This entry deals with the origins and ramifications of the first Intifada, which commenced in late 1987. For its subsequent course and for the second, so-called al-Aqsa Intifada, see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey; *Israel, State of: Israel Defense Forces (The War against Terror).
causes of the uprising
Like any large-scale, prolonged event, the uprising of Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip had a number of underlying as well as more immediate and concrete causes and was triggered by the interaction of these two levels.
The primary motivation was national: the fierce desire of the approximately 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs – 900,000 in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank), 630,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 130,000 in East Jerusalem – to divest themselves of Israeli rule. Contrary to Israeli hopes, 20 years of "occupation" did not bring the Palestinian population to accept Israeli rule. No genuine coexistence emerged. On the contrary, over the years the Palestinians' national consciousness intensified and deepened.
The second factor was the squalid living conditions in the refugee camps, especially in the Gaza Strip, made even more unbearable due to rapid population growth.
Generally speaking it was the refugees, impelled by their harsh living conditions, who were initially in the forefront of the uprising, especially in the Gaza Strip though also in Judea-Samaria.
The third factor was an ongoing and powerful sense of humiliation, deprivation, frustration, and discrimination. A feeling of humiliation was pervasive in life under protracted occupation. Individuals felt humiliated when, for example, they were subjected to strip-searches as part of security checks for residents returning from Jordan via the two Jordan River bridges.
A sense of deprivation and discrimination was discernible in many of the young people who worked in Israel. Over half of the male workforce in the Gaza Strip (50,000 out of 90,000 men) and about one-third of the workforce in Judea-Samaria (50,000 out of 150,000) were employed in Israel. The result was an inevitable sense of discrimination, as they received lower wages than Israelis, were ineligible for tenure, and were often employed in menial labor.
The fourth factor was a fierce enmity for Israel on religious grounds, most potently in the Gaza Strip. Various analyses conclude that the momentum for the uprising in the Gaza Strip was primarily religious, characterized by an uncompromising fanaticism and a burning hatred of Israel.
The fifth factor was the emergence of a new generation of youngsters since the advent of Israeli rule who had no memory of the Jordanian and Egyptian regimes in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, or of the heavy hand wielded by their security forces. They spoke a different language from their parents, let alone their grandparents, and railed at them for their submissiveness during two decades of Israeli rule and for shirking their national duty to rise up against the occupiers.
The sixth factor was the growing conviction of the Arabs in the Administered Territories that neither the Arab states nor the Palestine Liberation Organization (plo) could advance their national interest. Israel's deputy chief of staff said that "the uprising is an attempt to attain goals and objectives that Arab armies and terrorism were unable to achieve."
The seventh element was the organizational infrastructure created by the Palestinians in the preceding years, without which it is doubtful whether the uprising would have broken out or lasted so long. Its major components include the following:
1. Former prison inmates, individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism who, after their release, rehabilitated themselves with the aid of the plo by becoming active in national organizations or in Islamic groups. There were estimated to be about 25,000 of these former prison inmates, including some 600 terrorists released in the 1985 deal with the Jibril organization, who remained in the Administered Territories or Jerusalem.
2. Trade unions. Ultimately four federations of workers – run by Fataḥ, George Ḥabash's Popular Front, Naif Hawatmeh's Democratic Front, and the communists – emerged. By 1987 there were 180 unions in the Administered Territories, operating in every city and large village. The leading activists in the unions were former prisoners.
3. Women's organizations. The dominant influence was exercised by left-wing organizations, which preceded Fataḥ by some years. In 1988 four organizations were unified under a single roof-organization called the "Supreme Women's Council." The four plo affiliates are: The Union of Women's Work Committees, founded in 1978 by the Democratic Front; The Union of the Palestinian Working Women, founded by the Communist Party in 1978; The Women's Union for Social Work, a Fataḥ-affiliated group founded at a relatively late date, in 1981; and The Palestinian Women's Union, affiliated with the Popular Front, that commenced its activity in early 1981 in the Bethlehem area.
4. Charitable societies. From the late 1970s these organizations were undergoing a process of severance from the Israeli authorities. There were several hundred charitable societies in the Territories. In Judea-Samaria alone there were 206 societies (as of March 1989), of which 45 were operated by women and 94 jointly by men and women. The Judea-Samaria societies employed 2,240 men and women and could call on tens of thousands of activists and volunteers.
5. Student unions. In June 1967 not a single university existed in the Territories; by 1990 there were six in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip. The universities were hothouses for Palestinian nationalism and revolutionary ideas, and over the years students were the primary instigators of disturbances. The early 1980s saw the establishment of the West Bank General Council for Higher Education.
6. Fataḥ's Shabiba youth movement. The Shabiba, the largest and most established youth organization in the Territories, fueled the uprising, chiefly in the West Bank. It was founded by Fataḥ in 1981. Initially the organization was comprised of former security prisoners and other nationalist activists within the Fataḥ framework. In 1983–84 the organization began operating in the Gaza Strip (where Islamic elements are dominant), setting up 150 local committees.
7. Islamic movements. In the Gaza Strip Islamic groups were the prime propellants of the uprising, especially the Muslim Brothers and the Islamic Jihad. The Muslim Brothers operated under cover of an association called al-Mujamaa al-Islami which was registered with the Israeli authorities in 1978. The Military Government had permitted its establishment hoping that it would constitute a counterweight to the plo.
A militant offshoot of the Muslim Brothers known as "Hamas" (Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, meaning fervent ardor) began operating in the Gaza Strip shortly after the start of the Intifada. Hamas espoused stands that were far more extreme than those of the plo.
8. The eighth cause of the Intifada can be traced to an erosion in the Israel Defense Forces (idf)'s deterrent image in the year preceding its onset. Successes scored by rioters and terrorists in 1987, and the idf's withdrawal from Lebanon under pressure of civilian violence, undermined idf deterrence and undercut the traditional status of the Israeli soldier.
Another phenomenon not lost on the inhabitants of the Territories was a gradual escalation in bold acts of terrorism perpetrated against Israelis by young individuals using knives and operating without an organizational base. The final factor was the shattering of the deterrent image of the General Security Service (gss) in the wake of the extended crisis in the organization that ensued from the "No. 300 Bus affair" (see yb 86–87:281), and led to the resignation of the gss chief and senior agents.
The period immediately preceding the uprising saw a number of flagrantly unusual incidents.
An Islamic Jihad squad, in July 1987, escaped from the military prison in the Gaza Strip, situated in the most heavily guarded military base in the area. The squad's successful prison break and its subsequent attacks on Israeli security personnel, had a destabilizing effect throughout the Gaza Strip.
In the middle of November 1987 violent demonstrations on an unprecedented scale (in one case more than 2,000 people took part) were held in the Jibalyah refugee camp. For the first time demonstrators tried to break through the fence of the military base located near the offices of the Civil Administration.
judea and samaria
In 1986 and 1987 two events occurred in Judea-Samaria which to the local population showed idf weakness and its inability to cope with an organized mass. These developments were interpreted as signaling a decline in Israeli involvement.
