Independent grossly misleads on the roots of First, Second and “Third” Intifadas

On Oct. 9, The Independent published a report by Lee Williams (titled ‘Intifada: What is it – and what does a third uprising mean for the region’which grossly misleads on both the nature of the current violence in Israel and the history of the First and Second Intifadas.

The 400 word Intifada backgrounder by Williams – who seems to have little experience covering Israel and the Middle East – begins thusly.

Hamas’s chief in Gaza has called the recent violence in Israel a third “intifada”.

In a sermon on Friday, Ismail Haniyeh said: “We are calling for the strengthening and increasing of the intifada… it is the only path that will lead to liberation.”

The statement comes after a spate of violence and a number of stabbings across the West Bank, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead five Palestinians in protests in Gaza and a knife-wielding Jewish man wounded four Arabs in southern Israel in a wave of violence that has fuelled talk of a new uprising against Israeli occupation.

Reading his characterization of recent attacks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the “wave of violence” has mainly consisted of unprovoked Jewish attacks on Arabs. Williams makes no mention of the fact that, also on the Friday (Oct. 9) in question, there were three stabbings or attempted stabbings by Arabs against Jews.  On the previous day, eight Israelis were injured in Arab stabbing attacks.

Williams then provides a brief history of the First Intifada:

The first intifada broke out in 1987. The Palestinians were largely unarmed and the conflict was characterised by images of young men and boys throwing rocks at Israeli troops. A flash point that led to the intifada was when Israeli forces killed four young Palestinians at a Gaza checkpoint. Then an Israeli soldier opened fire on a group of Palestinian protestors killing a 17-year-old boy.

To begin with, the First Intifada was not fought by “largely unarmed” Palestinians.  Over 200 Israelis were killed during the conflict (between 1987-91) with not only stones, but Molotov cocktails, knives and guns. (In fact, the first attempted suicide attack was launched during the 1st Intifada.)

Memorial for the 16 Israelis killed in first attempted suicide attack of 1st Intifada, in 1989. The attack occurred when the 405 bus from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was forced off the road by a Palestinian terrorist

Also, Williams misleads over the ‘spark’ of the First Intifada when he claims it was started when “Israeli forces killed four young Palestinians at a Gaza checkpoint.” In fact, four Palestinians were killed in a auto accident in the Jabaliya refugee camp between an Israeli truck driver and a car carrying Palestinian workers. Though immediately after the accident a false rumor spread that the killing were intentional, there is no serious account which corroborates this claim.  

Additionally, a history of the First Intifada titled ‘Intifada‘, by Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari, published in 1990, explains in great detail that the intifada was in fact sparked in part by false rumours which spread after Palestinians were killed in the auto accident.  The authors noted that the rumours – advanced in the Palestinian media – suggested that it wasn’t an accident at all “but a cold-blooded act of vengeance by a relative of the the Israeli stabbed to death in Gaza’s main market two days earlier.”

Much like today, the Palestinian media kindled the flames and turned the rumor into “fact.” A huge wave of protests began, and along with it the long, violent Intifada.

Further, the report by Williams claims that another spark was the killing of a 17 year-old Palestinian by an Israeli soldier who had “opened fire on a group of Palestinians…”.  However, this too is extremely misleading as it fails to note (pages 20-21 of ‘Intifada’) that the Palestinian was shot only after a small unit of soldiers was attacked by a large Palestinian mob – including the 17-year-old victim – throwing rocks and explosives.

Williams then procedes to describe the Second Intifada.

The second uprising in 2000 involved far more than rocks and stones. Also known as the “Al Aqsa intifada” the conflict was set off by Ariel Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, officially in Palestinian territory. Palestinians claimed that Israelis were planning to retake the mount where the Al Aqsa mosque is situated – one of the holiest shrines in Islam.

Of course, even if you accept the specious claim that Sharon’s visit “set off” the Second Intifada, the Temple Mount is not, as Williams claims, “officially” in Palestinian territory. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is under the administrative supervision of Jordan’s Islamic Waqf. Israel, however, retains security control of the area. Jews are permitted to visit but not pray there.  Sharon’s visit was legal, coordinated with Palestinian security officials before hand, and consistent with the status quo for the holy site.

Finally, note how the report omits the fact that the Temple Mount is not only “one of the holiest shrines in Islam” but the holiest site in Judaism – one final example of their sloppy, skewed and ahistorical account of Palestinian intifadas, past and present.  

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