First Intifada

The Intifada – meaning « insurrection » or « uprising » in Arabic – broke out in Gaza on the 9th of December 1987, in the wake of a traffic accident involving an Israeli truck and a Palestinian car in which several people were killed. The movement, which began with a general strike in Gaza, spread rapidly to the whole Palestinian Occupied Territories. The incident took place a few months after the 20th anniversary of Israeli occupation, and sparked off a process which was to transform Palestinian society deeply.

The first Intifada was the expression of frustration and revolt by a whole generation of Palestinian youth, who were born into the occupation and had never known anything else. They assumed, at least during the first few years of the insurrection, the leadership of the uprising.

Another crucial element is the fact that the Palestinian population living under occupation took its situation into its own hands, no longer relying on the Arab States – as it had done until the 60’s – nor on the PLO « abroad » – as it had done for 20 years. Apart from the high media profile of the « stone throwing revolt », the Intifada was also a fiscal revolt and represented a new way of life seeking a maximum of economic self-sufficiency.

The scale of the Intifada was greater than any previous uprising in many different ways: in terms of its duration of 4 years, of its extension to the whole of the Occupied Territories, in its manifestations, taking the forms of mass rallies, general strikes and unarmed confrontations, combined with self-administration of daily life and attempts at civil disobedience, as well as in terms of its participants, young and old, refugees, farmers, traders, workers and intellectuals, who all came together in a unified and coordinated movement.

On the international level, the Intifada and its repression by the occupying forces brought about an awareness of the Palestinian question both by the Israeli people themselves and by the rest of the world. Public opinion worldwide was shocked by the violent Israeli suppression of the unarmed uprising, in blatant contradiction with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It also generated important changes within the PLO, leading the organisation to a compromise position with Israel, which resulted in 1988 to the explicit recognition of this state by the Palestinian National Council (PNC).

The Intifada was the greatest challenge ever posed by the Palestinian people to Israel, which unsuccessfully tried to stifle it using harsh suppression. Despite over thousands of dead and injured people, hundreds of houses blown up, the closing down of the whole educational system and the prohibition of alternative forms of teaching for two years, extended curfews, administrative detention of tens of thousands of individuals, the Israeli army was not been able to suppress it, and was forced to enter into negotiations.

The Intifada came to an end when the PLO entered into peace negotiations with the Israeli government and a Palestinian Authority was set up in the autonomous Palestinian territories, in the framework of the Oslo Peace Process. Nevertheless, the continuous delays in the implementation of the peace agreements resulted in a real threat that the uprising could restart, as shown by the violent outburst of the last week of September 1996 during which 69 Palestinians, 14 Israelis and 1 Egyptian were killed. The Oslo Accords finally collapsed due to the continuing occupation and settlement expansion, as well as the failure of the Camp David negotiations in July 2000, paving the way for the eruption of the second Intifada, also known as al Aqsa Intifada, on the 28th of September 2000.