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The First Palestinian Intifada History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The first Palestinian Intifada is the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation in 1987, which lasted six years until 1993. Intifada is an Arabic word that means “shaking off”. The nonviolent “Shaking off” movement was a result of an accumulation of several causes over the twenty year of the occupation of the West bank and Gaza after the six-day war in 1967. The intifada represented an important stage on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because it represented the Palestinian refusal for the foreign interventions on their territories. Moreover it flamed their desire inside Palestinians to have an independent state. In this essay my aim is to research more about the intifada and its cause and try to answer to what extent it was caused by several murder incidents that took place in the last months of 1987. I’m planning to approach my research question by first, going through a brief look of the history of Palestinian-Israeli conflict until the upraising of the intifada, and second, I will examine four main causes that lead to the uprising and caused its outbreak and analyze why and how did each cause contribute to the case. The reason I chose to research about the intifada is that because I’m Palestinian; it’s a great opportunity for me to strengthen my knowledge about my county’s history. I believe that such a topic is worth researching because that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the longest most complicated conflicts that is still on going until today, and as I mentioned earlier, the intifada is one important stage of the conflict, and I believe that researching about the causes of the intifada will give the readers a better understanding about the nature of the conflict and might shine light on some possible solutions for the conflict.

History of the Conflict until the upraising:

At the end of the 19th century, the European Jews began seeking to find a solution to the anti-Semitism they were facing in Europe. They came up with the Idea of Zionism, which is the idea of creating a Jewish state for all Jews from all over the world where they could be safe. The Israeli Zionists had their eyes on Palestine that time. The idea of having a Jewish homeland on the land of Palestine was the real bingeing of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Jews people and society had been educated that Palestine was an empty land when the Israeli settlers came there, but it wasn’t, it was populated with Arabs who had a culture and good interactions with the world. In 1878, the total population was 462456, in which the Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) represented 96.8% and the Jews represented 3.2%. The Period from 1882-1914 witnessed the migration of 65000 European Jews to Palestine. The Jewish immigration to Palestine increased under the British role since Belfour declaration in 1917 which stated the right of Jewish people to have a state over the land of Palestine. Britain was very supportive towards the Zionist movement and it helped it in many ways to establish its state, in the other hand the Palestinians were denied form having their right of self-determination.

In 1920’s the Palestinians noticed the European interventions in their country and the first clashes between the Palestinian and the Israelis happened then. Between 1920 and 1931, more than 108800 Jewish immigrants arrived to Palestine. In 1931 the Total population was 1,035,145, the Palestinians population decreased to 81.6%, while the Jewish increased up to 16.9%. Between 1932 and 1945, Hitler power raised in Germany causing 174,000 additional Jewish to be immigrated to Palestine in only 5 years which doubled the population of Jews in Palestine. From 1937-1945, Palestine received 119,800 Jewish immigrates. Later on, the world attempted to make up for Jewish people for the genocidal policies that were carried on them by the Nazi German; the efforts to create a Jewish state over the land of Palestine were intensified. The Palestinians paid for the mistake of the Nazi. In 1947, the conflict between Palestinians and Israeli’s went out of control which caused Britain to hand the case of Palestine to the United Nations (UN). The UN was pressured to come up with a plan that divided Palestine into two states: an Arab and Jewish. The Arab state was given only 43% of land although that the Palestinians represented 69% of the population and owned more 92% of land. In the other hand, the Jewish State was given 56% of the land when they Jews only represented 31% of the population and owned less than 8% of the land. Later on, the Zionist leaders had the upper hand in military preparation and power which they used to occupy major Palestinian cities. Moreover a systematic expulsion of Palestinians was carried on, it further represented an ethnic cleansing operation that was taking place, the most infamous campaign was the massacre at the village of Deir Yassin in 1948, where 250 Palestinians including men, women and kids, were systematically and brutally killed. This campaign caused huge fear and panic among Palestinians which lead to the displacement of 300 thousand of them as they ran away for safety. On May 14th 1948, Israel announced its statehood in what became known to Palestinians as al-Nakbah. In the next day, neighbor Arab countries attacked Israel, although there was a lot of war rhetoric form the Arab side, the number of the soldiers they sent was significantly small which gained Israel the upper hand for most of the war . As a result, Israel took over a large part of the land that was determined for the Palestinians in the UN partitioning plan. The new Israeli state included 78% of Palestine’s total land. The West bank was put under the control or Jordan and Gaza strip was joined to Egypt. Furthermore, 1948 war caused the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians who stayed in nearby camps, and 400 villages out 500 were destroyed. The 1948 events shaped the Middle Eastern region one more time. Years Later, the violation tensions kept on happening between the neighbor Arab countries and Israel which lead to the six-day war 1976. In the Six-day war, Israel managed to defeat Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and managed to capture reminder of historical Palestine; the West Bank, and Gaza strip. During the same war, more than 400,000 were displaced; half of them were displaced already in 1948, so it’s their second time in less than twenty years. In the following years, Palestinians went through hard social and economical conditions under the occupation; they lived as third class citizens and were treated badly. The UN resolutions didn’t help, neither did the neighbor Arab countries. After two decades of the Six-Day war, a mass uprising, called “The intifada”, against the occupation broke in the occupied territories. (Omeish & Omeish, 2006)