In April 1986, Israeli authorities knew in advance that Fataḥ activists intended to "take over" the funeral of assassinated Nablus major Jafr al-Masri and transform it into a major national event. It was decided to avoid a confrontation and not deploy idf troops on or near the funeral route. In the course of the huge procession, in which 10,000 people filled the streets of Nablus from one end to the other, banners and plo flags were raised, and masked individuals marched openly. The second event occurred in 1987 when for the first time the idf allowed Bir-Zeit University students and lecturers to hold a parade from the new to the old campus along a broad route 3 km. long. What took place was a national demonstration with the participation of about a thousand people in which flags and banners were hoisted. In their perception, the very fact that the authorities had permitted a national demonstration was proof that the government had been weakened and could not cope.
Some observers maintain that the Intifada actually began not in the Gaza Strip on December 9, 1987, but a few months earlier in the Balatah refugee camp near Nablus. So sharply did the situation in this camp deteriorate in 1986 and 1987 that Israel's very control there was called into question.
On the morning of May 31, 1987, an idf force exceeding two battalions in strength entered the camp, in order to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty. Balatah was placed under curfew, and some 3,500 males were rounded up for identification. However the operation had to be halted when women in the camp staged a mass riot which was joined by the detained men. In forcing the idf to halt the operation, the rioters scored a major success. For the local residents this was an extraordinary event: for the first time they had forced the idf to retreat and in doing so had consolidated their self-rule in the camp. The broader ramification was a significant erosion in the idf's deterrent capacity in the eyes of the entire population of the Territories.
A single hang-glider operation near Kiryat Shemonah on November 25, 1987, fired the imagination of the Palestinians. The attack, in which six Israeli soldiers were killed by a single terrorist, was perceived in the Territories as a major success in the Palestinians' struggle against Israel. It also helped create the perception that the idf was not invincible and, concomitantly, engendered an image of a new Palestinian hero.
Rumors played a significant inflammatory role in generating the outbreak and spread of the riots, with the Israeli authorities unable to find an effective means to squelch them. The immediate spark for the riots, in the Jibalyah refugee camp on December 9, was a rumor concerning a road accident the previous day in which four Gazans were killed when their car collided with a truck driven by an Israeli. According to this rumor, the driver of the Israeli vehicle was the brother of an Israeli who had been killed two days earlier in a terrorist attack in Gaza, and the four Arabs were from the Jibalyah camp. In fact, the driver was not the brother of the murdered man; and the Arabs who were killed were not from the Jibalyah camp but from a village of the same name.
The Israeli Factor
A series of Israeli mistakes at the outset of the uprising, in part structural and in part ongoing, contributed to the success of the Intifada.
The first mistake was the failure of the Israeli intelligence community to foresee the possibility that an uprising might break out. The principal reason for this was an ongoing conceptual fallacy encompassing both the political and military domains. Politically, a series of misappraisals were made: that time was on Israel's side concerning the Palestinian question; that the inhabitants of the Territories had no choice but to accept Israeli rule; that Israeli-Palestinian coexistence was an evolving process; and finally, that the struggle of the Palestinian population would not go beyond past parameters – sporadic disturbances.
There were three faults in the evaluation: the failure to assess that an uprising of these dimensions could or would occur, a concomitant failure to predict its timing, and, perhaps most serious, a misplaced confidence that the idf could handle any disturbances that might erupt. It was assumed that an intensification of the struggle against Israel would take the form of increased terrorism and not a popular insurrection. That a new situation was emerging should have been evident from the surge in the number of incidents recorded in the Territories in 1987. Fatalities among Jews and Arabs killed in the Territories increased sharply in 1987 as compared with 1986. Arafat would later contend that the rumblings of the uprising could already be felt in 1986 although the full eruption occurred at the end of 1987.
Even in the days immediately after the start of the riots, the prevailing assessment was that they did not constitute an uprising and that order would be restored shortly. Notably, in this period the plo leadership also failed to grasp the import of the events.
The second mistake occurred in the first days and weeks of the uprising, and stemmed from the evaluation that the riots were the same as past disturbances. It was not until two weeks after the rioting erupted that large forces were rushed to the Gaza Strip – and even later in Judea-Samaria. The non-reinforcement of the Israeli forces enabled the insurgents to score an initial success, and further eroded the idf's deterrent image and resulted in an intensification of the violence.
The third mistake was a direct result of the second. In the first days of the uprising the limited forces in the Territories were deployed in numerous small units and frequently found themselves in life-threatening situations, facing large numbers of inflamed rioters, and had to open fire. The result was a relatively large number of casualties among the rioters (12 killed and 108 wounded in the Gaza Strip in the first two weeks, and 7 killed and 56 wounded in Judea-Samaria). This high casualty rate spurred the rioters to continue and even aggravated the situation.
The fourth mistake stemmed from the idf's policy of action and reaction regarding manifestations of civil disobedience. The local population viewed the military's abrupt shifts and vacillations of policy in the early stages of the uprising as proof of the authorities' confusion.
The fifth mistake occurred in the realm of Israeli counter activities. Unlike past waves of unrest, the uprising was marked by more instances of excesses by idf soldiers. There were too many such "irregularities" for them to be characterized as sporadic.
The sixth mistake was in some ways unavoidable in the circumstances: the severe damage caused to Israel's image in the international arena. This resulted primarily from the situation in the field, not from the absence of an effective information line. Not even the most brilliant information campaign could have nullified (or even moderated) the powerful message generated by television images of the disturbances. Television screens across the globe primarily showed irregular, violent behavior by idf soldiers against stone-throwing youths, or against women and children. The result was to drive home the point that the idf was an occupation army facing a civilian population fighting for its political right of self-determination.
The uprising was generated by a combination of underlying causes that were aggravated over the years, as well as by more immediate causes. Four major reasons may be adduced to explain why the Intifada erupted only after 20 years of Israeli rule: a rise in nationalism, increased frustration, the Palestinians' creation of a national organizational infrastructure, and the erosion in the idf's deterrent capability. Two decades of Israeli control, far from bringing about coexistence, produced mounting resistance to Israel and a growing desire among the population to divest themselves of Israeli rule. A new generation of Palestinians born and brought up under Israeli occupation, proved ready to fight, take greater risks, and make more sacrifices than their forebears. To this must be added the Palestinians' feeling that time was working against them (in the aftermath of the Lebanon War and Israel's intensified settlement policy in the Territories) and that past modes of action, including terrorism, had done little to advance their cause.
An important cause was the erosion of the idf's deterrent ability vis-à-vis the local population. The decline began in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. The process was escalated by the Lebanon War of 1982–85 in which, according to the Palestinians' reading, an indigenous civilian population had forced the idf to withdraw from Lebanon. The shattering of the deterrent image projected by the gss (in 1986 and 1987) because of the No. 300 Bus affair, further diminished the Israeli authorities' deterrent image. The rioting was triggered by immediate and ongoing causes, once the underlying causes were ripe. From this point of view, the uprising could have broken out before or after December 1987.
characteristics of the violent struggle and the civil disobedience in the uprising
The uprising in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip differed from past acts of disorder. The case under review constituted a popular uprising encompassing the entire population of the Territories characterized by violence on a broad scale as well as manifestations of civil disobedience. The considerable efforts of the Israeli security forces proved insufficient to halt the violence and restore the status quo ante.
