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First Intifada
Part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Media coverage of the first Intifada (1987-1993) often focused on young Palestinians throwing stones at tanks and Israeli soldiers.
Date 1987-1993
Location West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel
Result Oslo Accords
 Israel Flag of Palestine.svg Palestinian Liberation Organization
Flag of Hamas.svg Hamas
20x20px PFLP
IsraelYitzhak Shamir Flag of Palestine.svgUnified National Leadership of the Uprising[1]
Casualties and losses
164 Israelis total:

- 53 Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians inside Israel [2]
47 Israeli settlers killed by Palestinians [2]
- 60 Israeli Security forces personnel killed by Palestinians [2]

2162 Palestinians total:

- 1,087 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces [2]
- 75 Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians [2]
- Approximately 1,000 Palestinians killed by Palestinians[3][4]

The First Intifada (1987–1993) (also "intifada") was a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the Palestinian Territories.[5] The uprising began in the Jabalia refugee camp and quickly spread throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.[6]

Palestinian actions included civil disobedience, resistance movement and terrorism. In addition to general strikes, boycotts on Israeli products, refusal to pay taxes, graffiti, and barricades, Palestinian demonstrations that included stone-throwing by youths against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) defined the violence for many. Suicide bombings and car bombs defined the violence for others. The violence was directed at both Israeli soldiers and civilians.[7]

During the six years of the uprising, more than 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand grenade attacks and 600 assaults with guns or explosives were reported by the IDF.[8] Intra-Palestinian violence was also a prominent feature of the Intifada, with widespread executions of alleged Israeli collaborators. Over the course of the first intifada, an estimated 1,100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and 164 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. In addition, an estimated 1,000 Palestinians were killed by Palestinians as alleged collaborators, although fewer than half had any proven contact with the Israeli authorities.[3][4]

General causes

After Israel's capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Egypt and Jordan in the wake of the Six-Day War in 1967, a sense of frustration among Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories had developed. The "Iron Fist" policy launched by Israel in 1985 along with economic integration and an increase in settler activity was in what the then Israeli minister of Economics and Finance, Gad Ya'acobi, noted "a creeping process of de facto annexation" contributed to a growing militancy of Palestinian society.[9] According to Donald Neff, "The immediate cause" of the First Intifada came on 8 December 1987, "when an Israeli army tank transporter ran into a group of Palestinians from Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza Strip, killing four and injuring seven. A Jewish salesman had been stabbed to death in Gaza two days earlier and there were suspicions among the Arabs that the traffic collision had not been an accident."[10]


The First Intifada came at a time when Palestinians were protesting acts taken by Israel that they perceived as brutal and of political stalemate with parties involved in the Arab–Israeli conflict. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had not brought about any solutions to alleviate Palestinian suffering and in 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the organization had been forced to relocate their offices to Tunis.

The Arab summit in Amman in November 1987 focused on the Iran–Iraq War, and the Palestinian issue was shunted to the sidelines for the first time in years.[11][12] Israeli military occupation of Southern Lebanon and the continued Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip contributed to growing discontent with the status quo.


Palestinians and their supporters assert that the Intifada was a protest against Israeli repression which included extrajudicial killings, mass detentions, house demolitions, deportations, and so on.[13] While relatively few houses were demolished in the years before the Intifada, house demolitions "appeared to have deterrent value" to Israel. After the start of the Intifada, and after the PLO began compensating affected families, demolitions "were transformed into a stimulus to further escalation of resistance."[14] In addition to the political and national sentiment, further causes to the Intifada can be seen in the Egyptian withdrawal from their claims to the Gaza Strip as well as the Jordanian monarchy growing weary of supporting its claims to the West Bank.

