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The First Intifada

Intifada is an Arabic word literally meaning “to shake off”. It has come to be used, however, to define uprisings and rebellions. The First Intifada took place from 1987 until 1993 in Palestine. It is generally believed to have been an uprising against Israeli rule and oppression in the occupied territories; it further reflected Palestinians general loss of hope in other Arab countries and the PLO to help them establish a Palestinian state. Many, if not most, Palestinians took part in some part of the Intifada. Actions ranged from throwing stones and Molotov Cocktails at Israeli soldiers to boycotting Israeli goods, and participating in acts of civil disobedience. Israel responded to these disturbances with the use of force, detentions, curfews and more. Many believe that the Israeli response was too violent and too intense; the conflict is often portrayed as a David versus Goliath story. After years of fighting, and escalations in tactics on both sides, the Intifada came to an end with the signing of the Oslo peace accords by Rabin and Arafat in which Israel and the PLO, representing Palestine, formally recognized each other.
Leading up to the Uprising
In the Six-Day War, also known as the 1967 War, Israel fought multiple Arab nations. To the chagrin and surprise of the Arab states, by the end of the six days, Israel had gained significant amounts of land. After this humiliating defeat, Palestinians, who had assumed they could rely upon their Arab neighbors for strength, were downtrodden. They resented Israeli rule and had no place to turn for help. It was during this time period, that protests and civil unrest became common in the Palestinian territories. It is not surprising that the Palestinians, many of them leaving in squalor in refugee camps resented their rich, comfortable Israeli rulers and neighbors. They protested against Israeli settlers, who seemed to build more and more houses, against censorship, against the demolition of houses and against Israeli occupation in general. In the lead up to the Intifada, the Palestinian territories were growing ever more restless. Several cold blooded murders took place in the fall of 1987, when Israeli soldiers and others were killed in public places during daylight. In October of 1987, the reporter Hirsch Goodman wrote “you can feel the tension. Worshipers-Jew and Muslim alike—scurry rather than walk. Tourists cluster together and are protected by armed soldiers. Shopkeepers keep one hand on their shutters in anticipation of the next riot. . . . In Gaza you drive a car with Israeli plates at peril ... thousands of Gazans have stayed away from jobs in Israel –some in protest, others out of fear.” Somehow, however, the Israeli government and military failed to recognize this deadly escalation in unrest as a trend which had the potential to explode into full fledged fighting.

Then, on December 8, 1987 there was a car accident in which an Israeli military vehicle hit a car carrying Palestinian workers, killing 4 and severely wounding the rest of the passengers. Generally, car accidents, even fatal ones, are not big news in the Israeli-Palestinian territories because they are so common; however, this car crash became notorious. After the report of the accident was issued, a rumor began to circulate that the accident had not been an accident but in fact a murder. The rumor claimed that the driver of the Israeli vehicle was a relative of a man that had been killed in a Gazan market merely a few days earlier, and that this accident was an act of revenge. The rumor was widely circulated in Palestine and generally taken as fact. That evening, there was protesting in the Jabalaya refugee camp, where 3 of the 4 dead had lived. This protesting, however, did not die down and it was this protesting which began the period known as the Intifada.

The Beginnings of the Intifada
The protesting in Jabalaya was very intense and as Israeli jeeps were attempting to get through barriers in the camp, they were surrounded by Palestinians. After attempting to disburse the crowds with tear gas, rubber bullets, and warning shots, eventually the Israeli soldiers, on orders began shooting the crowd. One of the bullets hit and killed a man, this man would be known as the first “martyr” of the Intifada. The killing of this man incited more protests and eventually the uprising spread to other refugee camps, then the rest of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and even East Jerusalem.

While all of this was going on Rabin was not even in Israel, in fact we was on a rather unimportant trip in the United States. The Israelis, sure that the protests would die down, as they normally did, barely mentioned the unrest to Rabin. However, when he arrived home at the airport he was surrounded by questions. In an impromptu news conference, he declared that the Intifada was spurred-on and controlled by Syria and Iran. Rabin couldn't have been more wrong, and later blamed his statements on his too brief briefing on the issue.

