Friday Summary and Analysis

In its Friday broadcasts, V.O.P. continued several major trends that have emerged during the week:

  • emphasizing the brutal and “CRIMINAL” escalation by Israel that is killing Palestinian civilians and decimating the Palestinian economy;
  • pushing Arafat to the front of the internal Palestinian stage again;
  • urging outside intervention by Europe and the United Nations against Israel-both as a direct threat to Israel (war crimes tribunal) but also to signal that the Palestinian Authority has other options outside the United States (which it views as pro-Israeli and anti-Iraqi);
  • and re-stating that there will be no peace for Israel or the Palestinians until all demands are met, including full Israeli withdrawal, Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem and its holy places, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

In a featured morning interview, PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman warned that any military intervention inside PA territory by Israeli forces would “cost Israel dearly.” The comments by Abd-al-Rahman, one of Yasser Arafat’s closest advisors, were re-broadcast throughout the day’s headlines. Abd-al-Rahman and other PA officials (such as Tawfik Tirawi) throughout the week directly threatened Israel with serious military and political consequences ranging from escalating Intifada to counter-assassinations of Israeli officials. Abd-al-Rahman also stressed that one of the Intifada’s goals was to make the continued existence of the settlers untenable, and he noted that the Intifada had succeeded in throwing the settlers into “a complete state of panic.”

V.O.P. broadcast prominently Thursday remarks by an Egyptian Islamic cleric, the Mufti Sheikh Nasser Farid Wasil to the effect that “the Western neighborhood of the Sacred Shrine (a.k.a. Noble Sanctuary/ Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif) is the property of the Muslims, and it is forbidden to designate it as the Wailing Wall.” In other words, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount is NOT ONLY NOT JEWISH PROPERTY, BUT IT IS FORBIDDEN EVEN TO REFER TO IT IN A WAY THAT MIGHT SUGGEST SOME JEWISH CONNECTION TO THE SITE. “And the Sheikh said that the Buraq Wall is the western portion of the blessed Al Aqsa Compound, and there can be NO RECOGNITION OF ANY JEWISH PROPERTY CLAIM TO SUCH A WALL,” V.O.P. quoted from the cleric’s statement. “Because,” the statement quoted by V.O.P. continued, “the placing of any hand by Israeli authorities on the wall is the exercise of sacerdotal functions by Israeli occupation which opposes international legitimacy no matter what amount of time has evolved.”

The second part of the quotation seems to make two points:

  • it recalls the findings of a British Mandate-appointed commission on May 19, 1931, giving Jews limited access and Muslim authorities ultimate control over the Western Wall;
  • it attacks the practice of Israeli politicians-and Jews generally-of praying at and touching the wall, as both Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon did the morning after their respective election victories in 1999 and 2001.

V.O.P. followed the Egyptian cleric’s words with a re-broadcast of a similar ruling last week by (PA-salaried) Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Ikrema al-Sabry that “the Buraq wall is an inseparable part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and he said that referring to it as ‘haram al-mabka’ (Arabic translation: The Wailing Wall) was forbidden to Muslims..His Authority the Sheikh said Muslims should refer to the site as the Buraq Wall.”

(NOTE: “Buraq” is a reference to the mythic steed of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. According to legends developed many years after Muhammad’s death, the verses in the Quran describing Muhammad’s mystical night journey from the “mosque of holiness” to the “farthest mosque” (al-Aqsa in Arabic”) were a reference to a journey atop a winged horse-donkey to Jerusalem’s “Al Aqsa” mosque, which was conquered, built and named well after Muhammad-who never left Arabia-died. The legends were developed by various Islamic rulers ranging from Abd-al-Malik to Salah al-din (Saladin) with an eye to buttressing their own power and Muslim defense of Jerusalem, especially against Crusaders. Islamic scholars say that the “Buraq” character is actually heavily influenced by the earlier Jewish messianic theme of “soosya barqa” (Hebrew/Aramaic: the horse or donkey Barka or Barqa) upon whose back the Messiah is expected to arrive. Those wishing to examine the exegesis of the themes may look at The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam by H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, p. 65 as well as other entries in same and The Encyclopedia Britannica as well as the writings of Professors S.D. Goitein and H. Lazarus-Yaffe.)

