Someone yesterday asked what is the Third Intifada. Some people had been chanting it in the city and they didn’t know what it meant, so they asked on a blog thread.
I’ve never heard of a Third Intifada; it sounds something like “World War Three”. There have been two Palestinian intifadas so far, one in the 80s and one starting in 1999 when I was there, and ending 2005-ish. (Wikipedia: First Intifada, Second Intifada) The intifada is a low level attack on soft targets–suicide bombers blowing up pizza parlors, kids throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, that kind of thing. Unlike 9-11, it tends to be perceived in Jordan, whose population is 60% Palestinian, as a legitimate military action against Israel. A few Israelis die, and 4 or 5 times as many Palestinians die, but it’s seen as the only way to put pressure on Israel. It also totally ruins Jordan’s tourism and puts their economy in a nosedive–from maybe 3% growth per year to zero–but still they support the Palestinians. What else can they do.
I see absolutely no purpose to the intifadas, except perhaps to channel frustration away from the ruling group and help keep them in power. It makes the young people feel hopeless and suicidal (see the image of Farfur the Hamas martyrdom mouse at right), and gives the group in power an excuse not to govern. I have long been frustrated with Palestine for not just acting as if they already had a country and just…governing it. The corruption more than anything is what encourages groups like Hamas.
Even as a vehicle for expressing frustration, I suspect the days of the intifada are numbered. Witness the nonsense over the “Intifada NYC” t-shirts that plagued principal Debbie Almontaser, the founder of the Arabic-English language Khalil Gibran International Academy elementary school. During an interview with the New York Post (big mistake right there, thanks to her bosses) Almontaser was asked a question about the meaning of the word intifada and gave the dictionary definition. Later the reason for the question became obvious; there was an organization in the same building as an organization that supported the school, Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, and they were selling a t-shirt that said “Intifada NYC”.
Almontaser could have done several things that would have commanded my admiration. She could have condemned the intifada out of hand in no uncertain terms, which is what she did the next day after some reflection. Or she could have defended the intifada as the right of the Palestinians to self-defense, if that’s what she believes. There are plenty of people who believe that, and I can respect that point of view, even if I’m personally horrified by attacks on civilians (and for that matter, non-civilians). If nothing else, it might have been an education for some people to hear it. Or she could have just said the t-shirt belonged to a group that had nothing to do with her school, which is true enough. But when Almontaser went up against the heavy guns of the haters, she waffled, giving the win to the haters and their definition of intifada. So now “intifada” has shifted even further towards being a word that stigmatizes Arabs and Muslims.
Why anyone was chanting about intifada on American streets this week I don’t know. Clearly it was a response to the recent Israeli boarding of the Turkish ship, but other than that, I suspect it was nothing more than an expression of frustration.
Some date the beginning of the Second Intifada to the day following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, an area known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif. When I visited the Temple Mount I asked where this place was where Sharon had stood, and the area pointed out to me was between the Mosque of Omar and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Up the stairs, I asked, pointing to the gold-domed Mosque of Omar? No, I was told, below the stairs.
I am standing in the above photo on the left in the shadow beside the wall. In the background is the Mosque of Omar, where the Navel of the Universe is supposed to be located, and where the Ark of the Covenant may have once rested, hidden before its final disappearance.
At the bottom of the stairs is the al-Aqsa mosque, built by the Knights Templar.
Here is a closeup of the entrance, or maybe it’s the exit, depending on how you look at it.
I love this building. My companion didn’t understand why I wanted a photograph of it, maybe because there was a very photogenic gold domed building right behind it.
After having stood in this spot, I still don’t understand why the Palestinians would want to riot when Sharon stood here.