say the fervor of the youth can be connected to what had been a concerted campaign by Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem in recent weeks to step up the level of attacks, especially on police.”

During the ensuing melee, rioters randomly lobbed stones in the direction of Jewish pilgrims, who were quietly saying Sukkot prayers in front of the Western Wall below. Jamal Nusseibah, the son of a prominent Palestinian professor, admitted people had brought stones with them to the Temple Mount in their school bags.23

Two official Israeli reports were issued with regard to the tragedy. The first was the government-appointed Zamir Commission, which concluded that a rioting mob hurled stone and metal projectiles at police from close range, that the policemen’s lives were in jeopardy and that they opened fire to defend themselves. The report criticized the Israeli police for their handling of the incident, in particular their lack of preparedness in dealing with a situation they could have foreseen would become violent. It is difficult to imagine any Arab government issuing a report making such scathing, public criticisms of the performance of its own police force.

Media accounts inaccurately reported that the second report contradicted the Zamir Commission’s findings. Judge Ezra Kama’s investigation confirmed Zamir on key points. Kama did not conclude that Israel “provoked” the riot. The report does say, however, that “3,000 Arabs, mostly youths, heeded the call [by Muslim preachers to come to the Temple Mount to ‘defend’ it]; that stones were prepared in advance; that the Muslim leadership knew that none of the Temple Mount Faithful would be allowed anywhere near the area, and in fact clearly saw them leaving almost an hour before the rioting began.”24

22 Washington Post, (October 14, 1991).
23 “60 Minutes,” (December 2, 1990).
24 Jerusalem Post, (August 17, 1991).

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