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Poli 347: First Intifada and the Peace Process

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 347
Julie Norman

th TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9 , 2012: First Intifada & Peace Process  News:  Israel shot down an unmanned plane  Jordan just appointed a new ambassador to Israel after it was vacant for 2 years   First Intifada: 1987-1991  An intifada is a “shaking-off” or “waking-up”—Palestinians were shaking off the occupation and the status quo/normalizing relations with Israel.  In the 1970s, the focus was on the PLO and the military operations. In the West Bank and Gaza at this time, organizations, local leaders, local initiatives were started.  In the late 1980s, in the post-Lebanon context, dynamics were shifting (status-quo was changing). There was a sense that things were not moving towards peace or an independent Palestinian state. For the international community, questions were raised about how the conflict was playing out and if the dynamics were what people had previously assumed.  It occurred partly as a response to the Iron Fist Policy: started after Lebanon when Israel was maintaining a presence there to control the population in the South. It was an institution of curfews, it was the seizure of homes that were suspected of holding certain people/weapons, there were restrictions of transport (motorcycles banned, you can’t drive a car without a passenger). To many this looked like an occupation. The second part of the Iron Fist policy occurred when the demonstrations of the first Intifada stated—Rabin was the defense minister and he has a policy to crackdown on early demonstrations. His class policy was to response with clubs, fists and rifles. He encouraged the beating of demonstrators by IDF soldiers. The Iron Fist policy had a double pronged effect: the occupation-like actions in Lebanon and the crackdown on protestors.  There was sense of coming-of-age of a generation that had grown up only under occupation. The occupation had been on for 20 years, people were becoming aware of the political situation, and they weren’t going to sit back and normalize like their parents did.  Another cause was a response to a lack of leadership—people felt the PLO was absent and not linked to people in the territories. At this point, the PLO is physically removed from what’s going on in the territories (the PLO is in Tunis at this point). There was a need for local leadership.  It came together through grassroots mobilization. o One group that came out of this was the UNLU—the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising. They were a group of different Palestinian political parties based in the territories who put aside ideological differences for the sake of organizing the uprising (Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, Islamist groups, etc.). They were a unified committee that tactically led the Intifada—the UNLU put out calls for action that started with protests, strikes (Israel relied heavily on Palestinian labourers and strikes were very successful). There were demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, tax refusal (particularly effective), stone throwing, Molotovs. Student activism at campuses/universities was widespread, and there was a lot of action in the streets. At this time, most things the UNLU were doing was illegal (flying a Palestinian flag was illegal at this time). o Very quickly stone throwing became a symbol of the intifada. Youth would throw stones at soldiers/police when they would come to protests. The imagery was significant—it brought a lot of images of children throwing stones at tanks. For many who wanted to keep the protest non-violent, some saw stone throwing as illegitimate. o By late 1988 and 1989, there was more reliance on Molotov cocktails. o It was a movement that got everyone involved but became increasingly intense. Some people felt the initial local leadership ended up being co-opted by the PLO trying to insert influence, and the PLO wanted it to be an armed conflict. This  Responses to the Uprising: o Changing power dynamics with Israel—this was the first time Palestinians in the territories rose up against the occupations. o Shifts in Palestinian politics—it was orchestrated by the UNLU and local parties. The PLO was left out initially. There was an increase in local representation—popular committees were groups (6-12 people) from different communities who would help organization. o There was political and geographical unification (between West Bank and Gaza, between the territories and people living in Israel proper). o Participation was wides
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