The uprising began spontaneously. Hence, no specific objectives were set (although the inhabitants' basic desire since June 1967 had been to divest themselves of Israeli rule). A variety of goals were enunciated as events took their course. These involved one fundamental long-term goal as well as immediate or intermediate-range goals.
The essential long-term objective was sweeping in nature and went far beyond the aims of past waves of unrest. It was, in short, release from Israeli rule and the establishment of a Palestinian state. In the words of plo leader Yasser Arafat, "To end the Israel occupation, recover our land, and our right to self-determination and an independent state." Arafat was ambivalent about whether the Palestinian state he envisaged would be confined to the boundaries of June 4, 1967, or would incorporate all or part of the State of Israel as well.
To this must be added the "right of return" demanded by the Palestinians. This would entail Israel's permitting the three million Palestinians living in the Arab world, of whom 2.2 million are refugees (one million living in refugee camps), to reclaim their property in Israel, or receive compensation.
Additional objectives were as follows:
(1) To forge a political power base for the plo and the Palestinians while weakening Israel politically;
(2) To induce the superpowers to coerce Israel into agreeing to an international peace conference under un auspices with the participation of the plo in an independent delegation;
(3) To strengthen the plo as the symbol and sole representative of the Palestinian cause, and to undercut King Hussein's ability to represent the Palestinians and enter into negotiations with Israel; and
(4) To generate an internal debate in Israel and polarize stands on the Palestinian issue which, ultimately, would bring about a policy change.
Intensifying the Struggle
The aims of intensifying the struggle were the following:
(1) To ensure that struggle assumes a broad popular character and can continue indefinitely;
(2) To involve the majority of the Palestinians in the Territories in the struggle; and
(3) To transform the uprising into a stage toward the onset of "comprehensive" civil disobedience.
Moving toward Self-Government
Another objective was to reduce to the minimum Israeli control in civilian areas of life and to establish, gradually, local Palestinian bodies (associated with the plo or Islamic Jihad) to administer routine civil affairs and replace the Israeli authorities.
The Violent Struggle
The violent struggle can be characterized by
(1) Duration. The Intifada was ongoing for years and seemed open-ended – a fact that some local residents regard as its primary characteristic.
(2) Geographical scope. The uprising gradually came to encompass all of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, taking root even in previously tranquil locales, some of which assumed leadership roles in the uprising despite, or because of, their former good relations with Israel (e.g., Kalkilya, Tulkarm, and Jenin).
(3) Targets: Israelis and Palestinians. Whereas past disturbances had been aimed primarily at the Israeli authorities in the Territories, this time civilians were also targeted. In fact, since the violence is directed in the first place against Israeli vehicles in the Territories, its target is any Israeli – soldier or civilian – traveling on the roads.
idf Spokesman statistics show that from the start of theuprising until April 8, 1989, 6,951 disturbances (not including the throwing of petrol bombs) in the Territories were directed against soldiers, 7,216 against civilians, and 11,031 incidents in which people were not the target (e.g., tire-burning). According to data supplied by the Egged Bus Company, the first nine months of the uprising saw attacks on 1,650 of the firm's buses of which 39 were torched (the majority in the early stages); and 188 passengers and 24 drivers were wounded by stones. By June 8, 1989, 3,136 buses had come under attack and 337 passengers had been wounded.
Palestinian "collaborators" were also targeted, and in some cases violence was used to settle personal accounts. One-quarter to one-third of those murdered were killed to settle personal accounts, some were disposed of for moral-religious reasons, and others because they were suspected of collaborating with Israeli intelligence or engaging in economic collusion. Although the Israeli authorities took a very grave view of this phenomenon, measures taken to stop the practice were ineffectual.
(4) Scale of casualties and detainees. The high number of casualties among the rioters – far exceeding anything in the past – did not deter the population.
Considerable disparities exist regarding the statistics on Palestinian casualties. Taking all the different figures into account, the total number of Palestinians killed by the idf and Jewish settlers in the first year and a half was probably about 550, with more than 6,500 wounded – a daily average of one killed and 12 wounded.
There were 15 Israelis killed and 1,822 wounded in the period under discussion. The number of Israelis wounded is relatively high, constituting 28 percent of the number of Palestinians wounded. In contrast, the number of Israelis killed stands at 0.3 percent of the number of Palestinians.
(5) Scale of involvement. The extent and number of participants in riots was far greater than in the past, when a few dozen or at most a few hundred demonstrators would take to the streets. Some of the riots involved thousands of people – including one riot in the Gaza Strip in which more than 10,000 people took part – until the idf began fielding large forces to prevent demonstrations swelling to this size. About ten percent of the population were actively involved in the violence but it had the moral and material support of virtually everyone in the Territories.
(6) Boldness. Greater boldness, intensity, and determination were manifested by the population. Weapons employed – all of them potentially lethal – included stones, rocks, bricks, steel balls fired with slingshots, knives (either thrown or in stabbing attempts at close quarters), hatchets, petrol bombs, maces made of sticks with protruding nails, and nails and oil scattered on roads to bring traffic to a standstill.
The Palestinians evinced growing daring as the uprising progressed, even when the risk of being wounded or killed was palpable. In contrast to the past, the population as a whole was more willing to tolerate casualties (including fatalities), hardships, and adversities of all kinds in order to advance the uprising.
(7) Use of firearms. Although the Intifada did not involve the use of firearms, terrorism continued to be perpetrated in dissociation from the riots.
It was primarily a "street-smart" attitude (and not so much plo directives from outside) that accounted for the nonuse of firearms. The rationale for this tactic was threefold: the desire of the Palestinians to produce a favorable impression on world public opinion of the uprising as a popular manifestation; fear that the use of firearms in demonstrations would result in a Palestinian bloodbath due to the idf's absolute superiority in this domain; and an insufficient quantity of firearms in the possession of organized cells to render their use effective (although light arms in the thousands are held by individuals, families, and clans, particularly in villages).
Despite this, firearms continued to be employed parallel to the Intifada as an additional means of struggle against Israel (the "armed struggle"). However, the uprising itself was now the principal weapon.
(8) Women had taken part in disturbances in the past, but without engaging Israeli troops at close quarters. In the uprising they were involved on a large scale in the rioting and in throwing stones and petrol bombs. In some cases riots were led by women, and there were also demonstrations consisting exclusively of women. The uprising leadership was undoubtedly aware that Israeli soldiers would react more moderately vis-à-vis women rioters. Notably, women from rural areas and refugee camps were more prone to violence than their urban counterparts.