High birth rates and the limited allocation of land for new building and agriculture contributed to the increasing density of population in the Palestinian territories and a rise in unemployment. While income from manual labor in Israel was beneficial to the Palestinian economy, jobs were growing scarcer, even for those with university degrees. At the time of the Intifada, only one in eight college-educated Palestinians could find degree-related work.[15]

One incident that was often mentioned as a motivation is the perceived IDF failure in the "Night of the Gliders", or the "Kibia action", in which a Palestinian guerrilla infiltrated an IDF army camp from Lebanon and managed to kill six soldiers.[16][17][18]


The Intifada was not initiated by any single individual or organization, but the PLO soon established itself at the forefront enhancing their presence in the territories. Local leadership came from groups and organizations loyal to the PLO that operated within the Occupied Territories; Fatah, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and the Palestine Communist Party.[19] The PLO's rivals in this activity were the Islamic organizations, Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as local leadership in cities such as Beit Sahour and Bethlehem. However, the uprising was predominantly led by community councils led by Hanan Ashrawi, Faisal Husseini and Haidar Abdel-Shafi, that promoted independent networks for education (underground schools as the regular schools were closed by the military as reprisals for the uprising), medical care, and food aid.[20] The Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) gained credibility where the Palestinian society complied with the issued communiques.[19]

The uprising


An Intifada poster from 1990, depicting an Israeli military boot stepping onto a map of the Palestinian territories which have spikes sticking out. It is intended to represent the Palestinian view of Palestinian resistance against Israeli military occupation.

After a December 8 traffic incident at the Erez Crossing that killed four Palestinian refugees, rumor quickly spread that the wreck was a deliberate act of vengeance in response to the fatal stabbing of an Israeli several days earlier in the Gaza market.[21] That evening, an uprising began in Jabalia where hundreds of Palestinians burned tires and attacked the IDF troops stationed there. The uprising spread to other Palestinian refugee camps and eventually to several major cities. On December 22, the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel in Resolution 605 for violating the Geneva Conventions due to the number of Palestinian deaths in these first few weeks of the Intifada.[22] In subsequent resolutions, including 607 and 608, the Security Council demanded Israel cease deportations of Palestinians.

Palestinians assert that the IDF was given truncheons and encouraged to break the bones of Palestinian protesters.[23] This aggressive stance was expressed by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin during his tour of the Jalazon Refugee Camp in January 1988, when he stated "The first priority of the security forces is to prevent violent demonstrations with force, power and blows ... We will make it clear who is running the territories".[6] The Swedish branch of Save the Children estimated that, "23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the intifada", one third of whom were children under the age of ten years old.[23]

But it has also been noted that the further away Palestinian children were from attacks on IDF patrols, the less likelihood they had of getting injured.

On April 19, 1988, a leader of the PLO, Abu Jihad, was assassinated in Tunis. During the resurgence of rioting that followed, about 16 Palestinians were killed. In November of the same year and October of the next, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolutions condemning Israel[24] In June of that year, the Arab League agreed to support the intifada financially at the 1988 Arab League summit. The Arab League reaffirmed its financial support in the 1989 summit.[25]

In 1989, local committees in Beit Sahour initiated a nonviolence movement to withhold taxes,[26] taking up the slogan "No Taxation Without Representation,"[27] the legality of which under international law is disputed. The Israeli defense minister Yitzhak Rabin response was: "We will teach them there is a price for refusing the laws of Israel."[28] When time in prison did not stop the activists, Israel crushed the boycott by imposing heavy fines while seizing and disposing the equipment, furnishings, and goods from local stores, factories, and homes.[24]

As the Intifada progressed, Israel introduced various riot control methods that had the effect of reducing the number of Palestinian fatalities. Moshe Arens subsequently proved to have a better understanding of pacification, which perhaps reflects in the lower casualty rates for the following years. The Israeli state apparatus carried out contradictory and conflicting policies that injured Israel's own interests such as the closing of education establishments (putting more youths onto the streets) and issuing the Shin Bet list of collaborators.[29] Suicide bombings by Palestinian militants started in April 16, 1993 with the Mehola Junction bombing, carried at the end of the Intifada.[30]

