Home   »  Resources  »  Miscellaneous Resources  »  Understanding the Conflict: A ...  »  PART THREE: Recent History

What is this second "intifada"? How is this uprising different from the first intifada of 1987-1993?

The second uprising, that began September 2000, came seven years after the first intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Oslo did not bring about the actual goals of the first intifada-the end of occupation and creation of an independent Palestinian state-but it did hold out the hope that the new diplomatic "peace process" would lead inexorably to such a result. So the mass mobilizations, the daily commercial strikes, the tax resistance, the stone-throwing children that characterized the first intifada came to a halt.

After seven years, and especially after the collapse of the Clinton-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit at Camp David in August 2000, Palestinians faced the harsh reality that Oslo had been much more about "process" than about peace. Living conditions and the economy had all seriously deteriorated throughout the Oslo years. Israel's military occupation had become increasingly harsh-closures preventing Palestinians from entering Israel were expanded to prevent travel within and between the West Bank and Gaza; military checkpoints proliferated throughout the "swiss cheese-style" maze of Israeli and partial Palestinian authority; house demolitions continued; and settlement construction nearly doubled throughout the occupied territories since Oslo.

The second intifada was the response to those lost hopes and deteriorating lives. Initially it took similar forms to the first intifada-mass protests in the streets against Israeli military checkpoints surrounding Palestinian cities, including children and youths throwing stones at the tanks and armored vehicles, characterized the first weeks' mobilization. But the Israeli response was far more brutal this time around than it had been during the first intifada; the stone-throwing protesters the day after Sharon's provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif were met with withering fire, killing four and wounding hundreds on the steps and even inside the mosques. The Israeli military immediately began using live fire and tank-fired weapons where once tear-gas and rubber bullets might have been used first, and soon helicopter gunships and U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter bombers became regular parts of the Israeli arsenal in the occupied territories.

By March 2002, Amnesty International reported over 1,000 Palestinians had been killed; more than 200 of them were children. In response, Palestinians changed their tactics. The mass street demonstrations largely ended, as the lethal Israeli price exacted for marches and stone-throwing rose. Instead, small armed Palestinian factions took over from the public in challenging the Israeli military occupation forces. Since the Oslo process had created the Palestinian Authority, there were now Palestinian police and security forces armed with rifles and kalashnikovs, and they used their arms both to protect Palestinian demonstrators and civilians, and sometimes to directly challenge the checkpoints and Israeli soldiers. One result was that killing on both sides escalated-but the deaths and injuries were disproportionately Palestinian (about four times as many), and initially the Israeli victims were almost all soldiers and settlers inside the occupied territories.

As the intifada settled into a kind of war of attrition, 24-hour shoot-to-kill curfews were imposed on Palestinian cities and villages for long periods, imprisoning people in their homes and bringing to an end the mass public participation in the streets that had characterized the first intifada. The city of nablus, with a population of over 100,000 has been under curfew for more than 90 days continuously as of mid- September 2002.