The second Intifada: Success or failure?

It is 36 months since Ariel Sharon’s walk around Jerusalem’s most sensitive Muslim holy site provoked a popular uprising that has left at least 2650 Palestinians and 800 Israelis dead.

Death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durra grabbed world attention
Death of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Durra grabbed world attention

Since that fateful day, Israel has virtually re-occupied the entire West Bank, used F-16 fighter jets and helicopter gunships to kill members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, while slaying numerous innocent bystanders in the process.

The Israeli government has given tacit approval for the building of more settlements on Palestinian land and started construction of the Apartheid Wall.

Palestinian stone-throwing has also rapidly escalated and developed into human bombings. What is more, Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is threatened with assassination or expulsion.

The dream of a Palestinian state looks as far removed from reality as it ever did.

With the two sides locked in a seemingly never-ending cycle of violence, the question remains: Has the Intifada worked?


Some argue that success should be measured in terms of global awareness of the crisis.

Thousands protest in Barcelona against the occupation

Thousands protest in Barcelona
against the occupation


“It exposed the unjust nature of the Israeli occupation and illustrated the need to put an end to the Jewish colonisation of our homeland,” Ismail Ibrahim Talahmeh, a 24-year-old civil engineer told Aljazeera in an interview on the West Bank.

“Moreover, the Intifada has convinced the world there will be no peace or stability, not only in this region but throughout the globe, as long as the Palestinians’ plight remained unresolved,” he added
Conflict between the two sides since the start of the second Intifada has commanded more media space than any other global news event and, coupled with the events of 11 September 2001, forced the US to take a renewed interest in securing some sort of peace agreement in the region.


On 25 June 2002, George Bush jnr became the first US president to categorically acknowledge the inevitability of an independent Palestinian state.

“My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security,” Bush said in a speech in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“At this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope,” he added.

The so-called road map proffered by the US, United Nations, European Union and Russia stemmed from America’s long-delayed realisation that the Palestinian question was a major root cause of global “terrorism”.

Road map

The road map envisaged the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005 and called for an end to human bomb attacks. It also called for the installation of a Palestinian prime minister.

“At this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope”

George Bush

It is doubtful such a bold step, coupled with widespread global support for the creation of a Palestinian state, could have been taken without the second Intifada, which focused the world’s attention on the plight of the Palestinian people.

Israeli brutality and televised images of children felled by high-velocity bullets whilst throwing stones at tanks, caused a groundswell of popular support for the Palestinian cause.

Other commentators say that regardless of the physical losses of the Palestinians, the Intifada has made life more difficult for Israelis and that in itself is success.

“There is no evidence that the Israelis would have been moved by any other means than the struggle,” British Member of Parliament and Arab rights advocate George Galloway said in an interview with Aljazeera.

Psychological impact

It is true that the Israeli government has been forced by numerous human bomb attacks to employ as many as 120,000 guards to protect cafes, restaurants and other social centres since the start of the Intifada.

This has had a enormous psychological impact on Israelis and has also taken its toll on the country’s economy, which has contracted since 2000. People feel less secure, fewer tourists visit and more and more companies are relocating abroad.

Still, the price paid by the Israelis has been far less than that by Palestinians.

If the Intifada aimed to better the lot of the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza, it has failed. Movement is more restricted than ever in the Occupied Territories, communications basic at best and the Palestinian Authority controls less land than it did at the beginning of 2000.


What is more, in the past three years the Israeli army has demolished more than 3000 homes and damaged thousands more. It has also destroyed large areas of agricultural land and other public and private properties.

Resistance has seen more bulletsflying as well as stones

Resistance has seen more bullets
flying as well as stones

Thousands of Palestinians have been made homeless and tens of thousands have lost their main or sole source of income.

The disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of Palestinians have had a devastating impact on the lives of the three and a half million Palestinians.

Closures, military checkpoints, curfews and a barrage of other restrictions confine the beleaguered population to their homes or immediate surroundings.

These restrictions are a major cause of the virtual collapse of the Palestinian economy over the past three years.

Social costs

Unemployment in the Occupied Territories is almost 50%, two thirds of the Palestinian population live below the poverty line, a growing number of infants suffer malnutrition and other health problems, and gross domestic product has halved since 2000, according to the World Bank.

Children are not able to go to school, families unable to visit relatives and sick women restricted from accessing health care.

“The Intifada achieved nothing, it took us many years backward,” Jihad al-Nammoura, 35, a taxi-driver on the West Bank said in an interview. “But the occupation is first and foremost to blame for this catastrophic situation. We are the victims, and blaming the victims is wrong.”

Political divisions

Political divisions and the resulting rise in support for resistance groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad has certainly been a major contributor in the abject failure of the road map.

“As a people, we Palestinians have to do what the South African anti-apartheid movement did, i.e. gain legitimacy in Europe and especially in the US, and consequently de-legitimise the apartheid regime”

Edward Said,
Palestinian intellectual

The intransigence of the Israeli position coupled with their building of an apartheid wall through the centre of the West Bank, has also done nothing but breed resentment and mistrust.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan – speaking for himself – said that Israel and the Palestinians “seem unable to find their way out of the current quagmire” without outside help.

“Bold steps cannot be taken without consent of the parties,” he said at a meeting of the UN General Council.  “Equally, the current dangerous impasse can only be broken through revitalised and active international involvement.”


In fact, such was the depression amongst the Group of Eight foreign ministers that when talk turned to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, diplomats said there was a sense of real despair. So much so, that those present could not see the point of talking about it.

It seems as though little has changed since 2000. Children continue to die, the plight of the Palestinians goes largely unaddressed and another US-sponsored solution lies trampled underfoot. 

The late Edward Said wrote in the UK’s Guardian newspaper earlier this year that “as a people, we Palestinians have to do what the South African anti-apartheid movement did, i.e. gain legitimacy in Europe and especially in the US, and consequently de-legitimise the apartheid regime”.

The Palestinian intellectual, who died last week, never lived to see that goal achieved.

But he left supporters of the resistance with another challenging conclusion: “The whole principle of Israeli colonialism must be similarly discredited in order for any progress in Palestinian self-determination to be made.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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