The Second Intifada Continues

What happened and why?

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This article, the second in a two-part series, examines the roots of the second Intifada and the implications for Palestinians and Israelis as of 2003 when the article was written. Click here for the first part of the series.

As the second Intifada progressed, it resembled the first Intifada less and less, taking on the characteristics of armed guerilla fighting, similar in some ways to the tactics adopted by Hezbollah in Lebanon during its fighting against Israeli forces. Some analysts believe that this was not a coincidence. 

The Lebanon Precedent

The Israel Defense Forces unilaterally withdrew from its positions in Lebanon in May 2000 after suffering years of bloody guerilla blows from Hezbollah. Some scholars have suggested that this was interpreted in most of the Arab world as a new precedent, the first time that the Israeli army was forced to concede defeat in the face of Arab military tenacity, and as proof that Israeli society was weakening in its resolve to accept casualties. Hezbollah fighters were considered heroes in Arab homes, and Palestinian militias invited Hezbollah experts to provide them with training in proven tactics against the Israel Defense Forces.

palestinian uprisingIn numerous interviews with journalists, Palestinian leaders have indicated that the Lebanon precedent sparked a hope among them that similar armed pressure on Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would lead to a demoralized Israeli withdrawal and dismantling of settlements, enabling the Palestinians to achieve more than they might in negotiations. For example, Marwan Barghouti--a high-ranking Fatah (Palestine Liberation Organization) official in the West Bank prior to his arrest by Israeli armed forces in April 2002--frequently told reporters that the Palestinians ought to continue the Intifada even if Palestinian-Israeli negotiations were to resume, stating that the only way to end the Intifada is for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, just as it had from Lebanon.

Islamic Fundamentalism and September 11th

The names by which the conflict that has raged since September 2000 has been called are instructive. In Israel there were attempts early on by some commentators to label it "the Oslo war" or "the war against peace," but the general public mostly avoided those names because they smacked of political connotations, blaming the supporters of the Oslo agreements for the terror attacks within Israel.

Most Israelis simply called it 'the Intifada' or increasingly--as time went on and a grim atmosphere settled on them-- 'the matzav,' which literally means 'the situation,' as if it was all just a temporary condition they had the bad luck to be experiencing and which might soon be over.

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.