The cause of the uprising was debated quite intensely at the outset of the Intifada. Many analysts tried to find outside supporters of the conflict, just as Rabin did, or look towards the PLO as its designer and organizer. However, it has since been accepted that the Intifada was a true grass roots uprising. The people on the ground had become completely fed-up with their situation, the accident on the 8th of December was merely the straw that broke the camel's back.
Palestinian Tactics and Israeli responses in the early months
The Palestinians used several methods to vent their frustration over their situation. There were many street protests including not only men but also women and children. Some Palestinians also used semi-violent methods of protest, including stone throwing and Molotov Cocktails. The Palestinians also showed bravery against the Israeli soldiers, who were militarily trained. They would steal their weapons and jump on their vehicles.

Much of the Israeli administration was at a loss as to how to deal with the uprising. Reports from soldiers show that they were given vague instructions but not discouraged from using necessary (or unnecessary) force. Amnesty International reported on February 5, 1988 that “human rights violations on an extensive scale have become a feature of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza in recent months . . . [Israeli Soldiers] repeatedly resorted to the use of lethal force and have inflicted severe—often--indiscriminate--beatings on demonstrators and others in the occupied territories opposed to continued Israeli administration.” Media often included pictures from Palestine of a Palestinian boy with a rock and Israeli soldiers with tanks. The Israelis used their military prowess against the Palestinians who generally had the ability to at worst throw stones.

The Palestinian Civil Disobedience Movement and Israel's Reaction
Later in 1988, Mubarak Awad began and promoted a movement of Civil Disobedience as part of the Intifada. Awad realized that his non-violent protests could be met with violent reactions by the Israelis but nonetheless promoted nonviolent protest as the best method to irritate and rise against the Israelis. He recognized that Israeli soldiers were not blind violent machines but were men and women who would have trouble harming anyone who was non-violent. Furthermore, he recognized that a Palestinian non-violent protest would resonate in Israel in a way that a violent protest would not. His movement, in fact inspired many Israelis to question there governments policies and join peace groups.

Israeli officials, however, recognized Awad as a decisive and dangerous figure. How could the Israelis respond to acts of civil disobedience?--It was much easier to respond to violence. In 1988 amid protests from Israeli citizens and the US government, Awad was deported.

Israeli officials also tried to disrupt the nonviolent protests. For instance, many Palestinians had stopped paying taxes, Israeli then denied these individuals rights to a divers' licenses, building permits and more. Israelis also blocked all trade with Jordan which had been a mainstay of Palestinian farmers markets. Furthermore, Israelis closed many schools and universities in Palestine hoping to slow the growth of the protests and ease their strength. This tended to have the opposite affect when young people not in school and without jobs would congregate and begin to protest and become even more radical than they had been. Widespread curfews became common, and at times the Israelis even closed towns and villages, meaning they would not let outsiders in. The Israelis eventually tried a policy of mass arrests, in which they not only arrested leaders and trouble-makers (which they had done from the beginning) but also minor activists. In the first year, they arrested over 18,000 Palestinians in this manner. Many of these prisoners were also tortured during their incarceration. Making matters worse, the settlers within the occupied territories were not subjected to any of the policies. In fact often they took more than there share of water and taunted their Arab neighbors without recourse. Though when the taunting turned violent, it is to Israel's credit that the settlers were promptly prosecuted.
The Emergence of Hamas
Created in 1987 at the beginning of the First Intifada, Hamas played a larger roll as the years progressed. The Hamas movement countered Awad's movement of Civil Disobedience, instead supporting violence, the obliteration of the state of Israel and terrorist actions within Israel. Especially after Awad's deportation, Hamas gained strength in its support of street violence and other violent measures, which seemed to be having an affect on the Israelis who outlawed Hamas in 1989.
A Minor or a Major Declaration?
On November 15, 1988 Arafat declared the existence of Palestinian State. While the declaration was recognized in Israel, Israelis did not seem to think much of it. The Israelis were disillusioned with their own government and almost resigned to the fact that there would need to be a two-state solution. The Palestinians did not think much of it either, Arafat there supposed leader after all had declared this in exile in Algiers. Though it seems that this declaration should have been a major milestone, it was not.
The Continuation of the Intifada and its Eventual End
By 1990, the Intifada wasn't losing steam as much as direction. There were still numerous protests but what was the next step? The Israelis repeatedly attempted to quell the protests and the Palestinians just kept protesting, nothing was getting anywhere. Violence was prevalent in both Palestine and Israel. Eventually, Arafat and Rabin met in secret in Oslo and signed the Oslo accords in which they recognized each other's existence and pledged peace, though leaving out a process to peace. This accord is largely recognized as the end of the Intifada. The protests died down because the Palestinians had renewed hope for their own state.
“The Intifada: Revealing the Chasm” by Alan Dowty and Michelle Gawerc. Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 3 (September 2001)
Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising, Don Peretz, 1990, Westview Press
Intifada, Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari, 1989, Simon and Schuster

