Term Paper: Intifada 1987-1993

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¶ … Intifada

On December 9, 1987, 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs living in areas conquered and occupied by Israel after the Six-Day war in 1967 began an uprising (Goell, 1989). Called the "intifada," and later the "first intifada," the unrest was focused on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem (Bligh, 1999). While Israel and Jews living in Israel were the original targets, eventually, various splinter movements within the Intifada developed strong antagonisms between each other. By the end of the first intifada in 1993, very often it was Palestinians who were killed, often quite cruelly (Goell, 1989). This aspect of the intifada emphasizes that while people tend to think of the Palestinians as one group, in fact they make up a group of people containing subgroups. While the struggle for a Palestinian homeland has had some unifying effects (Goell, 1989), infighting among diverse Palestinian groups was a significant occurrence during this period as well.

HISTORY

Some writers feel that the roots of the first intifada lie several decades earlier, when military rule over Arab areas ended. Many Palestinians living within Israel were glad to see the Arab Knesset (parliamentary body) put out of power, as they were not always recognized as legitimate spokespersons for the Palestinians in Israel (Bligh, 1999). However, that created a leadership void that in turn may have encouraged the development of several groups, which then tended to vie for power (Emerson, 1997). The political geography of the region also encouraged a lack of unity among Palestinians. Over 750,000 Palestinians live on the Gaza strip, only 75 square miles of land along southeast Israel on the Mediterranean Sea (Emerson, 1997). Others live in the Left Bank, a larger area between the western edge of Israel and the country of Jordan, an area claimed by both Palestinian and Jewish occupants, some of which have moved there specifically to try to force others out (Emerson, 1997).

The development of several groups was a natural outgrowth of the varying Palestinian experiences. Some lived within the borders of Israel and were citizens of that country, gradually improving their circumstances and striving for a normal life for their children (Emerson, 1997). Others lived in abject poverty in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank and had no sense of any homeland. Thus, some Palestinians felt they were a minority within an identified country while others saw themselves as war refugees without a real home (Emerson, 1997).

THE FIRST INTIFADA

As the first intifada grew in strength and prominence, it helped develop an overriding sense of unity among Palestinians. It also helped other Arab nations see the Palestinians as one definable group of people. At the same time, this effect raised Israel's feelings of being threatened by the Palestinians. Although the Palestinians were fighting with weapons much less powerful than that of the Israeli army, such as rocks and Molotov cocktails (gasoline bombs), Israel had specific concerns. Israel still felt under threat by its Arab neighbors, and now those neighbors were encouraging Israeli Palestinians to resist Israeli leadership and governance. Militarily, the Palestinians might potentially have been able to cut important roads in another Arab/Israeli conflict (Goell, 1989). Israel was concerned abut the specter of another Arab war where they would have to fight Arabs within their own country as well as at their borders.

When the first intifada began, Israel had occupied both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank for over twenty-one years (Kuttab, 1988). But in addition to that, Palestinians and Arab nations were still angered over the events that led to the formation of the state of Israel with official recognition as an independent state by the United Nations in 1948 (Bligh, 1999). This is the precipitating event that resulted in Palestinians living as refugees on land they considered their own. These events encouraged Palestinians to set aside sub-group differences and unite for a common goal. In addition to skirmishes with the Israelis, the Palestinians organized aid programs for those living in hardship, schools, and health services (Kuttab, 1988).

As the disparate Palestinian groups sought ways to work together for their common goal of a free Palestinian state, numerous groups began working together, including multiple factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestine Communist Party, and Islamic Jihad (Kuttab, 1988). (Eventually, Yasir Arafat's branch of the PLO emerged as the dominant force in this coalition.) Working together, these groups used strategies that worked well in India under Ghandi and in the American civil rights movement, such as boycotting Israeli products. Palestinians were encouraged to buy Palestinian-produced items including cigarettes, food, and clothing.

Politically, the Palestinian groups campaigned for Palestinians who had been appointed to government positions to resign. These people included civil servants, policemen, and mayors appointed by the Israeli government. Strikes occurred among Palestinian workers employed in Israel (Kuttab, 1988). At the same time, Palestinians worked to reduce their economic dependence on Israel. They encouraged home gardens, employment in Palestinian places of business and factories, and increased self-reliance wherever possible (Kuttab, 1988). Most of the appointed officials did in fact resign, and organized resistance to paying Israeli taxes began (Kuttab, 1988). However, these positive efforts were accompanied by violence, including violence to excess, on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis (Kuttab, 1988), some of which included terrorist attacks within Israel, often organized by the PLO (Goell, 1989).

Israel responded in part by arresting Palestinian leaders and holding them without trial. Israel's Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced that anyone belonging to or contributing to one of the committees leading the intifada could be put in prison for up to ten years (Kuttab, 1988).

In July of 1987, King Hussein of Jordan withdrew his country's legal and civil administration of the West Bank, which further encouraged a Palestinian drive for self-rule. The Palestinians hoped that this was the start of an international movement toward the recognition of the need for a Palestinian state, and some hoped that the result of Jordan's action would be approval of a Palestinian state just as Israel was established in 1947, from international pressure (Kuttab, 1988). If this had occurred, it might have legitimized Israel in the eyes of Arab countries as well. At the time, the Palestinian coalition of factions had been fighting to get Israel to recognize the PLO as the Palestinian political and negotiating authority

Another possibility was for the PLO to organize a government in exile. However, this plan excluded Palestinians living in the occupied territories, and they were an important part of the drive for a Palestinian state (Kuttab, 1988). Another option was to push for the United Nations to take over governance of the occupied territory until some settlement could be made (Kuttab, 1988). However, they believed that Israel would have to agree to this strategy, and their agreement seemed unlikely. The hoped-for international recognition of Palestinian claims for sovereignty did not coalesce (Kuttab, 1988). This must have seem terribly unfair since it was just such an action that created the country of Israel and turned them into refugees on land on which they had lived for centuries.

THE DEMISE OF THE FIRST INTIFADA

Eventually, the coalitions within the Palestinian movement began to fall apart. Individuals still felt great loyalty to the smaller group they belonged to, and these competing factions had a long history of jockeying for position and competing with each other. Eventually this tendency broke down the unity of the Palestinians (Emerson, 1997). It seems reasonable that the failure of their unity to result in significant political gains, such as the ultimate goal of their own Palestinian state, contributed to this tendency. Gradually, the individual factions saw their legitimacy threatened by the need to concede to other groups (Emerson, 1997).

Gradually the movement faded and violence decreased. Specific personalities emerged who were able to foster peace talks. Yitzhak Rabin worked with Palestinian leaders including Faisal Husseini, who was able to moderate the demands made by the group called Fatah Hamas, and Yasir Afafat represented the PLO (Emerson, 1997).

Unfortunately, however, the infighting among Palestinian factions increased. While some Palestinian leaders were learning how to use the media to communicate their agenda to the rest of the world, fighting between Palestinian groups was becoming more and more frequent, deadly and violent. In one five-week period in 1992, a series of violent murders and attempted murders resulted in the deaths of 16 Palestinians and the wounding of more than 100, all at the hands of other Palestinians (Emerson, 1997). The coalition had fallen completely apart. The early violence of the intifada, using rocks and stones against the Israeli army, was replaced by the "fitna," which means "bitter in fighting." (Emerson, 1997) The various groups obtained more significant weapons that they used on other factions as well as against the Israelis.

The disagreements among the different Palestinian factions were affected by a variety of factors. They included religious differences,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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