(9) Central organizing in the uprising. The uprising erupted spontaneously, but within a short time local leaderships sprang up. Each neighborhood had its popular and revolutionary committees comprised of representatives of up to four organizations (Fataḥ, Popular Front, Democratic Front, and Communists), or popular committees consisting of Islamic groups. Above them in each city was a central coordinating council (made up of the same factions as the popular committees). Beyond the city level was the United National Command (unc) of the Uprising to which the four main factions assigned second- or third-rank functionaries. The unc was formed piecemeal and was a loosely knit structure of cells. The population was activated and events controlled through the distribution of written communiqués (leaflets) or via radio broadcasts (Radio Baghdad, etc.). Its first leaflet was issued about three weeks after the start of the uprising for dissemination in the Territories. These numbered leaflets were drawn up following discussion with the plo leadership.
No high command existed on which all four plo factions were represented. The leaders of each faction formulated policy on the basis of direct guidelines received from plo headquarters. These central figures did not meet and did not coordinate their actions. They acted by issuing instructions to their representatives on the unc. It was via the leaflets, which gave directives to the general population, that coordination was achieved. The top-level leadership comprised about 45 persons based for the most part in East Jerusalem.
Even though the names of the political leaders of the Intifada were known to the Israeli authorities, no attempt was made to arrest them en bloc.
(10) East Jerusalem. The disturbances there, together with acts of civil disobedience (such as a commercial strike), took place parallel to the events in Judea-Samaria, and in some cases on a larger scale and with greater intensity. This may have derived from the feeling that fiercer opposition needed to be shown in East Jerusalem to annul Israel's formal annexation of the area.
In Jerusalem the Intifada began on December 19, 1987. It was differentiated from the uprising in the Territories by various features:
(a) The leadership of the uprising was based in East Jerusalem.
(b) The level of violence was lower than in Judea-Samaria.
(c) World press coverage was far more intense than in the Territories.
(d) As East Jerusalem is formally part of Israel, the Israel Police – trained in riot-control methods – were deployed there, rather than (as in the Territories) soldiers untrained in police tactics who are soon replaced by others.
(e) Since Judea-Samaria is a far larger area than Jerusalem, and the scale of incidents is far lower in Jerusalem, combating the Intifada in Jerusalem was less problematic.
(g) The number of casualties in Jerusalem was relatively small on both sides (until the Temple Mount clash in October 1990).
(h) Few Arab policemen heeded the calls in the leaflets to resign.
(i) Both sides considered Jerusalem, with its many holy places, a symbol. A serious incident in Jerusalem had an almost immediate effect on the behavior of the Palestinians in the Territories.
(11) Torchings of forests and crops. The use of arson to destroy forests, orchards, and field crops, and the sabotaging of agricultural equipment – for the most part in Israel proper but also in the Territories – began as a local initiative but quickly gained the support of the plo leadership. The torchings began in May 1988 without any previous calls to the population to adopt this tactic either in unc leaflets or plo broadcasts.
Aspects of civil disobedience were part of the uprising:
(1) Origins: The first to urge a boycott on the purchase of Israeli goods and on work in Israel, along with tactics of passive disobedience, was Dr. Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American who arrived in Jerusalem in 1984. Hana Siniora drew on Awad's ideas when he called for civil disobedience already in early January 1988, preceding the uprising leadership.
Siniora's program began to be implemented once it became possible for the uprising leadership to enforce the boycott by means of the strike units and popular committees. As a result, manifestations of civil disobedience were part and parcel of the uprising for far longer than past attempts. The tactic included strikes and demonstrations, resignations of policemen and tax collectors, reduced purchases of Israeli goods, non-payment of taxes, and diminished contact with the Civil Administration, its functions being filled by the popular committees. True, some of the measures called for were purely demonstrative in character, but the majority sought to undercut Israeli civilian rule in the Territories and, if possible, to reduce and eventually eliminate the population's economic dependence on Israel.
(2) The struggle for the reopening of schools. Generally speaking, the population carried out the directive of the unc, but not all its calls for civil disobedience were obeyed. One example was the call to students, teachers, and administrative staff of educational institutions in Judea-Samaria to break into the schools and thus "overturn the enemy's decision [to close the schools]… to organize teaching on a national basis."
Israel had closed the schools in the Territories in order to contain the uprising. The uprising leadership wanted to bring about a situation in which teachers and headmasters would violate the orders of the Civil Administration by breaking into schools and resuming studies. However, this failed to occur in the 840 government and 100 unrwa schools (there are also 300 private schools), although sporadic short-lived attempts were made. Evidently the teachers feared a direct confrontation with the authorities and the high risk of being fired. Furthermore, some schools had been seized by the idf to accommodate certain units. In contrast, the private schools, attended by about 11 percent of the pupils in Judea-Samaria, continued to operate normally.
(3) Cessation of work in Israel. Another demand of the leadership which the population ignored was to cease work in Israel. As early as January 18, 1988, the call went out to continue the strike "in factories inside Israel" with the aim of "paralyzing the Israeli production line and undermining the Israeli economy." Toward the end of that month this call was extended to cover not only factories but all work in Israel. Indeed, it was perhaps the uprising's major failure that it was unable to prevent Palestinians from the Territories from continuing to "build" Israel. Work in Israel was the major source of livelihood for the inhabitants of the Territories. Manifestly, the cessation of work in Israel would mean mass unemployment, as no alternative exists. The uprising leadership, grasping the impracticality of the demand, moderated its call to workers by degrees. Undoubtedly the leadership knew that this demand, too, was impractical – supervision was impossible – but thought it might score points in the media.
manifestations of civil disobedience
The civil disobedience campaign continued and took principally the following forms:
(a) General strike days on which all economic activity including commerce, transportation, work, etc., ceases. Strike days were set by the authors of the leaflets and were fully and precisely carried out by the urban population but less so as one moved away from the cities.
The strikes were not intended to create chaos. The purpose of the general strikes, which were sometimes intensified by calls for a hunger strike, was not only to express resistance and anger in the face of ongoing Israeli rule but also to help unify ranks and heighten solidarity and motivation for the struggle.
(b) Commercial strikes. In addition to the cessation of commerce during general strikes, merchants were called upon – this began in East Jerusalem already at the end of December 1987, spreading thereafter to the Territories – to "open shops, gas stations, and vendors' stalls each day for three hours." Pressure was exerted on merchants to ensure that shops remained closed during the hours stipulated. While commercial strikes had been used as acts of defiance toward the Israeli authorities since 1967, never before had they become a continuous and virtually permanent tool which the military was unable to break.
(c) The cessation of tax payments to the Civil Administration was first demanded in a leaflet of early March 1988 and unabated. At the same time, local tax collectors were urged to resign.
In mid-July 1988, Defense Minister Yitẓḥak Rabin told the Knesset that revenue from tax payments in the Territories had dropped by 40 percent since the start of the uprising.
Taxes collected in 1988 amounted to 60 percent of the total collected the previous year. The budget of the Civil Administration was reduced by more than one-quarter, the planned budget of nis 588 million being revised to nis 420 million. This was also the figure set for 1989. The Civil Administration was therefore compelled to dismiss workers and slash its activity. The development budget was totally canceled in Judea-Samaria and drastically reduced in the Gaza Strip.
