Want an Intifada? Be Careful What You Wish For

Since October, violence in Israel has escalated as Palestinians randomly attack Jews by shooting, stabbing, stoning and ramming cars into them. Most analysts do not believe this is the beginning of a new uprising because it is disorganized, lacks widespread support and participation, and most terrorists have been quickly dispatched before perpetrating any mass casualty events. Hamas and others, however, are rooting for a further intensification of violence and calling for a third intifada. Before heading down this road again, the Palestinians should reflect on the disastrous outcomes of the first two intifadas.

Following historical precedent, the leaders of the Palestinians and Hamas care little for the fate of the people, who they consider pawns and cannon fodder to draw international attention to their cause. They are understandably frustrated after decades of being the center of attention and selling naïve world leaders on the myth that the Palestinian issue is the root of all problems in the Middle East. Some people, especially in the Obama administration, still believe this nonsense, but most finally see that this is a secondary issue unrelated to the Iranian nuclear threat, the destabilization of the Arab world, and the danger posed by ISIS and other radical Muslims.

The Palestinians are masters of manipulating the media, however, and know that if it bleeds it leads and that nothing sells better than Israelis killing Palestinians. Never mind that thousands of Palestinians are being murdered and forced from their homes in Syria, or that the Palestinians are only harmed after attacking innocent Jews. For decades, Palestinian leaders have used the “Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger libel” to incite the masses. Mahmoud Abbas and others did so again, instigating the latest round of violence. Even as Abbas claimed the Jews were desecrating the mosque with their “filthy feet,” it was the Palestinians who defiled their holy place by using it to stockpile weapons to attack non-Muslims who dared to exercise their right to visit the Temple Mount.

Before Abbas and Hamas incite the people to greater violence they should remember what happened during the first intifada. False charges of Israeli atrocities and instigation from the mosques were the provocations in 1987. Over the next four years, approximately 200 Israelis were murdered and more than 3,000 injured. More than 1,000 Palestinians died in clashes with Israeli security forces, but, as the intifada waned (it died during the 1991 Gulf War after the Palestinians sided with Saddam Hussein and lost support and the world’s attention), the number of Arabs killed for political and other reasons by Palestinian death squads exceeded the number killed by Israelis. From 1989-1992, this intrafada claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 Palestinians.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat defended the killing of Arabs deemed to be “collaborating with Israel.” Palestinians were stabbed, hacked with axes, shot, clubbed and burned with acid. The justifications offered for the killings varied. In some instances, being employed by Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank and Gaza was reason enough; in others, contact with Jews warranted a death sentence. Accusations of “collaboration” with Israel were sometimes used as a pretext for acts of personal vengeance. Women deemed to have behaved “immorally” were also among the victims.

Eventually, the reign of terror became so serious that some Palestinians expressed public concern about the disorder. The PLO began to call for an end to the violence, but murders by its members and rivals continued. From 1989-1992, this “Intrafada” claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 Palestinians.

In 2000, the PLO again saw the possibility of diverting attention from Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the peace plans presented by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton at Camp David and ordered a new round of terror attacks months before the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, which the Palestinians claimed instigated the second intifada, which they called the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.” On September 29, 2000, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organized riots.

By the war’s end in September 2005, more than 2,000 Palestinians and 1,061 Israelis had died. As in the first intifada, however, the number of Palestinians murdered by their fellow Palestinians escalated throughout the war and its aftermath. A January 2003 Humanist magazine article reported that 16 percent of all civilians killed were the victims of Palestinian security forces. The internecine bloodletting intensified after the war as Fatah and Hamas murdered each other’s supporters. Nearly 600 Palestinians were killed by their brethren by April 30, 2008, according to B’Tselem. The culmination of the violence was the coup staged by Hamas in which the radical Muslim terrorists seized power from the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians are already feeling the pain from their latest terror campaign. After Israel opened its door to tens of thousands of Palestinian workers to provide a much needed boost to the Palestinian economy and the welfare of individual Palestinians, the current violence may force Israel to shut the door. Israelis are being frightened and a number have been killed or seriously wounded, but nearly all the perpetrators have been killed. Their actions provoked a greater military and police presence in Jerusalem and led the government to impose restrictions on access to the Temple Mount for young Palestinian men (which have subsequently been lifted).

The violence also throws a wrench in Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest ill-advised effort to restart peace talks. The Palestinians have retained the fanciful idea that terrorism will convince Israelis they must evacuate the West Bank and allow a Palestinian state to emerge; however, the precise opposite is true. Each escalation of violence only proves to Israelis that they cannot trust the Palestinians, and that ceding any territory to them will make their lives less secure. This was the lesson of the disengagement from Gaza, which led to barrages of missiles rather than peace.

So, by all means, start a new intifada, but be aware that it will be crushed by the IDF, Palestinians will suffer most of the casualties, many of which will be self-inflicted from internecine fighting, the prospects for peace and independence will be set back years and the settlements will have more time to grow.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.