|Interesting analysis of the dynamic at work in the current "intifada":|
The Intifada behind the Al-Aqsa Intifada
by Gary C. Gambill
Members of the Tanzim at a demonstration in Gaza last month
The "Al-Aqsa Intifida" has witnessed the most intense fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in nearly two decades, with the death toll now approaching 200, mostly Palestinian, fatalities. According to the conventional wisdom, the uprising was triggered by the untimely visit of Israeli Likud leader Ariel Sharon, flanked by over 1,000 riot policemen, to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem on September 28. This event, it is said, sparked a familiar pattern of "spontaneous" Palestinian riots and Israeli reprisals--a self-propelling process whereby demonstrators are killed and injured, fueling public passions that result in further protests, and so forth. The uprising is attributed to the same dynamic that governed the 1987-1993 Intifada, and to a lesser extent the "tunnel riots" of 1996, with most of the debate centering around Yasser Arafat's willingness and capability to control the Palestinian "street."
But for all the destructive energy unleashed by the Al-Aqsa Intifida, the scope of popular participation has been surprisingly limited. Although large numbers of Palestinians have taken part in peaceful rallies and funeral processions, the crowds that have confronted Israeli troops with rocks and Molotov cocktails on a daily basis have been notably smaller than those that spontaneously arose during the first Intifada. What is new about the current uprising--the frequent use of firearms against Israeli soldiers and settlers--is mainly attributable to a relatively small number of Fatah activists, numbering perhaps a few hundred at most.