CAUSE1: The Brutal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Human Right violations:

After the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the Israeli government adopted a policy of “Breaking Bones” or “Iron Fist to deal with the uprising rebellious reactions in west bank and Gaza. The minister of defense Yitzhak Rabin described it “mighty, power and beatings”. The policy included imprisonment without trial, town and house arrest, torture during interrogation, curfews, settler violence, and permissive IDF policies for the use of live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators. The “break the bones strategy was intensely used in refugee camps as they were always seen the center of the Israeli government problems. Adding to that, the occupation followed other policies that denied the basic human rights of Palestinians and subjected them to continuous humiliation and harassment. For example since the six-day war, there was more than 4000 Palestinians in the Israeli prisons, many of those were put into prison whit no charge at all. (Sosebee, Stephen J, 1990) (Omeish & Omeish, 2006). The Israeli government adopted such policies seeking to stop any rebellious reactions by Palestinians, but it actually did the opposite. Those policies caused huge and deep frustration between Palestinians that increased the opposition and resistance of the occupation, and made the uprising against occupation a matter of time.

CASUE 2: Economic hardship and the Economic policies by the Israeli occupation:

“In a 1986 survey, 85% of the Arab population living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip considered their quality of life to be poor” (Byng). This is a clear indicator of the hard economical situation that the Palestinians were going through under the occupation. This didn’t happen spontaneously in one year or so, In fact it’s a result an accumulation of many years of restriction and policies that has been enforced by the Israeli occupation to control over the Palestinian economic ability and destroyed it in several ways.

Israel captured West Bank and Gaza after the Six-Day war in 1967. Since then, over a period of 20 years of occupation, radical changes in the Palestinian economy had been introduced by the occupation. Those changes were mostly made for the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the exploitation of resources for the occupation economy. The occupation practiced administrative and legislative authorities that had affected the Palestinian economy in five main areas which are: sources of growth, investment, external trade, economic infrastructure and Taxation”. (Jamal R. Nassar, Roger Heacock, 1990)

Starting with the restrictions over land, only 52% of the occupied territories lands were for Palestinians, Moreover many lands has been confiscated or closed under the pretext of military use. The occupation continued its tight polices such as the control over the water wells and sources, those policies lead to the removal of 78% of water supply in the West banks and 30% of that in Gaza. (Jamal R. Nassar, Roger Heacock, 1990). Such polices made it harder or even impossible for the Palestinians farmers to continue their jobs and made it impossible to increase their outcome, moreover, some areas in the occupied territories suffered a lack of water. This distorted the image of the occupation even more between Palestinian, and the feeling of hatred towards the occupation started to grow more as all Palestinian problems started to related to always related or be caused by it.

Another Policy was controlling over the investment. The occupation took over the right to reject of accept any economic project in the occupied territories, and basically any project that could lead to make the Palestinians markets competitive or generally improve the economy of the occupied territories was denied. (Jamal R. Nassar, Roger Heacock, 1990), One of the most extreme cases of this was the denial of a cement factory project that could have benefited many Palestinians by providing them with job opportunities and a stable income. (Aronson, 1990).

One last policy is the exhaustive taxes that the occupation imposed directly and indirectly on the Palestinians. In 1984, the occupation’s government revenue out of the taxes on West Bank and Gaza represented 12% of their gross national production. (Jamal R. Nassar, Roger Heacock, 1990).

Palestinians resentment out economic hardship they were living increase. The Israeli intervention was further considered to be unacceptable and unlawful. As a result, the Palestinians become more rebellious, and they started taking actions towards the occupation.

Some of those reactions were the refusal to pay taxes and the boycott of the Israeli good. The boycott increased as such movement provided protection for the Palestinian products. The Palestinian workers in Israel also took part on those reactions, The called their strike days the United National Leadership of the Uprising, where more than 100000 workers stayed away from their jobs causing the occupation economy to Incur huge losses. (Jamal R. Nassar, Roger Heacock, 1990).

That resistant movement done by Palestinians came of frustration and resentment of two decades of occupation. Those reactions intensified the conflict between the both sides and created a charged atmosphere which influenced and played an important role in the upraising of the intifada.

