انتفاضة intifadat) (variant spellings: Intifadeh, Intifadah) means "shaking off" or "shaking up." It is generally
applied to uprisings in modern times including:
* March Intifada - uprising against the British colonial presence in
Bahrain in March 1965.
* Zemla Intifada against Spanish rule in Spanish Sahara from 1970.
* First Intifada, a Palestinian Arab uprising against Israel from 1987 to
* 1990s Intifada, an uprising in Bahrain demanding democratic rule.
* 1991 uprisings in Iraq against Saddam Hussein.
* Cedar Revolution or Intifada of Independence, the events in Lebanon after
Rafiq Hariri's 2005 assassination.
* Independence Intifada, demonstrations and riots in Morocco and Western
Sahara beginning in May 2005.
* French Intifada, sometimes used to denote the riots in France in the fall
al-Aqsa Intifada, the violent Palestinian-Israeli conflict that began in
This article is about the First Intifada, which is the best known, and may have
given its name to many of the others.
Since the Six day war
Israel had occupied
Strip. After some initial violence in 1970, the occupied territories were
relatively quiet. Borders were open. Israelis went shopping in the West Bank and
Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians went to work in Israel each day. From the
Israeli point of view, it seemed as though this reality could endure forever.
However, the Palestinians were unhappy with the occupation. They saw their land
slowly disappearing, especially after the right-wing Likud party took power in
1977. Israel had not implemented any solution for the territories in the
framework of the peace signed with Egypt - negotiations came to nothing. Jordan
washed its hands of the Palestinian territories in 1987 and its moderating
influence was lost there. The
failed to achieve anything for the Palestinians. A large body of Palestinians,
especially in the West Bank, was in favor of compromise with Israel, rather than
the sterile and grandiose dream of "liberating Palestine" (that is, liquidating
Israel) offered by the PLO.
Palestinians claim that the Intifada was a protest againstIsrael's brutal
repression which included extra-judicial killings, mass detentions, house
demolitions, indiscriminate torture, deportations, land theft and other abuses.
Egyptian withdrawal if their claims to the Gaza Strip as well as Jordanian
abandonment of the West Bank may have influenced the events.
Palestinians, especially in Gaza, had very high birthrates - exceptional even
for poor areas. Israeli occupation had brought a steady improvement in standard
of living, but around 1987 there was a recession and some increase in
Palestinians felt abandoned by their Arab allies, On the one hand, the PLO
had failed to destroy Israel and establish a Palestinian state in its place as
they promised. On the other hand, the PLO had managed to ruin Israeli efforts to
resettle refugees and blocked Israeli attempts to call for an election inside
the territories. When the Israelis did hold local elections and didn't like the
results, they sacked some of the mayors. To many Palestinians it seemed
they were probably doomed to remain politically impotent forever unless they
took their own fate in their hands.
Imams used the Friday sermons to incite against the Israeli government. It is
probably that the founding the extremist Hamas movement in 1987 played a role in
popularizing "resistance." Equally, there were a few incidents of
Israeli civilian violence against Palestinians. The first Intifada began in December of 1987
according to the official histories, though there is no sharp peak in Israeli
fatalities that followed this "official" date and might be related to it.
For some reason, the precise dates vary according to different accounts. On December 6, 1987ref ref, (or
December 4 ref ref) ) an Israeli
plastics salesman, Shlomo Sakal,
was fatally stabbed while shopping in Gaza. On December 6, there were apparently
riots in Gaza. Two to four days after the stabbing (December 6 or 8 according to
accounts), four residents of the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a traffic accident. Rumors spread
that the four had been killed by Israelis as a deliberate act of revenge. Mass
rioting broke out in Jabalya on the morning of December 9. A
17-year-old threw a Molotov cocktail at an army patrol and was killed by an IDF
soldier. His death supposedly became the trigger for large-scale riots that engulfed the
West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Unlike the
the first Intifada was evidently unplanned, and there was less violence. The
relatively weak in the occupied territories. It was headquartered in Tunis and
was concerned with survival for its organization after being expelled from
The first Intifada was characterized largely by leafleting and rock throwing,
primarily because Palestinians did not have a lot of weapons. It is doubtful
that most of the Palestinians involved had a philosophy of non-violence, and
they generally supported terror attacks that were carried out by the militant
organizations. The image below is probably fairly typical of the first Intifada.
Palestinian organizations in the first Intifada
Palestinian organizations - militant groups initially played little or no
role in the first Intifada, which had caught the PLO by surprise. Sari Nusseibeh
(in Once Upon a Country)
relates that he and other friends soon set up an underground printing press and
distribution network, but there were no organized sources of arms. A group that
may have been called "Unified National Leadership of the Uprising" put out "communiques"
and calls for action that were followed by Palestinians.
Demonstrations evidently evolved from random riots to more organized events.
Islamic Jihad initiated terror incidents and kidnapping of soldiers, and
in fact, 1987 marked the coming out of Hamas as a terror group.
