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Palestinian Intifada Research Papers

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The Palestinian/Israeli conflict has existed to some extent for centuries, but there have been two significant events that have occurred with the last 20 years. Each event has been marked by Palestinian protests against their living conditions and their political claims towards lands controlled by Israel. Both events were named Intifada, which means “Uprising” in Arabic.

  1. The First Intifada occurred from 1987 to 1993
  2. The Second Intifada occurred from 2000 to early 2005 (even though some lingering traces of this uprising continue to exist).

These two movements were marked by similarities and differences in their cause, their nature, and their impacts on Palestinian/Israel affairs.

Palestinian IntifadaBoth events were similar in that the primary cause of each was the dire living conditions of the Palestinian people. The territories that they have been forced onto have been marked by overcrowding, poverty, unemployment, and political disenfranchise-ment. These conditions have caused extreme displeasure and frustration among the inhabitants and these feelings eventually spilled over into violence against Israel. Also, the two events were similarly caused by trigger events that allowed the discontent to balloon into violence. In late 1987, there were several violent incidents between the Israelis and Palestinians that provoked the uprising and in 2000, Sharon provoked latent hostilities by going through the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The beginning of these two movements was different in that the first one was more of a spontaneous uprising whereas there are indications that the second one was more planned by the PLO in order to get additional peace concessions from Israel.

In terms of the nature of the two Intifadas, both were marked by Palestinian and Israeli violence against each other. In both events, military and civilian deaths occurred. However, both events were very different in how the violence was carried out. Much of the Palestinian violence in the First Intifada was carried out against Israeli security forces and involved low-technology weapons such as throwing stones and small weapons fire. It did include the use of some explosives, but not too a great degree. Also, the PLO gained some control over the movement and was able to dictate the actions of the Intifada to some extent. Israel was initially over-aggressive against the protests and killed many civilian protesters by not restraining its military. The Second Intifada became primarily identified by the use of terrorist tactics on the part of the Palestinians and the PLO’s loss of control over the movement. Suicide bombers would launch multiple attacks inside of Israel against civilian targets in order to affect a change in attitude by the Israeli government. The number of mass protests against Israel was more limited than in the First Intifada. Israel was somewhat more restrained, due in part to the criticism it received during parts of the First Intifada. It attempted to attack specific targets and it built a security fence to increase its internal security.

In terms of the outcome of each event, it is difficult to measure the precise outcome of the Second Intifada due to the fact that it has only recently begun to subside. When the First Intifada ended, the Palestinians were able to draw attention to their plight and win international sympathy. Accordingly, Israel felt some pressure to improve the situation and, as a result, they attended the Madrid conference shortly after the conflict, which helped to lead to the Oslo Accords. With the Second Intifada, it appears as if there has been a loss of momentum from the Palestinian side due to the use of terrorism to gain their objectives. Israel does not seem to be overly interested in dealing with the Palestinians now (in part due to Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas). The country has built its security fence and withdrawn from some of its settlements. It seems as if it is content to leave the Palestinians alone for now to let them fend for themselves.

The Palestinian Intifada, the uprising against Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, erupted spontaneously in the late 1980s. In the dozen or so years in which the levels of violence have ebbed and flowed in this conflict, the American media has provided television and print coverage of this news story. The actual events of the Intifada, in this study, are secondary to the media coverage of the uprising by the American media. It will be shown that American media coverage, was initially sympathetic to the Palestinian position, but that both public perception and media coverage has shifted 180 degrees since the Gulf War, and that current media reporting of the intifada is biased and pressured to support the Israeli position.


Media coverage of the intifada, like the uprising itself, was haphazard and chaotic. The uprising can be said to have begun on December 9, 1987. 

  1. The previous day, a road accident between an Israeli tractor-trailer and car along the Erez checkpoint (the division between the Gaza Strip and Israel) killed four Palestinians. 
  2. On December 9, rumors spread through the nearby Jabalya refugee camp that the crash was not an accident, but deliberate retaliation for the murder of an Israeli businessman. A demonstration broke out, and the crowd overwhelmed the Israeli soldiers sent into restore order.  A seventeen-year-old Palestinian was killed and sixteen others were wounded. 
  3. Demonstrations continued the next day. On December 11, the uprising spread to the West Bank, and the media arrived to cover the breaking story. 

The intifada had begun.

Very early in the uprising, one of the main goals of the intifada was to gain public sympathy and a change in US policy through violence. It was hoped that the anti-Israeli riots would receive media attention, leading to popular support for their position among the US population; this, in turn, would pressure the American government to accept Palestinian demands. However, of these two goals, only one was met. Early media coverage of the intifada was extensive and favorable, but there was not shift in US public opinion. “Americans continued to sympathize much more with Israel than with the Arab states and the Palestinians, [and] blamed the PLO and the Palestinians for the violence”. It is especially ironic that the US public blamed the PLO for the violence, since that organization was the last to react to the intifada, waiting until February 1989 until its position was clarified.

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