In 1990, 21 Israeli soldiers confessed to frequent repeated brutal assaults against Palestinians. Yishai-Karin reported that Israeli soldiers were exposed to violence against Palestinians during the first weeks of training. The soldiers also expressed feelings of joy when they were given power to instill fear and use physical violence on the Palestinians. One soldier recalls shooting an unarmed Palestinian for no reason, "We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,' he said.[31]

By June 1990, according to Benny Morris, "[T]he Intifada seemed to have lost direction. A symptom of the PLO's frustration was the great increase in the killing of suspected collaborators; in 1991 the Israelis killed more Palestinians - about 100 - about 150."[3][32] Attempts at the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference of 1991.


The intifada was not a military endeavor in either a conventional or guerrilla sense. The PLO - which had limited control of the situation - never expected the uprising to make any direct gains against the Israeli state, as it was a grassroots, mass movement and not their venture. However, the Intifada did produce a number of results the Palestinians considered positive:

  • By engaging the Israelis directly, rather than relying on the authority or the assistance of neighboring Arab states, the Palestinians were able to globally cement their identity as a separate nation worthy of self-determination.[33] The era marked the end of the Israeli discussion of a "Jordanian solution" to merge the Palestinian territories with Jordan. The combination of the failure of the "Iron Fist" policy, Israel's deteriorating international image and Jordan cutting legal and administrative ties to the West Bank with the U.S.'s recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people forced Rabin to seek an end the violence though negotiation and dialogue with the PLO.[34][35]
  • The Israeli countermeasures (particularly during the earlier years of the Intifada) resulted in international attention to the Palestinians' cause.

Significantly, numerous American media outlets openly criticized Israel in a way that they had not previously.[36] particularly in the United Nations, but also for the European Community and the United States as well as the Arab states - which during the 1980s were concentrated on the Iran–Iraq War. The European Community (later European Union) became an important economic contributor towards the nascent Palestinian Authority.

  • The impact on the services sector, including the important Israeli tourist industry, was notably negative.[37]
  • The uprising can be linked to the Madrid Conference of 1991, and thereby to the return of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from their Tunisian exile.
  • The Intifada pinpointed numerous problems with the IDF's conduct in the operative and tactical fields, as well as the general problem of Israel's prolonged control of the West Bank and Gaza strip. These problems were noticed and widely criticized, in international forums.
  • It was expected that the approximate 120,000 detainees would form a cadre for a continuation of the Intifada if the two sides could not find a mutually acceptable solution.[38]

