There is nothing the Palestinians like more than a dead body on which to pin their protests. After weeks of leadership-instigated "spontaneous" riots on behalf of hunger-striking terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails, they finally got their coveted corpse. The name of their beloved "martyr" is Arafat Jaradat.
Jaradat was a 30-year-old gas station attendant and father of two who was detained on Feb. 18 for throwing rocks at Israeli cars, and was held in Megiddo prison. He was engaging in this activity as part of the staged rage that has been escalating across the Palestinian-led territories ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah in March.
On Saturday, less than a week after being taken into custody, Jaradat died. The circumstances surrounding his death are being investigated. An autopsy conducted in Tel Aviv in the presence of a Palestinian coroner determined that he had two broken ribs. The Palestinians claim this was the result of torture during his interrogation by the Shin Bet security forces, which resulted in his murder at their hands.
Israeli authorities say that Jaradat died of cardiac arrest. His ribs, they believe, were broken when medics pounded on his chest to resuscitate him.
By the time the facts emerge, it will no longer matter how Jaradat lost his life. Accusations of Israeli brutality always trump truth. And this particular case is already proving to be no exception. Indeed, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wasted no time in declaring that Israeli behavior was "dragging" his people into another intifada, in spite of his "serious efforts to avoid one."
This is as mendacious as the claims of his predecessor, Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, who carried out two such uprisings against Israel, under the guise of victimhood.
The First Intifada was launched in 1987 and lasted until 1991, fizzling out with the onset of the Gulf War. It began when an accident involving an Israeli truck left four Palestinians dead. Because the accident occurred a few days after an Israeli was stabbed to death in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians decided that it was an act of Israeli revenge. From that moment on and for the next four years, Palestinians committed continual unprovoked acts of violence against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Any time the Israel Defense Forces responded, it received reprimands from the international community. Israel was literally and figuratively caught between a rock and a hard place.
Arafat milked it for all it was worth. He had found the perfect way to defeat Israel in "battle": by having an army of children filmed by CNN cameras and a theater of war that could not be determined or dealt with in the conventional way.
The Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, was in the works much further in advance. After 11 months of careful planning, it ostensibly "erupted" when then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon took a delegation of fellow Likud members to the Temple Mount. Though his visit was coordinated with the Palestinian authorities, who gave him permission to visit the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the event "sparked" riots across the country, including among many Israeli Arabs.
This is why Arabs call it "Al-Aqsa Intifada." Many Israelis refer to it as the Oslo War, as it was Arafat's response to Prime Minister Ehud Barak's generous peace offering at Camp David, as part of the Oslo Accords.
Whatever its name, its aim was clear — to slaughter innocent Israeli civilians whenever and wherever possible. This was accomplished through the use of suicide bombers, young Palestinians dispatched by their terrorist elders to become martyrs for the cause of killing Jews.
Though this suicide-bombing war proved extremely successful, both in uniting disparate Palestinian factions and in disrupting Israeli society, it had an unwanted consequence for Arafat. It caused the Israeli public to reconsider its belief in the "peace process." This led to the ousting of Barak and the election of Sharon as prime minister.
Little could Arafat have hoped and dreamed that this former formidable general with a reputation for being ruthless would end up responding to the incessant killing of his citizens by removing every last Jew from the Gaza Strip. But by the time this happened, the arch-terrorist had died. His successor, Abbas, was more palatable to the United States, as he had the external trappings of a "moderate."
He was less popular among Palestinians, however. Once Gaza was "Judenrein," elections in 2006 ushered in Hamas. It is with this Iran-backed terrorist organization that Abbas has been attempting to reach a unity agreement, not with Israel.
Discontent with his governing runs high in the PA, where unemployment is high, and salaries for those with jobs is both low and often not forthcoming. The only time he manages to unite different factions around him is when he steps up his anti-Israel stance. His recent successful bid for observer status at the U.N. awarded him the kind of love and support from the Palestinian street that Arafat used to receive.
It is thus in his interest to rile up his populace against Israel. This gives him a better chance of reconciling with Hamas. It also gives him a guarantee of international support, since the Israeli army — in spite of taking great pains not to harm innocent Palestinians — looks bad on television.
Indeed, all it took was the death of Jaradat to get even the Israeli media to blame the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the "escalation of unrest," and to give Monday's funeral even more coverage than the Academy Awards.
The funeral was attended by thousands of Palestinians — from Fatah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations — who united to "mourn." This took the form of parading around with Jaradat's body, chanting anti-Israel epithets and shooting in the air. A group of young girls waved hand-painted signs of swastikas and Jewish stars.
One member of the extended Jaradat family told the press, "The people are hungry for an intifada. Maybe an uprising will help our situation and move things politically on the ground."
Abbas clearly agrees. Accusing Israel of purposely killing Palestinian children, he warned that "the death of young Arafat Jadarat shall not pass easily."
There has been much speculation over whether a third intifada is imminent. From the look of things, Abbas wants to reap the benefits of a mass uprising without actually having to lead one. Obama's arrival — and inevitable sympathy — is what he hopes will enable him to pull that off.
Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"