Fruits of a Revolt: A New Mideast? Tenth Anniversary of Palestinian Intifadah Highlights Troubles in Building Civil Society

By Ilene R. Prusher, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Fruits of a Revolt: A New Mideast? Tenth Anniversary of Palestinian Intifadah Highlights Troubles in Building Civil Society


Ilene R. Prusher, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Hussan Khader remembers one of the first shots fired in the intifadah.

When the Palestinian uprising broke out 10 years ago, he was leading a fight against Israeli soldiers in his native Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus, and took a bullet in the right leg.

Then 25 and a well-known leader of the largest youth movement, he was jailed and later deported to south Lebanon. Years later he would work his way back home and gain a seat on the Palestinian Legislative Council, of which he is the youngest member. Now he can savor the achievements the Palestinian uprising brought him - his return in 1994, a privileged position, and perhaps some taste of peace. But the other youths Mr. Khader led in the protests - foot soldiers in a war that would be fought primarily with stones and Molotov cocktails - have not all fared as well. While Khader has a VIP card that allows him to pass through Israeli checkpoints with ease, many of his comrades have not seen their lot improve. Some are without work or eke out a living, some died, and some are still in Israeli prisons. It is with this ambivalence over the rebellion's fruits that Palestinians have been approaching the 10th anniversary of the intifadah - literally meaning "shaking off" in Arabic - which started Dec. 9, 1987. More than 20 years after Israel had seized control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a car accident in Gaza provided the spark that unleashed pent-up anger over the occupation. Disproving expectations that hostilities would quickly run their course, the strength and tenacity of the uprising surprised Israeli officials. It also caught Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat off guard, because he hadn't orchestrated the street battles and saw his power threatened by an emerging grass-roots leadership. This week, as academics gather to discuss the many dimensions of the intifadah's impact, most other Palestinians are letting the event pass without a great deal of fanfare. Some feel that at a time when the peace process has long been mired, there is little to celebrate. Others who don't believe in reconciliation with Israel - or who think their struggle must continue until they have an independent Palestinian state - say there is no point commemorating something that to them is still ongoing. Palestinians like Councilman Khader say the power struggles and violence of the intifadah left a dubious legacy that encumbers the building of the democratic civil society for which they fought. …

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