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From the December 2003 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 50, No. 12)

Middle East

Al-Aqsa Intifada, Three Years and Counting

Peter C. Valenti, World Press Review contributing editor

A Palestinian boy runs away from Israeli tanks in the West Bank town of Jenin
A Palestinian boy runs away from an Israeli tank after throwing stones in the West Bank town of Jenin, Nov. 7, 2003 (Photo: Saif Dahlah/AFP-Getty Images).
Arab writers have been marking the third anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada. Palestinians trace the violence to Sept. 28, 2000, when then-Likud party leader Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, regarded by Jews as the holy Temple Mount, with approximately 1,500 police and security forces.  While hostilities simmered before this date, Palestinians feel that Sharon’s action pushed the community to erupt.

In a panegyric to those struggling in the Intifada, Khalid Muhadin wrote in Jordan’s Al-Ra’i (Sept 30), “After three years, it seems as if it were the first day of the Intifada…and it is stronger than Israeli superiority, American aid to Israel, European hypocrisy, and Arab and Islamic passivity.” Ahmad Sadat tallied the Intifada’s achievements in the Palestinian Al-Quds al-Arabi (Sept. 30), including forcing the United Nations to pass Resolution 1397 calling for the creation of a Palestinian state, spurring economic and political crisis in Israel, and threatening the viability of Israeli settlements. He praised it as a way to “equalize the strength of our people in the struggle in the face of the occupation” [referring to the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths].

In contrast, Palestinian writer Majid Kiyali began his op-ed in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Watan (Sept 30): “After three years of bloody confrontations, neither side can claim results from the conflict in their interest.” Hafiz al-Barghouthi agreed in Al-Hayat al-Jadedah (Sept. 30): “While the people rose against occupation, we didn’t see reform and renewal intifadas inside [political] groups.”

The Sept. 30 Al-Quds editorial rejected Israeli claims that the Intifada sought to threaten Jewish existence: “Sharon’s provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque three years ago was the straw that broke Palestinians’ backs…[in light of] the Israeli government’s unceasing efforts since the 1993 Oslo accords to use Oslo as a Trojan horse to consolidate the settlements.”

Strong criticism of the Intifada’s progress came from Abdel Aziz Rantisi. The Hamas spokesman chided Palestinian leaders in a Sept. 29 Al-Quds al-Arabi op-ed: “There is no doubt that the only factor today that has placed us outside the map of the free and independent world is our disunity.”

Expressing the view that Israeli contempt for Palestinian institutions fueled the Intifada, the Oct. 3 Al-Quds al-Arabi editorial asked, “Are there ministers anywhere else who are not able to leave their houses except by permission from military authorities, or any other government in which its president cringes as a prisoner in his own office?” Adli Sadiq wrote in Al-Hayat al-Jadedah (Oct 2): “The first requirement is to lift the siege on President Arafat, and remove the threat of his being targeted for assassination. Without this fundamental precondition, it will not be conceivable for us to talk about anything with any side.

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