Caution and More Caution: A Third Intifadah?

Muhammad Hudhud, JHU:

Many of current youth of Israel and Palestine are much too young to remember the second Intifada, let alone the first. For almost ten years within the context of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, the term ‘Third Intifadah’ has been thrown around. Just as recently as last year, Arab Media Watch chairman and journalist Sharif Nashabibi wrote a piece entitled “Is another Intifadah in the works?” In it, he highlights the nonexistent peace process, a disillusioned Palestinian populace, an economically starved West Bank and Gaza, and no single unified non-violent opposition—Israel’s separation wall a contributor to this division.

With no clear start or end-dates to the previous two Intifadah, however, the notion of a third is up to much interpretation. This raises the question, what comprises an Intifadah?  For starters, the very word ‘intifadah’ means ‘shaking off,’ or more commonly as ‘uprising.’ It should be noted that that the First Intifadah (~1987-1993) transpired via grassroots organizing, when the official Palestinian leadership was abroad. From 1987 to 2000 (the start of the Second Intifadah), Israeli human rights NGO B’tselem reports that over 1,400 Palestinians and over 270 Israelis were killed.

The Second Intifadah (~2000-2005), also called Al-Aqsa Intifadah, is believed to have erupted out of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Aqsa Mosque Complex, home to Islam’s third holiest site (note: Sharon did not physically step inside the Aqsa Mosque itself). To believe that an Intifadah, therefore, is some event that is carefully planned and orchestrated is erroneous.

It stands to reason that most people and institutions cannot and should not predict when an Intifadah is going to happen. Since the beginning of October, 56 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed. At the same time, the Palestinian flag was raised at the UN for the first time in the midst of a push for Palestinian statehood. Just a days ago, FIFA ruled that Palestine is cleared to hold their World Cup Qualifier match in Palestinian territory. I question the difference between the realities ‘on the ground’ in Palestine and Israel and symbolic gestures like flag raising and football, all very important.

Media outlets have been quick to ascribe labels for a ‘Third Intifadah’ that is rapidly approaching, but what are the reasons for them saying so? Is this month’s unusually high death toll the evidence to declare an Intifadah? Or the way in which both Israelis and Palestinians are being killed? According to the past two, an Intifadah cannot be not dictated by media outlets, as they too are just as unsure as anyone else is. More specifically, many media outlets fail to see, or actively fail to report, the larger Palestine-Israel Conflict that has been marred by simmering Palestinian discontentment and disillusionment over decades.

Specifically, in the case of Jerusalem, America has once again been dragged back into the conflict after peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority broke down last year. Last year also, Israel closed off the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in 67 years, irking Jordan’s King Abdullah. Jordan has also expressed concern over the restrictive access to the mosque worshippers have times. That is, IDF incursions into the mosque complex are often followed by Palestinian protests. Just this week however, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and Jordan had agreed to reaffirm their commitment to keeping the already established rules regarding the complex, and installing more than the already 300 cameras set up.

Is, then, this past month’s violence only another episode in a seemingly endless spiral of tensions and killings? Shortsightedness in reporting is inexcusable, as it only conveys confusion and a reputation of what was said during the last ‘major’ conflict. Instead, we must be extremely careful in quickly calling the current events an ‘Intifadah.’ Rather, I feel extremely cautious to do so. Are we in the midst of an Intifadah? My current answer is I frankly do not know.

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