Nature of the First Intifada, 1987-1993

What was the nature of the intifada from 1987-1993?

 

The literal meaning of Intifada is “shaking off” and in the Israeli-Palestinian context, it means to free Palestine from the Israeli oppression. It all started on December 8, 1987 when four Palestinians were crushed to death by an Israeli transporter while they were queuing at a checkpoint in Gaza. This incident was adding fuel to the fire of so many issues piling up for a long time and it burst out as a spontaneous act of putting resistance against Israeli occupation which had been present on a low and discreet level for almost fifty years. It was at this time that Palestinians decided to consolidate their efforts in gaining independence once and for all, regardless of the costs. The aspiration for freedom could be illustrated from the depth and breadth of the coordination of the resisting body, The United Leadership of the Intifada. It was the force with which the Intifada began and continued for eight years stunned Israel as well as other countries of the world.


Despite violent acts by Israel directed towards Palestinians, Palestinian reciprocating actions were limited to resistance movement and nonviolent civil disobedience. These actions primarily included erection of barricades, graffiti, refusal to pay taxes, boycott of Israeli products and general strikes. But the stone throwing at the Israeli Defense Forces by the Palestinian youth defined the violence that got highlighted by Israel where it was only to stop the impeding Israeli military forces. The intifada involved thousands of people including children and women who did not even had a previous resistance experience.

When the PPP, the DFLP, the PFLP and Fatah joined hands under the umbrella of United National Leadership of the Uprising, the occupation faced a challenge like never before and UNLU drew international attention towards the situation which Palestinians were facing. Israel did its best to crush the resistance with “force, power and blows” where Israeli army was ordered to break the bones of resisting people and demonstrators. Over 1000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces from the period of 1987 to 1991 and although the Intifada subsided largely with the arrest of a number of main Palestinian political figures, it continued for a few more years. This was mainly due to the rivalries that broke out in the Palestinian community, the notable one being between Islamist organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hamas and several PLO factions. More than 250 Palestinians were killed by the Palestinian militants who suspected them of collaborating with Israeli authorities as well as killing of some 100 Israelis.

The breakout of Intifada did not bring freedom from occupation; however, it set out that the status quo can be changed at any time. PLO was asked by the Palestinian activists to set out some clear plan of gaining independence. In response, a meeting was convened in Algeria in 1988 where Palestinian National Council recognized the state or Israel and declared an independent Palestinian state in Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the meeting, PNC also denounced terrorism. However, no acknowledgment was received from Israel to these gestures that remained adamant that PLO was a terrorist organization and they were not ready to negotiate with them.

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