Twenty Years After the Second Intifada, the Israeli Victory Is Nearly Complete

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Riots in Hebron , June 10, 2000.
Riots in Hebron , June 10, 2000.Credit: Alex Levac
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The second intifada erupted because Israel exploited the negotiations with the Palestinians to advance its land grab project. The hypocrisy cried out to the heavens – talk of peace on one hand while continuing to take over Palestinian expanse for the benefit of the Jews. The hypocrisy cried out, but the Israelis didn’t listen.

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The anger and disgust at Israeli underhandedness built up over years of disappointment and sobriety following the Oslo Accords, erupting on September 29, 2000 (the day after the provocation by Ariel Sharon, with the approval of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak). But the second intifada was not an intifada in the standard sense of the word: Aside from its first days, it was not a popular civil event and a majority of the public did not participate in it, unlike the uprising that erupted in 1987. The popular-collective characteristic that was preserved in it was the sumud (steadfastness) displayed by all the Palestinians in the face of the Israeli oppressive and punitive measures and policy of economic attrition.

The Israel Defense Forces, Border Police and police, which used lethal means to suppress the protests from the very first day, managed to deter potential protesters. Yasser Arafat and his entourage worried about the criticism that could be heard in those demonstrations, directed at the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. They gave a green light to Fatah and the security forces to use weapons at friction points with the Israeli army and thus, by putting on the hat of resistance once more, seized control of the demonstrations. They also calculated that this militarization would strengthen the Palestinian negotiating stance. They still believed they could halt the Israeli settler-colonial drive in the 1967 territories.

The well-oiled mechanism of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit and the government spokespeople succeeded on the propaganda front in constructing the lie that the battles in the field were being fought between equal armies and that the Palestinians “started it.” Then, as now, the Israeli majority paid little heed to the Palestinian casualties, and did not view the seizure of their lands as institutional aggression. At the same time, the number of unarmed Palestinians killed by Israel kept growing. With every funeral, the Palestinian call for revenge grew stronger. With and without a green light from above, armed Palestinians shot at Israeli civilians (also armed, as many of the settlers are) in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas joined somewhat belatedly and showed that if success is measured in the number of Israeli dead bodies, it was more effective than Fatah. Israel erased the Green Line – so why shouldn’t it resume attacking Israelis inside Israel? The armed wings of Hamas and Fatah competed with one another and lost in the competition with the IDF on the number of those killed. The suicide bombings created a balance of terror with the Israelis but they didn’t halt the Civil Administration’s bulldozers.

There are four failures in all. The first intifada, with its hopeful demand for a sovereign state within the June 4, 1967 lines, failed. The Madrid and Oslo talks, which began in the wake of it, did not diminish Israel’s ravenous appetite for Palestinian land. Mahmoud Abbas’ tactic of diplomacy and acceptance in the UN also failed: The condemnations by Western countries do not amount to a policy — they are only meant to cover their butts. With the exception of a few isolated successes, the popular and legal battles against land seizures also failed. And the use of weapons, which many Palestinians still view as the pinnacle of the struggle and the resistance, even though only a few actually choose to do so, did not stop the process either. The use of arms is an expression of anger and the desire for revenge. It has no strategic value.

Twenty years later, the Israeli victory is nearly complete: The well-planned armed robbery of Palestinian land goes on daily unhindered. The model that Israel created in Gaza is being copied in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and translated into something akin to “Pales of Settlement” which, as long as they don’t show signs of fury and rebellion, are of no interest to the Jews in Israel, the supreme ruler.

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