(d) Resignation of policemen. Beginning in March 1988, leaflets of the uprising leadership called "on all policemen… to submit their resignations immediately" (noting that the resignation demand was directed at "the police and taxation sectors only"), threatening them with "the long hand of the punitive squads." Ad hominem pressures were in fact brought to bear on policemen to leave their jobs, including the murder of a Jericho policeman. Efforts at counter-persuasion by the Israel Police and the Civil Administration proved unavailing. Wearing the uniform and insignia of the Israel Police, they constituted the most blatant legal manifestation of the local population's integration into the Israeli occupation administration.
(e) Pressure was exerted for the resignation of local municipal councils, especially those which had been appointed by the Civil Administration rather than having been elected. This tactic was employed primarily in Ramallah, El Bira, and Nablus. The Intifada leadership had only limited success in this matter. Only three of 88 village councils in Judea-Samaria resigned. Likewise, even though the mayor of El Bira was assaulted and wounded, only one of 25 mayors resigned (the mayor of Nablus, the largest city in Judea-Samaria). No appointed councils resigned en bloc, and very few individual councilors resigned. The main reason for this state of affairs was the assessment by local officials that if they left they would be replaced by direct Israeli civil rule (as had already occurred in the past). Around the end of 1988 the plo revised its tactics and ceased demanding the resignation of appointed councils.
(f) A development with far-reaching ramifications was the Palestinians' attempt to establish a self-rule mechanism as an alternative to Israeli rule. The Palestinians in the Territories tend to assess that they have acquired effective rule in many fields and that, as a result of the uprising, they are on their way toward establishing a state of their own. From the start of the Intifada, a process was underway of the institutionalization of plo bodies in the Territories and the formation (or consolidation) of supreme councils with authority for the entire West Bank. "Auxiliary" committees were established in every locality and every neighborhood in order to administer community activities and in general "to look after all the affairs of the neighborhood."
Funds on a huge scale were required to keep the uprising going for almost three years. According to Muhammad Milhem, head of the Occupied Territories Section on the plo's Executive Committee, in 1988 the damage sustained in the Territories by inhabitants and institutions totaled $571 million. This represented the salaries of activists, plo compensation to families of fatalities (an initial payment of about 2,000 Jordanian dinars and then 100 dinars a month) and to the owners of houses demolished by the idf according to their value (for purchasing or building a new house), and payments to the families of detainees (about 50 dinars a month if the detainee is unmarried, and 60 dinars to the family of a married detainee).
During the uprising, Israel took a number of steps to halt the smuggling of funds into the Territories via Jordan. Control was tightened at the Jordan River bridges (and at the Rafa checkpoint on the Egyptian border), and the amount of money a person entering from Jordan – either a local inhabitant or a visitor from an Arab state – could bring in was reduced to 200 dinars (instead of $2,000). A Palestinian inhabitant of the Territories entering the country via Ben-Gurion International Airport could bring in up to $400. Yet despite these measures and the close supervision of the Cairo-Amman Bank, plo funds continued to reach the Territories and fuel the uprising.
The three primary conduits were (in ascending order) tourists arriving via Ben-Gurion Airport, who may bring in an unlimited sum of money, and are "recruited" abroad by the plo for this purpose; money-changers from East Jerusalem, the Territories and even the Me'ah She'arim quarter of Jerusalem, who have branches abroad through which the plo can transfer funds; and Western banks – a resident of Israel or the Territories with an account in an Israeli bank may legally transfer funds into the account from banks abroad (though the money can be withdrawn in Israeli shekels only). Funds are thus transferred directly to the Territories or, in some cases, via Israeli Arabs.
The civil disobedience campaign was not all-embracing and did not cover all areas of life. Its purpose was not to foment chaos but to demonstrate Israel's inability to rule in many spheres and to build a self-rule infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. The civil disobedience was not carried to extremes which would enfeeble the population's staying power, but was judiciously applied, staying within the parameters of the residents' capacities.
Civil disobedience was partial. In April 1989 Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) explained why the Intifada had not evolved into outright civil disobedience. Such a development would entail the destruction and replacement of the existing administration, he said, and as this would require funds on a scale not currently available, civil disobedience was being implemented only in part. All the same, a self-image was created of a people fighting for its liberty through the utilization of all means, including civil disobedience. In 1990 most of the local Palestinians employed by the Civil Administration continued on the job, but there were signs that their integration into the system was ebbing. At the same time, a large percentage of the working force in the Territories continued to work in Israel.
Summing up, the primary characteristics of the uprising were violence, large-scale participation, the involvement of all the cities, villages, and refugee camps in Judea-Samaria and the Gaza Strip, its duration (more than 36 months), its central control and direction, its political aims (liberation from Israeli rule), its manifestations of civil disobedience, and the Palestinians' struggle to take gradual control of civilian areas of life.
major ramifications of the uprising
The major consequence of the uprising was the shattering of the political consensus inside Israel. The fact that the uprising continued for such a lengthy period despite all the idf's efforts, and the growing realization that it could not be stopped by military force alone, generated a new political situation.
For years the conception harbored by the majority of Israel's political parties was that the Territories did not constitute a burden of any sort and that the policy of creeping annexation could be pursued without fear of a popular revolt by the Palestinians. The uprising overturned this conception.
The uprising produced a growing polarity within Israeli public opinion and radicalization toward both left and right. Some Israelis saw no possibility of restoring the previous situation and believed that a political solution was essential, even if it entailed concessions. At the other end of the scale were those in whom the Intifada had instilled despair of any political solution and who were more convinced than ever that force was necessary to eradicate the uprising and beyond. The majority of Israelis still continued to oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Criticism of the Army
Both right and left have been critical of the idf's performance in combating the Intifada. The left spoke of brutalization; the right said the military was evading its duty to stamp out the uprising. Yet the public at large was less critical of the idf than of the political leadership, and the uprising did not generate a crisis either within the idf or between it and the Israeli public.
The Palestinian Issue on the International Agenda
The struggle of a civilian population against Israeli military rule, with images of children and youths throwing stones and Israeli troops reacting with sometimes excessive force screened day after day on tv around the world, generated sympathy for the Palestinians and harsh criticism of Israel, political and other. Furthermore, the uprising placed the Palestinian issue on the international political agenda for the first time in years. The Intifada forced the parties to the conflict to go beyond violence and counterviolence and embark on the path of a political solution. A series of political initiatives ensued, launched by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz followed by a turnabout in the stand of the plo, the onset of a U.S.-plo dialogue, and the Israeli political initiative.
the mubarak initiative
Mubarak put forward his plan toward the end of January 1988, some six weeks after the start of the uprising. The main points of the initiative, which was intended to set in motion a political process, were:
(1) a six-month moratorium on violence by the inhabitants of the Territories;
(2) a freeze on the establishment of new Israeli settlements in the Territories; and
(3) an Israeli declaration of readiness to accept steps toward an international conference and to recognize the Palestinians' political rights.
the shultz plan
The second initiative was put forward on behalf of the United States by Secretary of State Shultz following his visit to the Middle East at the end of February 1988. On March 4, Shultz forwarded his plan, and its operative points were as follows:
1. An international conference would be convened in mid-April 1988 by the un secretary-general. The conference "will not be able to impose solutions or veto agreements reached."