Some events that may have accelerated the Intifada include the April
19, 1988 killing of PLO leader Abu Jihad by Israeli agents, and the massacre, on
May 20, 1990 of at least 7 Palestinians waiting for work at a bus stop in Israel
by Ami Popper, an Israeli extremist who had been dishonorably discharged from
Fatalities in the first Intifada
Overall the Palestinians suffered about 2,000 deaths in this period, and
the Israelis in the neighborhood of 160-300. About 886 Palestinians were killed
according to Betselem figures in the period 1987-1991, which is often considered
the "official" Intifada. Until the signing of the Oslo accords, about 1,100 were
killed in all. About 1,000 additional the Palestinian deaths
were due to killing of ostensible collaborators by the Palestinians
(Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin (1989) Intifada: The Palestinian
Uprising Against Israeli Occupation South End Press, p 38) , though some claim
that these killings were really revenge killing or clan warfare. The precise numbers depend on who is doing the
reporting and counting and what years are counted. As can be seen in the table
below, there appear to be dramatic and unexplained discrepancies between Btselem
reports (Btselem is an Israel Human Rights group accused of having a
pro-Palestinian bias) and those reported by the Israel Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA). However the differences are not systematic, since Btselem
over-reports fatalities following the First Intifada, while Israel under-reports
them, and the opposite is true during the Intifada. Data for Palestinian fatalities before 1988 are not available.
First Intifada Fatalities
It is striking that there was no dramatic increase in Israeli fatalities
during the supposed first year of the Intifada, and both sources agree that there was no
great decrease in Israeli fatalities in 1992, when there was supposedly no
Intifada. Please note that Betselem gives only data from December 9, 1987 and
on. We do not have figures for the entire year for either Palestinians or
Israelis from Betselem. During the "official" Intifada period, to the end
of 1991, a total of 84 Israelis were killed according to Betselem.
In the 2 "quiet" years following, 95 Israelis were killed! In the two years
after that, the first full years of the Oslo process, 120 Israelis were killed.
In less than 3 months at the end of 1993, after the signing of the Oslo accords,
19 Israelis were killed. According the the Israeli figures it is less dramatic.
121 Israelis were killed from 1987 through 1991, but only 110 if we exclude
deaths before the start of the Intifada - 110 deaths in 4 full years is an
average of about 28 per year. In the two following years, another 79
Israelis were killed - almost 40 per year. In 1995-96, 85 Israelis were
killed according to the From the point of view of Israeli
fatalities, there is no way to determine the end of the first Intifada and the
beginning of the period of supposed calm, because there was no such period. 1991
was a relative low point, but the number of fatalities was not as low as it was
in the quietest years of 1980. For Palestinian fatalities, 1990 and 1991
were relative low points, but the years following produced more fatalities.
Again, looking only at fatalities, the numbers do not support the idea that the
First Intifada really began or ended at a specific point, though 1991 was the
quietest year in the Intifada.
The Intifada process,
whatever it was, was unrelated to the terror process. The Palestinians. who were
demonstrating were not particularly the ones who were killing Israelis and
evidently were not coordinated with the terror groups. 1988, the first
full year of the Intifada, did not have an exceptional number of Israeli
fatalities. 1985 saw 27 Israeli deaths as reported by the Israel Ministry of
Foriegn Affairs. 1983, 21. In 1980, 16 Israelis died, the same number as in
1988. 1994, the first full year of the Oslo peace process, was worse than any
that preceded it in terms of Israeli fatalities. We do not have corresponding figures for Arab
fatalities from before the
start of the First Intifada.
Terror Incidents in the period of the first Intifada
This is a record of major terror incidents in this period and prior to it. The first
major attack in 1987 occurred
before the supposed start of the Intifada, though it may have inspired it. The
frequency and impact of these incidents does not seem to be that much worse than
those which occurred in previous years. There was a period of relative quiet
inside Israel however, after the Misgav Am attack, until 1987. This perhaps
reflected the neutralization of militant organizations by the peace process with
Egypt. During the period of the "official" Intifada, there were 2 major terror
incidents within Israel. This was exception relative to the 1980s, but hardly as
bad as the unending stream of attacks before the 1980s.
Jul 22, 1968 - Rome, Italy
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) carries out first
hijacking, diverting an El Al flight to Algiers. 32 Jewish passengers were
held hostage for 5 weeks.
Sep 4, 1968 - Tel Aviv, Israel
1 killed and 71 wounded by 3 bombs that exploded in city center.
Oct 1968 - Hijacking of El Al aircraft en route to Algeria.
Nov 22, 1968 - Jerusalem, Israel
12 killed and 52 injured by a car bomb in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.
Dec 26, 1968 - Athens, Greece
1 killed and 1 wounded in a shooting attack on an El Al aircraft at the
airport, carried out by the PFLP.
Feb 18, 1969 - Zurich, Switzerland
A pilot and 3 passengers killed by terrorists that attacked an El Al Boeing
707 on the airport runway.
Feb 21, 1969 - Jerusalem, Israel
2 killed and 20 injured by a bomb detonated in a crowded supermarket.
Oct 22, 1969 - Haifa, Israel
4 killed and 20 wounded by terrorist bombs in 5 apartments.
Feb 10, 1970 - Zurich, Switzerland
1 killed and 11 wounded by 3 Arab terrorists who unsuccessfully attempted to
hijack an El Al flight at Zurich airport.