Friday Morning Headlines, February 23, 8 a.m. / 9 a.m.

“Israeli bombardment of inhabited neighborhood in Beit Sahur in Bethlehem district and Zababdeh township near Jenin;

  • In Jericho, shelling of security forces in ‘Auja;
  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat asserts that the peace process in the Middle East needs the powerful push of the European Union;
  • The Egyptian realm’s Mufti said the Sacred Shrine (Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount) is the property of Muslims and should not be designated the Wailing Wall; [NOTE: this item shows a favorite V.O.P. technique-using the words of someone else to further its own point of view.

This is particularly true when the remarks are so extreme in tone that if any PA official said them, it would embarrass the PA. By using a quotation from someone else, V.O.P. encourages the content of the message while the PA enjoys plausible deniability];

American and British planes bombard last night -and for the second time this week-targets in northern Iraq;

The formation of a new government in Sudan.”

Quote of the Day

“I say that the Israelis will not reach security without peace. Security for them will only be realized through peace and that means withdrawing their army and the settlers from Palestinian lands..

It should be clear that for the last five months that Israeli presence, occupation, Israeli settlement in Palestinian lands will not return to being an outing but a different existence, a tearful existence. That is what the Palestinian confrontation is making firm to Israelis every day.” (Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman, PA Cabinet secretary, featured interviewee on Friday Morning Dialogue, 8:20 a.m.)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Abd-al-Rahman (8:40-8:50 a.m.)

Question: “Some Israeli officers are speaking of re-conquering some territories controlled by the Palestinian National Authority. Mr. Abd-al-Rahman what to do you say about the calls of some Israeli officers to re-conquer some Palestinian areas?”

Answer: “First of all, I want to say that the present situation in Israel is a worrisome situation. Because some of the Israeli adventurers and extremists have reached decision-making positions. And all possibilities are open to this group of extremists who issue statements without taking account, and who are presenting avenues of action that are very dangerous for the Palestinian people. In any event, these statements and these Israeli threats will not be carried out easily. Entry to Palestinian territory will not be a pleasure trip (or outing). It should be clear that for the last five months that Israeli presence, occupation, Israeli settlement in Palestinian lands will not return to being an outing but a different existence, a tearful existence. That is what the Palestinian confrontation is making firm to Israelis every day.

And the Israeli government in pushing forward military solutions, occupation operations, military raids on some locations, use of helicopters, it is clear that none of this will be a cakewalk or an outing. They will pay a price for every attack against the Palestinian people.”

Question: “What about special units executing assassination operations in Palestinian territory?”

Answer: “They brag about this, saying (it) all day long to strengthen the sense of importance of the Israeli settlers. And as you know the settlers have become thrown into a complete state of panic during the Intifada which our Palestinian people have confronted them in all areas, to harry the settlers from the Palestinian territories.And naturally, by necessity, the Occupation authorities are looking for any means to give the settlers security. But the Palestinian people will continue day after day..”

Question: “All of what you have said leads to increasing escalation by the Israeli Occupation, and how will this affect the arrival of Colin Powell in the region, and the American efforts in the peace process?”

Answer: “Really, all that the Israeli government does is a continuous strategy. But I say that Israel’s priority is not peace. Israel’s priority, as Sharon says, is security. But I say that the Israelis will not reach security without peace. Security for them will only be realized through peace and that means withdrawing their army and the settlers from Palestinian lands..All the things that President Bush said in his press conference about Iraq, about Iraq respecting its neighbors and so on. Well, why doesn’t he say something like that to the Israelis? Here is a clear American prejudice in favor of Israel. This same prejudice is what encourage the Israeli aggressors to continue their aggression.”

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