Palestine’s First Intifada

1st intifada

Intifada comes from Arabic word meaning shaking off, and the First Intifada saw the people of Palestine embark on a fierce resistance campaign from December 1987 to October 1991 in an effort to force an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Background Causes Of The First Intifada

By 1987 Arabs living under Israeli rule in Gaza and the West Bank were becoming frustrated due to Israel’s increased building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which had resulted in the encroachment on what Palestinian’s regarded as their Ancestral land prior to the formation of Israel after World War 2.

The 1980s were also characaterised by a rise in Arab Religious Nationalism which was based on Islam as groups like the Muslim Brotherhood emerged, merging religion and the Palestinian cause into a new and attractive Political ideology.

A series of isolated skirmishes in which Isreali forces and Jihadists were killed marked the start of the First Intifada in early 1987.

However, the events of 8 December 1987 in which an Israeli truck driver crashed into a row of cars containing Palestinian workers waiting at an Israeli check-point in Gaza would ignite a full scale resistance as demonstrations quickly erupted at Palestinian refugee camps with protests spreading into the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Young Palestinians took to the streets, sealing off access to the refugee camps with burning tyres while throwing stones.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian Civilians took part in the First Intifada, including women and children. 

Although initially taken by suprise, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) quickly co-opted the First Intifada movement and began to co-ordinate the First Intifada resistance using Guns, grenades and explosives.

In total about 700 attacks were launched against Israeli targets during the four years of the First Intifada.

Israel responded to the First Intifada by deploying Armed soldiers who fired tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and sometimes live ammunition in order to quell the resistance.

There were also beatings, mass arrests, and curfews imposed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Eventually the personal cost of the First Intifada proved too high for the Palestinians to maintain the resistance, and by the end of the First Intifada in 1991 more than 1 000 Palestinians had been killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Legacy Of The First Intifada

Before the First Intifada, the PLO was losing credibility and the PLO was viewed as a terrorist organisation without a legitimate Political cause.

Media coverage of the First Intifada changed all this as Palestinians were portrayed as victims of an Israeli Occupation.

This garnered international sympathy for the Palestinian cause and bolstered the credibility of the PLO and the PLO was legitimised in the eyes of the international community.

After the First Intifada the unsuccesful 1993 Oslo Peace Accords based on a two-State solution rather than the complete annihilation of Israel were signed between the PLO and Israel. 

In some way, the current stalemate in the resolution to the Palestinian problem lies in the difficulty of finding and implementing an alternative to the two-state solution concept that emerged out of the First Intifada and the failed Oslo Peace Accords.

The First Intifada Documentary