viewpoint: ben cohen

For Palestinians, anger without leadership


In the days that have passed since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared before the U.N. General Assembly that he was abrogating previous agreements with Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem have carried out dozens of terror attacks, some of them deadly, against Israelis.

It’s a situation that has led many analysts to speculate about the possibility of a third intifada (uprising) against Israel, and to worry about where such an enterprise will lead. Not that the first two intifadas were exactly picnics.

Intifada number one broke out in 1987 and petered out in the early 1990s. In propaganda terms, it was a definite victory for the Palestinians, as the world media was peppered with images of masked, protesting Palestinians throwing rocks at the well-armed IDF. Politically, it was distinguished by the fact that it was led by the nationalist and leftist Palestinian factions. 

Intifada number two, launched by the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 2000, was a far more dangerous affair, involving both the armed wing of Fatah, the main nationalist faction, as well as the Islamists of Hamas. Throughout the early part of the previous decade, Israel was under physical and psychological siege from suicide bombings and other atrocities perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists who demonstrated that, like Islamic State now, there are no limits to what they will do. The March 2002 bombing of a Passover seder at a hotel in Netanya, in which 30 Jews were murdered and more than 100 injured, was the bloodiest confirmation of that.

Yet that intifada petered out too, for many reasons, not least Israel’s construction — in the teeth of heavy Arab and world opposition, along with a rising tide of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism among Western publics — of a security barrier along its border with the West Bank. One can only shudder at the thought of how many Israelis might have been killed in the current round of violence had the barrier not been there.

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