When was the first Intifada?
The first Intifada began in 1987. Some date its ending to the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 through which the Palestinians expected to achieve a State of their own. The word Intifada is Arabic and means "shaking off", because the Palestinians were trying to shake off the occupation by Israel. It was largely a non-violent movement with such expressions as tax revolts, home education when schools were closed, etc. it also included rock throwing on the part of the Palestinians and gunfire from Israelis.
What about the second Intifada?
The second Intifada began in September 2000 after Ariel Sharon's appearance on the Haram ash-Sharif along with about 1000 armed soldiers and policemen. It is sometimes called the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
What caused the second (or Al-Aqsa) Intifada?
The underlying reason is the continuous 30-year Israeli military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (Oslo Accords) signed in 1993 had raised hope. Palestinians anticipated a state and the end of occupation, but it was constantly delayed while the situation on the ground worsened. Israel expanded settlements and by-pass roads and confiscated more Palestinian property. Israelis continued to demolish homes and to uproot or burn olive and fruit trees, leaving people without sources of income. Checkpoints, closures and other signs of a tighter occupation were imposed; Israeli soldiers detained or turned ambulances back from checkpoints and Israel constantly reduced the number of permits to enter Israel to work. Israeli soldiers humiliated Palestinians at the checkpoints. Frustration, rage and despair mounted as Palestinians' human rights were infringed and their dignity ignored. Many Palestinians became disillusioned with the Oslo Accords and felt betrayed by them.
When Mr. Sharon with about 1000 armed soldiers and police visited the Noble Sanctuary (Haram ash-Sharif), a site sacred to Muslims, on September 28, 2000, it was like throwing a match into a pile of dry tinder. The following day, Palestinians protested and seven were killed by the IDF. This was the immediate reason for the intifada. The underlying conditions that caused the uprising still exist and were made worse by a siege imposed in early March 2001 isolating cities, towns and villages and by the building of the "Separation Barrier."
What do we know about suicide bombers?
Many families of Palestinian suicide bombers have indicated that the bomber was depressed and fed up with life under occupation. Under those circumstances, bombers volunteer. Many Israeli analysts have recognized that life under occupation breeds extremism and they see this as a reason to change conditions in the occupied territories. All such attacks against civilian targets, no matter who carries them out, are considered inexcusable by churches and international humanitarian agencies as well as by those who uphold international law.
Do the Palestinians actually want to eliminate the State of Israel?
Part of the original PLO charter called for the elimination of Israel, but it was subsequently rescinded in a public vote and witnessed by the world in 1996 when the Palestinian National Council (representing all Palestinians everywhere) voted to accept the Oslo Accords. The letters between Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin at the time of the Oslo accords (1993) identify the Palestinian area as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. This amounts to about 22% of the original Palestine of the British Mandate period and is the area on which the Palestinians want to establish their state.
The Palestinian Authority does not want to eliminate the State of Israel and, in fact, the Palestinian economy has become interdependent with Israel. Most Palestinians have accepted the existence of the State of Israel and are willing to live with Israelis.
What was the outcome of the Second Intifada?
The Palestinian situation became worse. As of October 2004, 1017 Israelis and 3549 Palestinians were killed (621 Palestinian children below the age of 17 are included in that number). 30% of Palestinian children suffer from chronic malnutrition and 298 Palestinian school have been shelled or broken into by the Israelis.
Median monthly income has decreased from 620 US$ to 355 US$. Forty-three percent of Palestinian households report problems in gaining access to health services and 38.4% report a need for food. (Caritas International, 2004)