CAUSE 3: several murder incidents that took place in the last months of 1987:

On the 6th of December 1987, an Israeli shopkeeper, Shlomo Takal, was stabbed to death in the Gaza Strip by a man who was said to be Palestinian (Fisher, 1987). Two days later, a group of Palestinian workers were waiting near to an Israeli checkpoint, and unexpectedly, a military truck crashed a line of cars causing the death of four of them, and left seven others with sustained injuries. A rumor spread around saying that the military truck driver was a relative to Shlomo Takal, and he crashed the workers for purposes of revenge. As the rumor spread out in the crowded towns and refugees camps, especially in Jablaya camp where the four Palestinian who were killed lived, more than 6000 Palestinians started an impulsive demonstration in the following day. The Israeli force countered back those demonstrations using tear gas, beatings, arrests, rubber bullets, live ammunition and a military curfew. The clashes between the Palestinians and the Israeli forces continued, and many were injured, but the twenty years old Hiatham-Alsisi was considered to be the first martyr of the Palestinian intifada. (Samih K. Farsoun, Christina E. Zacharia, 1997). There was several killing incident before the ones I’m mentioned, but these two particular were the most important. This particular event was one of the significant events of the intifada. For first time, the Palestinians managed to translate their feelings of anger and frustration toward the occupation into demonstrations that proved it can have its impact. This further represented the outbreak trigger of the intifada.

Although that the media failed at the covering the event, the news was spread to the west bank through communications tunnels between Palestinians, causing the upraising to spread through the West Bank. There, another murder incident happened in the 10th of December, where Palestinian youth from Nablus was shot by the Israeli defense force. As a result of this event, Palestinians; women, men and kids, Muslims and Christians went down to the streets and started wide protestations that further developed into riots across the occupied territories. The demonstrators used basic materials, such as stones and slingshot against the heavily armed Israeli defense force which responded to them again by arrests, tear gas rubber bullets and live ammunition. (Samih K. Farsoun, Christina E. Zacharia, 1997). Over two month’s period of riots and protestations, more than fifty Palestinians were killed and hundreds were injured. As the riots continued, and things started to get out of control, many schools and universities had to shutdown, blocking Palestinian students from containing their education. On the other hand, the Israeli defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin who was in a trip in the United States, challenged the demonstrators and gave his orders to the Israeli soldiers to break their bones. (Tomkinson, 2003). The demonstrations in the West bank played a vital role as well in the continuation of the intifada. It united and brought all the Palestinians together where they acted as one nation against their common enemy the Israeli occupation; this strengthened the sense of nationalism between Palestinians, made the next actions more organized with a bigger impact and kept them going on their uprising.

Cause 4: The Presence of Israeli settlements:

The Israel presence of settlements grew bigger in the West Bank and Gaza strip which were captured after the six days war in 1967. The UN came up with resolution 242 which stated “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (UN 1967). Israel continued and had no intentions to stop building settlements ignoring the UN resolution. The main issue that lies behind the Settlements is the landownership dispute between the Palestinians and Israeli. One more reason that increased the presence of the settlements is the refusal of Palestinian to be transformed outside of their homelands which lead the occupation to build more settlements in the propose of separating the Palestinian communities (Zachary Lockman, Joel Beinin , 1989) The International community and specially the UN didn’t act towards the rapid development of the settlements construction. This created a huge frustration between Palestinians at the lack of the attention they were getting on the international level and created a more aggressiveness between the Palestinians and the occupation. Moreover through the history of the conflict between both sides, Settlements had been building over the remains of the evicted Palestinian villages that were erased from up the map. This further represented the unlawful and brutal confiscation of land and displacement from their villages, which Palestinians refused to keep on happening. This intensified the hatred atmosphere between both sides and increased the desire of Palestinians to have their own independent state that they control which could be done by uprising against the occupier and regain control over their territories.


The Palestinian uprising against the occupation started 1987 and lasted for six year until 1993. Varies causes have contributed to the outbreak of the unarmed and nonviolent intifada: The brutal military policies, presence of settlements, Economic hardship and the Economic policies by the Israeli occupation, and incidents of murders that took place in the last months of 1987. All those causes lead to create more intense relationship between the Palestinians the Israeli occupation which was doing its best to hurt them in many ways, which developed into demonstration and protesting movements that united the Palestinians and brought them together forming a force against the occupation. The importance of the third cause: several murder incidents that took place in the last months of 1987, is that it summed all the causes , feeling of mainly humiliation and frustration, and desires that Palestinians had to get rid of the occupation and formed a trigger that turned on the intifada. Based on that, we can say that the incidents of murders between both sides the Palestinian and Israeli had a bigger extent than the other causes.

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