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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 17:05 GMT
Intifada: Then and now
Hebron protesters
Are Palestinians rejecting the Oslo peace process?
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

The first intifada, or uprising, was sparked on 9 December 1987 in Gaza when a Israeli lorry ran into and killed four Palestinians.

The uprising is credited with restoring pride to Palestinians downtrodden by 20 years of Israeli occupation and forcing Israel to the negotiating table.

To mark its anniversary, 13 Palestinian organisations, ranging from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement to Hamas, called for two "days of rage".

Injured Palestinian
The numbers of injured is far greater today than in 1987
The current violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel is being widely referred to as the "Al-Aqsa intifada", tying it to a high-point of Palestinian resistance and casting it as a popular uprising - not, as Israelis argue, violence organised by the Palestinian Authority.

Though it is clear that part of the current crisis is a popular expression of frustration at the peace process there are clear differences between the late 1980s and the current violence in the organisation of the protests, the level of violence and where it might all lead.


When the 1987 intifada broke out in the Jebalia refugee camp in Gaza, it spread like wild fire to all areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It lasted, with varying levels of intensity, until 1993.

It came as a complete surprise to both the Israelis and the PLO, at the time in exile in Tunisia.

Israeli soldiers
The Israeli response to the current violence has been criticised internationally
It also kept the Israeli occupation army at full stretch. Youths confronted the soldiers with stones and petrol bombs - but unlike the current violence, the demonstrators were at no stage armed with guns.

Much of the Palestinian resistance was non-violent. It included demonstrations, strikes, boycotting Israeli goods and the civil administration in the occupied territories, and the creation of independent schools and alternative social and political institutions.

World attention

One of the main achievements of the intifada was to draw world attention to the plight of Palestinians under the occupation - in particular the brutal measures used by the Israelis against the uprising.

The Israeli secret services infiltrated and executed organisers of the uprising.

Palestinian Tanzim
The Tanzim: An organised militia linked to Fatah?
Most famously, the then Israeli chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, called for the "breaking of the bones" of protesters as a method of riot control.

Rabin, now seen as a leading Israeli peace maker, saw that shooting Palestinians played badly with international public opinion and that Palestinians were able to maintain the moral high ground because they were unarmed.

Extreme violence

The most startling contrast between the intifada of 1987-1993 and today's clashes and protests is the level of the violence.

In the 10 weeks since the end of September, the current violence has already left more than 300 people dead, the vast majority of them Palestinian.

Rabin and Arafat
Is the new Intifada the end of the peace process started by Rabin and Arafat
According to Human Rights Watch, 670 Palestinians were killed during the first two and a half years of the first intifada - the most active years of the uprising.

This is in part because Palestinian gunmen are involved in the violence. Israel has responded with the use of tanks, helicopter gunships, rockets and high velocity weapons.

Though this has drawn international criticism, the Israelis have argued that they are responding to armed and organised attacks.

One of the key Israeli demands for an end to the current violence has been the disarming of the Tanzim - which is, according to the Israelis, an organised Palestinian militia associated with the Fatah movement.

Intifada results

The current situation also differs from 1987 in that the Palestinian Authority is now in control of most of the Gaza Strip and of substantial areas in the West Bank.

The authority is in the difficult position of being responsible, under the various Palestinian-Israeli agreements, for preventing Palestinian violence against Israel.

And there is a strong irony about the current situation.

The 1987 intifada was credited with bringing about the Oslo peace process - it ended in September 1993 when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin signed the Declaration of Principles on the basis of the secret Oslo talks.

The current violence is widely being credited with burying the peace process begun in Oslo, and signalling a popular Palestinian rejection of the process they believe will not deliver some of their most basic requirements for peace.

Despite the best efforts of American and European mediators, as the current violence goes on it is getting harder and harder to get Palestinian and Israeli negotiators talking to each other as they used to.

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