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What were conditions like in the occupied territories before the first intifada?

In some ways it was surprising that the uprising did not erupt earlier. Conditions were dire, jobs few, money scarce. Education was central to Palestinian families, and many young university graduates headed abroad for professional training or to find work as doctors, engineers and more. For most families, particularly the half the population who lived in the refugee camps, it was a daily struggle to meet the most basic needs.

Israel's military presence was everywhere, although the curfews and sieges, described euphemistically as "closures," that later became commonplace were rare. The PLO was outlawed, and expressions of support for it could land one in prison. Arrests, indefinite detention and even expulsions were common. Israel tried to create a compliant leadership to compete with the PLO; nationalist political figures, such as the popularly-elected local mayors, were targeted by Israelis. In one incident three mayors were attacked, killing one and leaving two badly maimed. There was an international consensus on ending the occupation and creating a Palestinian state, but there seemed to be no way to implement that view. The UN was unable to enforce its resolutions because the U.S. protected Israel's occupation. Arab governments talked of liberating Jerusalem and supporting Palestinian rights, but it remained all talk. International law seemed far away.