By: Jonathan Harris
The word intifadah literally means, “shaking off” and refers specifically to, “an uprising by Palestinian Arabs (in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) against Israel in the late 1980s and again in 2000.”(The Free Dictionary) The first intifadah began in 1987 as a result of violent outbreaks and misinformation. From December 6th to 9th, unrest progressively broke out in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, starting with the murder of an Israeli in Gaza who was merely shopping. The next day, four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a car accident. However, rumors started that Israelis had killed the four “Palestinians.” On December 9th, a Palestinian boy was killed by an Israeli solder, after the boy had attacked an army patrol with a Molotov cocktail (a glass bottle containing fuel with a source of ignition). As a result of this incident, mass rioting broke out in Jabalya. “Between December 9, 1987, and the signing of the Oslo accords (September 13, 1993), 160 Israelis were killed, including 100 civilians. Thousands more were injured.” (Al-Hamishmar) In fact, the rioting reached such radical proportions, that Palestinians started fighting among themselves as well. Initially, most of the Palestinian casualties were the result of clashes with Israeli forces, but that quickly changed as the chaos worsened. From 1990 to 1992, more Palestinians were killed by fellow Palestinians than Palestinians killed by Israelis. (Near East Report) The PLO itself tried to call an ending to the violence precisely for this reason. The NY Times reported in 1991 that, “When many Palestinians heard a knock at the door late at night they were relieved to find an Israeli soldier rather than a masked Palestinian standing outside.” Starting on December 13th of 1993, the violence fizzled out to lower levels when the Declaration of Principles was signed between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. The goal of the Declaration were, “To establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority. . . for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. . .” In return, the PLO formerly renounced terrorism during the Oslo accords that same year.
Violence broke out again however in 2000 during the second intifada. While there has been much misinformation claiming that prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the temple mount sparked violence, the Mitchell Report has stated, “The Sharon visit did not cause the ‘Al-Aksa Intifada.’” The day before Sharon’s visit, “an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The next day in the West Bank. . . a Palestinian police officer. . . opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.” (Bard) On September 29th, the Palestinian Authority closed schools and organized riots at the Temple Mount. On the 30th, during Rosh Hashanah, thousands of Arabs began throwing rocks at Jews busy praying. The violence spread to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “In October 2000, Palestinian mobs destroyed a Jewish shrine in Nablus – Joseph’s Tomb – tearing up and burning Jewish prayer books. They stoned worshipers at the Western Wall, and attacked Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem with firebombs and automatic weapons.” (Bard) During the span of the second Intifada, more than twice the amount of Israeli citizens died as ration to Israeli soldiers according to the IDF. Despite Sharon’s efforts to stop the fighting, Arafat would not make any concessions. Edward Walker, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for
Near East Affairs, stated in 2001 that, ““In contrast [to Ariel Sharon's concrete steps to ease the economic hardship of the Palestinians] we've seen absolutely no response from Arafat to our urgings to him to now bring the violence to a stop. . . he has called for the continuation of the intifada” (Jerusalem Post)
The intifadahs have done nothing but cause harm to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Former Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen even stated, “I think now that the intifada in its entirety was a mistake and it should not have continued....”(Jordan) The international community has been losing patience over Palestine’s violence, and the credibility of the PO is all but destroyed. The Gaza Strip and West Bank, both have demonstrated their failure at self-government, and it remains to be seen what the next step will be.