Photo of the Week: The First Intifada turns 27

Photo credit: Jeffrey L. Rotman
Date taken: March 1, 1988
Location: ‘Anata, West Bank, Palestine

Three stone-throwing Palestinian youth flash ‘victory’ signs through the broken windows of a house that had been attacked by the Israeli military.

The First Intifada began on December 8, 1987, as a direct challenge to Israel’s brutal and suppressive control of the Palestinian territories. The Israeli government had for years sought to exhaust Palestinian resistance to the occupation through all sorts of dehumanizing collective punishments. Scores of Palestinians were thrown into Israeli military prisons, hundreds of homes had been demolished, and soldiers crept the streets day and night to intimidate Palestinians into accepting their fate.

But Israel’s heavy-handed policies could not keep Palestinian frustrations from boiling over. On December 8, an Israeli soldier drove a tank transporter into a row of cars bringing Palestinians back into the Gaza Strip through the Erez checkpoint. Hundreds of Palestinians who were returning from work witnessed the army vehicle barrel into the cars, killing four and leaving many others injured.

Thousands attended the funeral later that day, which soon turned into a major demonstration. The following day, as Palestinian officials convened to assess the situation, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 17-year-old woman during another demonstration in the Gaza Strip. Unarmed protesters had responded to the Israeli military’s forceful suppression of the protests with rocks, and after an improvised Molotov cocktail hit a nearby Israeli military vehicle, soldiers fired live ammunition into the crowds of Palestinians.

This sparked further protests which only grew in size. By the following week, Palestinians were demonstrating in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and in Jerusalem. General commercial strikes were called for and grassroots organizers coordinated acts of civil disobedience designed to challenge Israeli policy.

By the end of September 1993, Israeli soldiers and settlers had killed 1,283 Palestinians, injured well over 130,000 Palestinians, arrested 120,000, and demolished or confiscated at least 2,533 homes and expelled their inhabitants.

Despite further uprising and resistance, Israel maintains its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For more information on the First Intifada, read the Institute for Middle East Understanding’s (IMEU) timeline and fact sheet published on the Intifada’s 25th anniversary.


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