May 22, 1970 - Avivim, Israel
Terrorists attack schoolbus, killing 12 (9 of whom were children), and
Sep 6, 1970 - Dawson Field, Jordan
3 airliners holding over 400 passengers were hijacked, and taken to the
Jordanian airport by the PFLP. The hostages were released in exchange for
terrorists held in Germany, Switzerland, and England.
May 8, 1972 - Lod airport, Israel
1 passenger and 5 Israeli soldiers killed during a rescue operation by
Israeli commandos on a hijacked Belgian airliner; the 4 Palestinian Black
September terrorists were killed. The hostages were freed.
May 30, 1972 - Lod airport
26 killed and 78 wounded after PFLP and Japanese Red Army terrorists open
fire in the passenger terminal.
Sep 5, 1972 - Munich, Germany
11 members of the Israeli Olympic wrestling team and 1 German policeman were
massacred by Fatah terrorists after an unsuccessful rescue attempt by West
Apr 11, 1974 - Kiryat Shemona, Israel | 18 killed, 8 of whom were
children, by PFLP terrorists who detonated their explosives during a failed
rescue attempt by Israeli authorities.
May 15, 1974 - Maalot, Israel
27 killed, 21 of whom were children, and 78 wounded by PFLP terrorists in a
school, after an unsuccessful rescue attempt.
Mar 5, 1975 - Tel Aviv, Israel
Terrorists take over the Savoy hotel; 4 people are killed.
Jul 4, 1975 - Jerusalem, Israel
14 killed and 80 injured in Zion Square bombing attack, in which the bomb
was hidden in a refrigerator.
Jun 27, 1976 - Entebbe, Uganda
An Air France airliner was hijacked by a joint German/PFLP terrorist group,
which diverted the flight to Entebbe airport. About 258 passengers and crew
were held hostage until all non-Israeli passengers were released.
All terrorists were killed, as well as 3 passengers and operation leader
Lieutenant-Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu.
Aug 11, 1976 - Istanbul, Turkey
4 killed and 20 wounded by PFLP and Japanese Red Army terrorists in an
attack at Istanbul airport.
Mar 11, 1978 - Glilot junction
36 killed, and over 100 injured, in a bus hijacking by a female-led
Palestinian terrorist gang.
Apr 7, 1980 - Kibbutz Misgav-Am, Israel | Terrorists attack
children's house on the kibbutz, leaving 3 dead, one of whom was a child.
Jun 3, 1982 - London, England
Abu Nidal organization attempts to kill the Israeli ambassador to London,
Shlomo Argov, severely wounding him.
Oct 7, 1985 - PLFP attacks the Achille Lauro ship en route to Israel,
murdering one of the passengers (an American national).
Sep 6, 1986 - Istanbul, Turkey
Abu Nidal organization attacks the Neveh Shalom synagogue, killing 22
Nov 25, 1987 - Northern
Border, Israel (near Kiryat Shemona)
2 Palestinian terrorists cross into Israel from Lebanon on hang gliders, killing
6 Israeli soldiers and wounding 8.
Aug 21, 1988 - Haifa
25 wounded in a grenade attack at the Haifa mall.
Jul 6, 1989 - Tel Aviv
14 killed when an
Islamic Jihad militant steered a
bus (Bus 405) into a ravine off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway.
March 17, 1992 Buenos Aires
Israeli Embassy bombing by "Islamic
Jihad" in Buenos
Aires, Argentina; 29 killed, 242 injured.
Israeli Reaction to the First Intifada
Given the undramatic nature of Palestinian challenge, the Israeli reaction is
totally inexplicable. Israel killed a large number of Palestinians in the
initial part of the Intifada, and most of them were apparently killed in
demonstrations and riots. It is easy to claim it was due to brutality or
insensitivity, but most aspects of the policy were actually
counter-productive. Brutalization of the Palestinians and mass arrests could
only sow the seeds of the next Intifada.
The continuous official Israeli pronouncements and rhetoric about "terror"
were also strange. There were many demonstrations, but no more fatalities than
there had been in most previous years. There may have been many more non-fatal
violent attacks. However, it was in the interests of Israel to downplay the
Intifada, since the more publicity it
got, the more it seemed that the Palestinian "David" was successfully
challenging the Israelis "Goliath." The large number of Palestinian fatalities
brought UN condemnation (Security Council Resolution 605) very early in the
Intifada. It helped to draw world attention to the Palestinian plight and
created a growing anti-Israel and anti-occupation lobby around the world.
Massive arrests and administrative detentions in the first Intifada were a
breeding ground for terrorism. Israel arrested an estimated 120,000 Palestinians
in this period and held them for varying periods. A few had committed serious
offenses. It is not possible that 120,000 Palestinians were responsible for less
than 200 Israeli deaths. A 15 year old goes to a "demonstration." He has no
particular ideology. Everyone is throwing rocks, so he throws rocks. He is
arrested and jailed for a few months. He "graduates" as a member of a terrorist
group with a violent ideology and a grudge.
November 11, 2008
Synonyms and alternate spellings: ;