Template:Timeline of Intifadas

See also


  1. Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin (1989) Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation South End Press, ISBN 0896083632 and 9780896083639 p 327
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 B'Tselem Statistics; Fatalities in the first Intifada
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Collaborators, One Year Al-Aqsa Intifada, The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, October 2001. Accessed May 15, 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin (1989) Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation South End Press, ISBN 0896083632 and 9780896083639 p 38
  5. "uprising by Palestinians against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip territories." Intifada, Microsoft Encarta. Archived 2009-10-31.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Intifada - An Overview: The First Two Years[1]
  7. BBC: A History of Conflict
  9. Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin (1989) Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation South End Press, ISBN 0896083632 and 9780896083639 p 32
  10. WRMEA
  11. Aryeh Shalev (1991). The Intifada: Causes and Effects. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post & Westview Press. pp. 33. ISBN 0-8133-8303. 
  12. Jamal Raji Nassar, Roger Heacock (1990) Intifada: Palestine at the Crossroads Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 027593411X and ISBN 9780275934118 p 31
  13. Ackerman, P and Duvall, A: "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict", page 403. St. Martin's Press,2000
  14. Aryeh Shalev (1991). The Intifada: Causes and Effects. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post & Westview Press. pp. 111–114. ISBN 0-8133-8303X. 
  15. Ackerman, P and Duvall, A: "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict", page 401. St. Martin's Pres, 2000 ISBN 0312228643
  16. Shai, Shaul (2005). The Axis of Evil: Iran, Hizballah, and the Palestinian Terror. Transaction Publishers. pp. 74. ISBN 0765802554. 
  17. Oren, Amir (2006-10-18). "Secrets of the Ya-Ya brotherhood". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  18. Neff, Donald. "The Intifada Erupts, Forcing Israel to Recognize Palestinians". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs December 1997: 81–83. Retrieved 2008-05-13. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin (1989) Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation South End Press, ISBN 0896083632 and 9780896083639 p 39
  20. MERIP Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, A Primer
  21. "The First Intifada,1987". Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  22. "Security Council Resolutions 1987". Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Eugene R. Wittkopf and James M. McCormick (2007). The Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy: Insights and Evidence. Rowan & Littlefield. p. 86. ISBN 074254740X. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Aburish, Said K. (1998). Arafat: From Defender to Dictator. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing pp.201-228 ISBN 1-58234-049-8
  25. Sela, Avraham. "Arab Summit Conferences." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 158-160
  26. Gradstein, Linda "Palestinians Claim Tax is Unjust, Many Don't Pay" [Ft. Lauderdale] Sun-Sentinel 8 October 1989, p. 12A
  27. "Welcome To Beit Sahour Official Website". Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  28. Sosebee, Stephen J. "The Passing of Yitzhak Rabin, Whose 'Iron Fist' Fueled the Intifada" The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. 31 October 1990. Vol. IX #5, pg. 9
  29. Jamal Raji Nassar, Roger Heacock (1990) Intifada: Palestine at the Crossroads Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 027593411X and ISBN 9780275934118 p 115
  30. Jeffrey Ivan Victoroff (2006). Tangled Roots: Social and Psychological Factors in the Genesis of Terrorism. IOS Press. p. 204. ISBN 158603670X. 
  31. Israel shaken by troops' tales of brutality against Palestinians | World news | The Observer
  32. Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999, Knopf, 1999. p.612
  33. Jamal Raji Nassar, Roger Heacock (1990) Intifada: Palestine at the Crossroads Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 027593411X and ISBN 9780275934118 p 1
  34. Shlaim Avi (2000) "The Iron Wall; Israel and the Arab World" Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-028870-8 pp 455-457
  35. Foreign Policy Research Institute Yitzhak Rabin: An Appreciation By Harvey Sicherman
  36. Shlaim Avi (2000) "The Iron Wall; Israel and the Arab World" Penguin Books ISBN 0-14-028870-8 p 455
  37. Noga Collins-kreiner, Nurit Kliot, Yoel Mansfeld, Keren Sagi (2006) Christian Tourism to the Holy Land: Pilgrimage During Security Crisis Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., ISBN 075464703X and ISBN 9780754647034
  38. WRMEA Donald Neff The Intifada Erupts, Forcing Israel to Recognize Palestinians

Further reading

  • Eitan Alimi (2006). Israeli Politics and the First Palestinian Intifada. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415385601. 
  • Geoffrey Aronson (1990). Israel, Palestinians, and the Intifada: Creating Facts on the West Bank. London: Kegan Paul International. ISBN 0-7103-0336-X. 
  • Joel Beinin; Zachary Lockman (1989). Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation. Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-363-2. 
  • Joost R. Hiltermann (1991). Behind the Intifada: Labor and Women's Movements in the Occupied Territories. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07869-6. 
  • Mary Elizabeth King (2007). A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance. New York: Nation Books. ISBN 1560258020. 
  • Benny Morris (1999). Righteous Victims: a History of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881-1999. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-679-74475-4. 
  • Don Peretz (1990). Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-0860-7. 
  • Andrew Rigby (1991). Living the Intifada. London: Zed Books. ISBN 1-85649-040-8. , out-of-print, now downloadable at [2]
  • Aryeh Shalev (1991). The Intifada: Causes and Effects. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post & Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-8303-X. 
  • Ze'ev Schiff, Ehud Ya'ari (1989). Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising: Israel's Third Front. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-67530-3. 

External links

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