2. On May 1, 1988, negotiations between an Israeli delegation and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation "will begin on arrangements for a transitional period" with the objective of concluding these talks within six months (by November 1).
3. The "transitional period" would begin three months after the completion of the negotiations (i.e., February 1, 1989) and last for three years.
4. "[F]inal status negotiations" would commence on December 1, 1988 – before the start of the transitional period – and should be completed within one year.
The Shultz initiative was not accepted by the sides directly involved in the conflict and therefore could not serve as a basis for the start of negotiations. Nevertheless, the very fact that it was undertaken, in the final year of the Reagan administration, constituted an achievement for the uprising (irrespective of its contents).
By late May 1988 the impact of the uprising on the Jordanian authorities was clearly visible, their major priority now being to beef up the security of the East Bank.
On July 31, in an address to the Jordanian nation, King Hussein announced Jordan's disengagement from the West Bank, in his words: "the undoing of the legal and administrative bond between the two Banks," this in response "to the will of the plo." In a press conference a few days later, he declared that Jordan no longer exercised any sovereignty over the West Bank and that it belonged to "the Palestinians."
the third initiative
Changes in the stands of the plo and the U.S. Prominent Palestinians in the Territories pressed the plo leadership, which was soon convinced of the need to launch a political process.
On November 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Council (pnc) adopted and published a series of resolutions, of which the two most significant are:
(1) The declaration of the establishment of an "independent national state, on their national soil." The proclamation of statehood was based on un General Assembly Resolution 181, of 1947 (rejected at the time by the Palestinians and the Arab states), which recommended the partition of Palestine into two states and recognized "the national rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return, the right of self-determination and independence, and a sovereignty over its national soil."
(2) Politically, the intention was to achieve "a comprehensive political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its crux the Palestinian question" within the framework of the un Charter and Security Council Resolutions 605, 607, and 608. The declaration stressed the pnc's "rejection of terrorism in all its forms," while drawing a distinction between this and a liberation struggle against occupation in order to achieve independence. The two pnc resolutions signified a more flexible plo stance on two cardinal issues: establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel (even though the boundaries envisaged, based on the un Partition Resolution, were unacceptable to Israel as a starting point for negotiations); and the goal of "a comprehensive political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict" through direct negotiations with Israel.
Addressing the meeting of the General Assembly on December 13, 1988, Arafat reiterated the main resolutions which had been passed by the pnc.
Arafat's address to the un still did not induce Washington to enter into a dialogue with the plo. The change in the American stand occurred in the wake of a press conference held by Arafat in Geneva (apparently following prior coordination with the U.S.) in which he moderated his stance on the terrorism issue. Arafat stated that "we totally and categorically reject all forms of terrorism, including individual, group, and state terrorism." He offered no change, however, on the topic of Resolutions 242 and 338, continuing to maintain that the pnc had accepted these "as a basis for negotiations with Israel within the framework of the international conference." Arafat added that the pnc considered Resolution 181 "a basis for Palestinian independence." U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, in a press conference the same day, announced Washington's decision to open a dialogue with the plo in the wake of Arafat's statement.
For the plo the onset of an official dialogue with the U.S. constituted a major achievement. To obtain the revision in the American stand, the plo had to make concessions which it had refused to do for 14 years. It was the uprising in the Territories that caused the plo's turnabout.
defense minister's plan
In late January 1989, Defense Minister Yitẓḥak Rabin made public the main points of his plan for launching a peace process with the Palestinians.
The Rabin Plan consisted of two principal stages based on the principles of the Camp David accords: an interim settlement (transitional period) and, following a specified time, negotiations on a permanent settlement. These two stages would be preceded by: first, 3–6 months of calm and quiet in the Territories. Secondly, elections would be held not at the municipal level but for a "political representation" which would negotiate with Israel on an interim settlement. The object of the elections was "to find a partner [for negotiations] among the residents of the Territories." Rabin proposed two phases:
(1) Negotiations with representatives from the Territories, to be chosen in free elections, on an interim settlement and a transitional period.
(2) Following the transitional period, negotiations would be held to work out the permanent solution. The solution could take the form of "partnership with Jordan, federative or other," or "an idea of a federation of some kind with Israel."
The Rabin Plan was rejected, for public consumption at least, by the Palestinians. However, the Palestinians did discern a few positive elements in the Rabin Plan, notably that the defense minister had moved toward accommodation with them, and his readiness for a permanent solution in the form of a confederation between Jordan and the Territories, a solution going beyond Camp David.
the shamir plan and the government's initiative
At his meeting with U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington on April 6, 1989, Prime Minister Shamir put forward a four-part plan. The prime minister's plan was accepted by President Reagan as a starting point and basis for negotiations, and talks with both Israel and the plo got underway. Israel was asked to formulate a more concrete and detailed proposal, and the result was the May 14 government initiative based on points adduced by the prime minister and the defense minister. The following were the principal points of the Israeli initiative.
"Basic Premises [include]:
"Israel opposes the establishment of an additional Palestinian state in the Gaza District and in the area between Israel and Jordan.
"Israel will not conduct negotiations with the plo.
"Subjects to be Dealt with in the Peace Process":
(1) The initiative calls for "promoting a comprehensive settlement for the Arab-Israel conflict, including recognition, direct negotiations, ending the boycott, diplomatic relations…"
(2) On the subject of the elections, "Israel proposes free and democratic elections among the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District… In these elections a representation will be chosen to conduct negotiations for a transitional period of self-rule."
(3) Immediately after the elections, negotiations will be held with the Palestinian representation "on an interim agreement." In these negotiations "all the subjects relating to the substance of the self-rule" will be determined.
the palestinians' stand
Both Egypt and especially the plo found it difficult to accept the Israeli initiative. President Mubarak transmitted to Israel a list of ten conditions for holding elections, while Arafat and other plo leaders assailed the Israeli initiative publicly and rejected it in their dialogue with the U.S. Their virtually uniform line consisted of agreement to elections but only after "Israel's withdrawal from Palestine."
The plo's stand on election in the Territories was summed up in an interview given by Arafat to an Egyptian newspaper. His four conditions included a radical approach toward key principles:
(1) A partial idf withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza prior to elections;
(2) Determination of a timetable for total Israeli withdrawal from the Territories, within 27 months;
(3) Elections to be held under un supervision and agreement to the Palestinian refugees' right of return to their former homes;
(4) Specifying a date for the proclamation of an independent Palestinian state.
The Israeli initiative did not meet the plo's conditions, but the organization did not reject it outright.
economic developments and ramifications
The Administered Territories
dependence on israel
The Territories' economic dependence on Israel continued. These regions cannot survive without imports from and via Israel. The Territories are self-sufficient only in a few areas of agriculture, domestic animals, dairy products, various foods, and textiles.
work in israel
Employment in Israel continued to be the main source of income in both regions.
purchase of israeli goods
The local industry benefited from the boycott of Israeli merchandise. Consumption declined, local factories once more found themselves in dire straits. The owner of one large factory said his revenues had decreased by 30 percent.
agriculture and exports to jordan
The only area that showed a rise in production was agriculture. However, exports from Judea-Samaria to Jordan fell by 40 percent in the first nine months of 1988. Exports from Gaza were unaffected as compared with 1987.