The Second Intifada or al-Aqsa Intifada

After several years of peace, in 2000, protesting and violence broke-out again and the Second Intifada began. After many rounds of fruitless negotiation, the Palestinians still did not have a state and were still forced to live in Occupied Territories. Their frustration finally came to the surface after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, a holy site in both Judaism and Islam. Some people define the Second Intifada as ending in 2004, others note that there has never been a verbal agreed-upon end to the Intifada and as the violence has not been quelled, believe it is still going.

Leading-Up to the Uprising
Between 1993 and 2000, there was a disappointing lack of development on peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The hope that followed the Oslo Accords and other negotiation sessions had faded. On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon made a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This site is home to the Western Wall (The Wailing Wall), and the First and Second Temples which are very important sites in Judiasm. The Temple Mount is also home to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, very important sites in Islam. According to the Oslo accords, Ariel Sharon and other Israelis could visit the temple mount Ariel Sharon's visit was pre-approved by the Palestinians.

The Beginnings
On September 29, at Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque, Israelis increased the normal police presence, large riots broke out, and violence began again. The violence quickly spread to the West Bank and Gaza. On September 30th, Israeli forces killed a 12 year old boy, and much like in the first Intifada, the death of this boy incited more rioting and violence and he became the first “martyr” of the Second Intifada. Early during this uprising, President Clinton brokered the Sharm Al-Sheikh agreement; however, this truce agreement broke down nearly immediately. The violence and the significance of the attacks seemed even worse than that which characterized the First Intifada. According to Al-Jazeera, “The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) declared 6 October 2000 "a day of rage," urging Palestinians to attack Israeli army outposts in the occupied territories. Israeli troops, who had been securing the ancient Jewish site of Joseph’s tomb in Palestinian-controlled Nablus, withdrew. Palestinians moved in quickly, dismantling and burning parts of the tomb. The event triggered angry protests by Jewish settlers who reportedly blocked roads in the area and prevented Palestinians from passing. The next day, 8 October, a mosque was burned down in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias.” The Second Intifada was real and both the Palestinians and Israelis had furstrations to fuel the fighting.

Palestinian Tactics and Israeli Responses
During this uprising, the Palestinians were not limited to stone throwing and at worse Molotov Cocktails, but this time they used small arms, including grenades, explosive belts, assault rifles and Qassam Rockets. With Hamas leading much of the Intifada efforts, Palestinians also employed the use of Suicide Bombings as a scare tactic to disrupt Israeli society and responses to the Intifada. In they world's view this Intifada was no longer a David vs Goliath situation. In fact, “the world” strongly condemned the Palestinians and their use of indiscriminate violence. Unfortunately, the violent methods of a few, overshadow the peaceful protests that many Palestinians take part-in, that merely highlight their frustration with their living situation and Israeli occupation. And because of their violent counterparts, peaceful protests are often responded to by Israel with force.
Due to the increase of violence during this Intifada, Israel has also responded with more severe measures. Israel employs the use of many armored vehicles, aircraft and reinforced bulldozers. Israel has also stepped up the number of its detentions and checkpoints. Israel tries to keep what it considers as dangerous people under control, either in detention centers or safely away from Israel. However, especially the increased number of checkpoints, disrupts “normal” Palestinian life. Palestinians have trouble moving from one part of Palestine to another, and even more problems moving between Palestine and Israel. Israel has also periodically reinstated curfews in certain cities. These curfews are highly condemned internationally as they limit the free movement of Palestinians. Lastly, Israel has also started the building of the West Bank Barrier (see its entry for more information).

The Second Intifada has had dreadful affects on both Palestine and Israel. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society estimates Palestinian deaths from the beginning of the uprising to January of 2007 to be over 4,000 and injuries to have affected over 30,000 people. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates Israeli deaths for the same time period to be over 1,000 and injuries to have affected over 6,000 people. The economies of both sides have also suffered. The Israelis have lost much of their supply of Palestinian labor, while Palestinians have lost their much needed jobs within Israel. The negative economic effects have deepened the resentment on both sides and continues to add fuel to the fighting.

The Palestinian Economy and the Second Intifada, Salem Ajluni, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Spring, 2003), pp. 64-73

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