Official figures put the unemployment level in Judea and Samaria during the uprising at an insignificant 3–4 percent – a good deal lower than in Israel. The real figure was probably far higher.
decline in living standard
The uprising caused a decline in the standard of living – up to 35 percent in some spheres.
The economic ramifications of the uprising were severe in the extreme. In the long term, the increasing pauperization among the population of the Territories may well have constituted a greater threat to the continuation of the uprising than the idf's countermeasures.
Developments and Ramifications in Israel
Economically, the uprising affected Israel in three main areas:
(1) The unusually large mobilization of reservists caused a sharp decline in production. This was aggravated by the falloff in workdays of residents of the Territories in Israel.
(2) Israeli exports to the Territories fell drastically.
(3) Incoming tourism to Israel decreased by 15 percent in 1988, a loss of $120 million.
One sector that "benefited" from the uprising was Israel's Arabs, due to the tarnished image of West Bank cities that had served as commercial centers for Israeli Arabs – and for many Israeli Jews as well. Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, fearing for their lives, ceased almost completely to enter the West Bank for shopping.
To sum up the economic ramifications, the economic hardship experienced by the residents of the Territories did not stop the uprising and showed no signs of doing so for a number of reasons: their refusal to surrender (as they saw it) and their desire to register political achievements via the uprising; despite the financial crunch (above all due to the fall of 42 percent in the value of the dinar in 1988) money entered the Territories from plo sources and there was no large-scale unemployment (many of those who lost their jobs in Israel found work locally); a household economy and primitive agriculture reduced economic dependence on Israel and allowed the struggle to continue. From Israel's point of view, the economic damage caused by the Intifada was bearable.
Overall, then, the uprising caused both sides economic difficulties – although these are certainly more severe in the Territories – but as long as the Palestinians felt that they were chalking up political successes, such difficulties did not suffice to stop the uprising.
Social Upheavals in the Territories
One effect of the uprising was to accelerate processes of social upheaval in the Territories. This was particularly evident in three areas. For one, the veteran leadership from the Jordanian period, whose status had already declined in the years preceding the Intifada, disappeared altogether. They were replaced by leaders and activists at the local level, and at the broader level by public figures, most of them based in East Jerusalem, who had been in the front rank of the national leadership even before the uprising.
Another result was a decline in the authority traditionally vested in the father as the head of the family and in the ḥamula (clan) system as a whole. The younger generation who led the uprising were deeply critical of their parents and grandparents for living under Israeli occupation for 20 years without fighting to liberate themselves. As the uprising developed, fathers lost all control over the activities of their sons. Indeed, family bonds were replaced by ties of a nationalist-political nature. There was no doubt that the young generation would exercise a greater influence than at any time in the past with regard to political decisions about the Territories.
The third area of social change concerned women, although here views differ. Civil Administration personnel contend that the status of women in the Palestinian society did not undergo a basic change as a result of the uprising, notwithstanding that women were far more active than formerly in violent demonstrations and confrontations with the idf.
In contrast, Palestinians, both men and women, contended that a social upheaval had already occurred in the status of Palestinian women in the Territories. The pace of developments was accelerated by the active and crucial role women played in the uprising from its very outset. The result was that women gained a status within Palestinian society, approaching the status of men.
Ramifications for Israel's Arabs (excluding East Jerusalem)
After the general strike, accompanied by demonstrations and violent disturbances, held by Israel's Arab population within the framework of "Peace Day" (December 21, 1987), Israeli Arabs became increasingly involved in assisting the struggle in the Territories. True, the scale of incidents was not great, but it is the very fact of their occurrence that was serious, and the dramatic surge as compared with the previous year. Israeli Arabs increasingly identified with the Arabs in the Territories and underwent a process of Palestinization and growing nationalism.
It was all but inevitable that a violent confrontation between Palestinians and Israel in the Territories would generate feelings of solidarity among Israeli Arabs. Manifestations of this solidarity included support in the form of delegations, fund-raising, and donations of food and medicine. These activities were organized by the Israeli Arab leadership, notably the heads of local councils. In addition, youths, apparently acting spontaneously, occasionally hoisted Palestinian flags, scrawled slogans on walls, threw stones and petrol bombs, and erected road barriers.
Most of the nationalist incidents took place in the Northern District of the Israel Police (north of Ḥaderah) and in the Iron Valley. Relatively few events were recorded in the south of the country.
In sum, it is difficult to determine whether the Intifada had already filtered across the Green Line by 1990, but violent nationalist incidents that were occurring with greater intensity than in the past may have foreshadowed the spread of the uprising. Dr. Ahmed Tibi, from Taibe, the chairman of the Association of Arab Academics, said: "The Intifada in all its manifestations will penetrate the Israeli-Arab street, it is only a question of time." The danger definitely existed that if the uprising in the Territories would continue and intensify, violence would also become more pervasive among Israeli Arab youths, and the leadership would be forced to submit to radical nationalist demands.
The cardinal political ramifications of the uprising were the following: the emergence of a new situation that precludes a return to the status quo ante; the placing of the Palestinian issue on the international agenda; serious polarization in Israel concerning policy toward the Territories and the Palestinian question; and more flexible stances adopted by the plo and the Israeli government which would probably not have been forthcoming without the Intifada – the plo agreeing to the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and Israel putting forward a political initiative involving elections in the Territories for representatives to negotiate an interim settlement as a stage toward a final settlement.
The Intifada erupted in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank in December 1987. In broad perspective, it was a continuation of the century-old Arab–Israel conflict. The immediate cause was opposition to Israel's twenty-year occupation and military rule of Gaza, the West Bank, and Arab East Jerusalem. Under Israeli military government, there was censorship of school texts and other publications; punitive demolition of Arab homes; and the institution of a permit system for travel outside the territories and for constructing new buildings, opening businesses, digging wells, and conducting other routine daily activities. Civilian courts were replaced by Israeli military tribunals without habeas corpus and the imprisonment of Palestinians for lengthy periods without trial. Often torture was used by Israeli security services.
Israeli plans for integration of the occupied territories included control and allocation of water resources in the West Bank and Gaza and integration of the electricity grid and road network with those in Israel. Approximately half the Palestinian work-force of the territories was employed at the bottom of the Israeli wage scale, in jobs such as construction and agriculture. Many highly educated and
skilled Palestinians were forced to accept such employment bcause of deteriorating economic conditions.
During the twenty years of occupation prior to the Intifada, about half the land in the West Bank was taken over by Israeli authorities and much of it allocated to Jewish settlers. The substantial increase in the number of Jewish settlers and settlements aroused growing apprehension among Palestinians who feared that Israel would absorb or annex the territories.
By December 1987 Palestinian dissatisfaction reached a crisis. The spark that ignited the Intifada was a road accident on 8 December, in which an Israeli-driven vehicle killed or seriously wounded several Palestinians returning to Gaza from work in Israel. Reports of the incident spread quickly, resulting in protest demonstrations, first throughout Gaza and, within a few days, throughout the West Bank. When Israeli troops arrived to quell the unrest, they were pelted with stones and iron bars by hundreds of demonstrators. Children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers soon became a global symbol of the Intifada.
The extent and intensity of the uprising caught Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab leaders by surprise. Shortly after the first spontaneous demonstrations in December, the uprising began to be organized by young representatives of several Palestinian factions in the territories, many of them from the refugee camps and the working class. The Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) was an underground organization with delegates representing alFatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DPFLP), and the Palestine Communist Organization, all banned by Israeli authorities. Representatives of Islamic Jihad at times cooperated with the UNLU, although Islamic fundamentalist factions maintained their freedom of action. Membership in the UNLU frequently rotated, making it difficult for the occupation authorities to apprehend the leaders.
Because of the overwhelming power of the Israeli military, the Intifada avoided the use of firearms. Instead, tactics included strikes and demonstrations; extensive posting of illegal slogans, flags, and symbols; boycotting Israeli-made products; resigning from posts in the military government; withholding labor from Israel; and refusing to use Israeli official documents. The UNLU and the fundamentalist factions issued instructions and political pronouncements to the Palestinian population through posters and leaflets called bayanat and through broadcasts from underground radio stations that moved from place to place.
By 1990 more than 600 Palestinians had been killed by Israelis since the beginning of the Intifada, and over 1,000 injured. Arrests and imprisonments associated with the Intifada totaled about 50,000. During this period the uprising resulted in 20 Israeli deaths.
Initial objectives of the Intifada included releasing Palestinian prisoners, ending the policy of expulsion, ceasing Jewish settlement, and removing restrictions on Palestinian political activity and contacts between those in the territories and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) abroad. Later demands were the ending of Israeli occupation and Palestinian self-determination.
Whereas the Intifada galvanized Palestinian society, overcoming divisions among regions, religious groups, political factions, sexes, and social classes, it polarized Israel between those who called for a political solution to the Palestine problem and those who demanded greater use of force to suppress the uprising. The Intifada had a detrimental impact on Israel's economy because it required a great increase in military manpower in the territories and entailed the loss of cheap Arab labor in important sectors of the economy.
The Intifada brought the Palestine question to the forefront of international attention, leading to renewed attempts by the United States and Western Europe to find a solution. As a result, the PLO gave greater consideration to the views of Palestinians resident in the territories, and declared in December 1988 that it would accept the coexistence of Israel and a Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza. The Intifada and the 1990 Gulf War were catalysts that led to the Middle East peace conference that opened in Madrid in 1991.
See also Aqsa Intifada, al-; Arab–Israel Conflict; Fatah, al-; Gulf War (1991); Islamic Jihad; Israel; Israeli Settlements; Palestine; Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; West Bank.
Lockman, Zachary, and Beinin, Joel, eds. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising against Israeli Occupation. Boston: South End Press, 1989.
Nassar, Jamal R., and Heacock, Roger, eds. Intifada: Palestine at the Crossroads. New York: Praeger, 1990.
O'Balance, Edgar. The Palestinian Intifada. London and New York: Macmillan and St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Peretz, Don. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.
Schiff, Zeʾev, and Yaʾari, Ehud. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising—Israel's Third Front. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.
Intifada ("shaking off") is the name given to two Palestinian uprisings against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The first began in December of 1987 as a popular uprising, its hallmark being the image of Palestinian youths throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied territories. This Intifada was triggered by an incident in Gaza that turned violent and subsequently spread rapidly to the West Bank territories. Over the next several years, the Intifada escalated, involving demonstrations, strikes, riots, and violence against Israelis. The Intifada lasted until 1993 when, in response to the uprising, the Oslo Accords were drawn up between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
Al-Aqsa Intifada began after Ariel Sharon, a leader of the Israeli right-wing LIKUD Party, visited al-Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount), in Jerusalem, on 28 September 2000. Al-Haram, which contains al-Aqsa Mosque, is the third holiest shrine of Islam. The visit was provocative to Palestinians, especially because Sharon was accompanied by one thousand riot police, but what triggered the Intifada the following day was the Israeli police use of live ammunition and rubber bullets against unarmed, rock-throwing Palestinian demonstrators, killing six and injuring 220.
The fundamental cause of al-Aqsa Intifada was the breakdown, in July 2000, of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that had begun with the Oslo Accords of 1993. Palestinians expected that the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) recognition of Israel, which was a part of that agreement, would lead to an end of the thirty-three-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and to the establishment of a Palestine state. However, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza doubled to 187,000 and increased to 170,000 in East Jerusalem in the 1990s, and Israel confiscated more Palestinian land for the settlements and their access roads. Israel extended its policy of restricting the movement of Palestinians, and of establishing checkpoints where Palestinians experienced humiliation. Israel also continued to demolish homes and to uproot and burn olive and fruit trees, as a form of collective punishment and for security reasons. In short, Israeli repression and unmet Palestinian expectations of freedom and independence contributed to years of pent-up frustration, despair, and rage.
Like the first Intifada, Palestinians in October 2000 began by using nonviolent methods. After 144 Palestinians had been killed, however, Islamist groups, such as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, began a campaign of suicide bombings against mostly civilians in the occupied territories and Israel, while groups associated with Fatah organization, such as al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, focused on resistance against Israeli army incursions and conducted attacks on settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Starting in January 2002, al-Aqsa Brigade also began conducting suicide bombings against mostly Israeli civilians, a practice condemned by the international community. Yasir ˓Arafat, head of Fatah and the PLO, and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) since 1996, did not initiate the Intifada, but he reportedly gave tacit approval to armed resistance and terrorism, despite his promise made in the Oslo Accords in 1993 to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to renounce "the use of terrorism and other acts of violence."
Sharon became Israel's Prime Minister on 6 February 2001. A proponent of Greater Israel, an architect of the settlements, and an opponent of the Oslo process, he proceeded, with broad public support, to use harsh measures against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In response to Palestinian violence, he initiated a policy of assassinations, euphemistically called "targeted killings," of suspected terrorists leaders, but which included activists and innocent bystanders. He reoccupied major Palestinian cities, using helicopter gunships, war planes and tanks. Some of Sharon's methods were condemned by both human rights groups and the United States.
The Intifada was costly to the Palestinians, Israel, and the United States during the first thirty months. Some strategists, including Palestinian analysts, considered the militarization of the Intifada to be a blunder. The Oslo process was destroyed, ˓Arafat sidelined, the Palestinian economy damaged, and the PA areas occupied, while settlement construction continued apace. Sharon's harsh measures cost the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians, of whom most were civilians, including about 275 children. In addition, the Palestinians lost much popular, moral, and diplomatic support around the world. The Intifada also cost the lives of over 700 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, brought insecurity to their lives, and resulted in the loss of faith in the Palestinians as peace partners.
Lockman, Zachary, and Beinin, Joel. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation. Boston: South End Press, 1989.
O'Ballance, Edgar. The Palestinian Intifada. New York: Macmillan, 1998.