Last updated on: 6/25/2008 11:32:00 AM PST

What Were the Origins of the Al-Aqsa Intifada?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Benny Morris, PhD, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University,, Israel, in his 2001 book Righteous Victims, wrote:

Ariel Sharon
Visit to Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif
Sep. 28, 2000

Palestinians clashing with Israeli police forces
Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif
Sep. 28, 2000

The spark to what began as a spontaneous, ground-up rebellion was provided by a visit on September 28, 2000 to the Temple Mount compound by Knesset member Ariel Sharon, who had succeeded Netanyahu as Likud Party chairman in May 1999. Though a few days before Arafat had cautioned Barak against allowing the visit, his head of the security service in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, had promised-predicted that the visit would pass quietly; so had Israel's internal security service, the G.S.S. [General Security Service]. Besides, there was no legal bar to the M.K. [Member of the Knesset] visiting the Temple Mount, so long as he did not act or speak provocatively. So Barak had given the visit the green light. Sharon, accompanied by many dozens of policemen, smiling broadly, spent 24 minutes strolling about the compound, then left; he did not approach or enter either of the mosques [Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa].

Apparently spontaneously, Muslim crowds gathered in Jerusalem and began rioting, pelting police with stones near the Temple Mount compound. The following day, a Friday, as tens of thousands left the compound after prayer, rioting erupted anew, this time on a grand scale. Israeli police entering the compound were pelted with stones and responded with rubber-coated (and possibly also live) ammunition, killing at least four Palestinians and wounding more than one hundred. The rioting spread throughout Jerusalem. The following day, throughout the West Bank and Gaza, demonstrators (most of them youngsters) clashed with Israeli troops at roadblocks and positions on the edges of the Palestinian-ruled towns and along Israeli-patrolled roads. Within hours, Palestinian Authority (P.A.) radio and television stations joined in with flagrant anti-Israeli (and occasionally anti-Semitic) incitement. P.A. leaders fanned the flames with talk of 'marching on Jerusalem' and calls for a Jihad. The new Intifada had begun."

2001 - Benny Morris, PhD 

Ian J. Bickerton, PhD, Professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of New South Wales, and Carla L. Klausner, PhD, Professor of the Modern Middle East at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in their 2002 book A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict wrote:

Muhammad al-Durrah
Hiding behind his father
Moments before reportedly being
fatally shot by an Israeli soldier
Oct. 2, 2000
"On September 28, 2000, Likud leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, accompanied by a phalanx of Israeli police. Although Sharon did not enter the al-Aqsa mosque ('the furthest mosque') or the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim sacred sites built on the Mount, he did make a speech in which he pledged that Israel would never give up the Mount. This provocative act, and the massive police presence, touched off riots the next day, in which Palestinian demonstrators were fired on by Israeli soldiers.

At first called the 'al-Aqsa Intifada,' this new wave of violence resembled all-out warfare more than the 'shaking off' of the original intifada. Rock-throwing Palestinian youths were joined by armed Palestinian police against Israeli soldiers hurling tear gas and firing rubber-coated and sometimes live bullets, backed up by tanks and Blackhawk helicopter gunships. In Gaza, a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy [Muhammad al-Durrah] was caught in the crossfire and killed by Israeli soldiers; and in Ramallah, two Israeli reservists were murdered at a Palestinian police outpost, and one was thrown out a window and his body beaten and trampled upon by the crowd. Murders of Israelis were avenged by rockets and bombs hitting Palestinian offices and targets in Gaza and the West bank. In a disquieting development, Israeli Arabs were also affected, many joining in pro-Palestinian demonstrations within Israel and several being killed. Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, which housed a Yeshiva (Jewish institution of higher learning) of Israeli settlers, was desecrated by Palestinians, and Hizbullah, in a well planned operation, ambushed and captured three Israeli soldiers at the Lebanese border.

Two weeks into the escalating violence, in mid-October, President Clinton was able to convene a summit at Sharm al-Sheikh, co-hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which the two sides by unwritten agreement decided to issue public statements calling for an end to violence. However, the cease-fire agreement was never implemented as clashes continued and became even more deadly."

2002 - Carla L. Klausner, PhD 
Ian J. Bickerton, PhD 

George Mitchell, JD, former US Senator (D-Maine), as Chairman of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (final report commonly known as "The Mitchell Report") published the following on May 20, 2001 in the committee final report:

First Sgt. Vadim Novesche (left)
and First Cpl. Yosef Avrahami (right)
Two Israel Defense Force soldiers
lynched in Ramallah on Oct. 12, 2000

Palestinians celebrate with the blood of
lynched Israeli soldiers on their hands
in Ramallah on Oct. 12, 2000
"The GOI [Government of Israel] asserts that the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the 'widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse.' In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA [Palestinian Authority] leadership, and was aimed at 'provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative.'

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) denies the allegation that the intifada was planned. It claims, however, that 'Camp David represented nothing less than an attempt by Israel to extend the force it exercises on the ground to negotiations,' and that 'the failure of the summit, and the attempts to allocate blame on the Palestinian side only added to the tension on the ground...'

From the perspective of the PLO, Israel responded to the disturbances with excessive and illegal use of deadly force against demonstrators; behavior which, in the PLO's view, reflected Israel's contempt for the lives and safety of Palestinians. For Palestinians, the widely seen images of the killing of 12-year-old Muhammad al Durra in Gaza on September 30, shot as he huddled behind his father, reinforced that perception.

From the perspective of the GOI, the demonstrations were organized and directed by the Palestinian leadership to create sympathy for their cause around the world by provoking Israeli security forces to fire upon demonstrators, especially young people. For Israelis, the lynching of two military reservists, First Sgt. Vadim Novesche and First Cpl. Yosef Avrahami, in Ramallah on October 12, reflected a deep-seated Palestinian hatred of Israel and Jews.

What began as a series of confrontations between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces, which resulted in the GOI's initial restrictions on the movement of people and goods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (closures), has since evolved into a wider array of violent actions and responses. There have been exchanges of fire between built-up areas, sniping incidents and clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. There have also been terrorist acts and Israeli reactions thereto (characterized by the GOI as counter-terrorism) including killings, further destruction of property and economic measures. Most recently, there have been mortar attacks on Israeli locations and IDF ground incursions into Palestinian areas.

From the Palestinian perspective, the decision of Israel to characterize the current crisis as 'an armed conflict short of war' is simply a means 'to justify its assassination policy, its collective punishment policy, and its use of lethal force.' From the Israeli perspective, 'The Palestinian leadership have instigated, orchestrated and directed the violence. It has used, and continues to use, terror and attrition as strategic tools.'

In their submissions, the parties traded allegations about the motivation and degree of control exercised by the other. However, we were provided with no persuasive evidence that the Sharon visit was anything other than an internal political act; neither were we provided with persuasive evidence that the PA planned the uprising.

Accordingly, we have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the GOI to respond with lethal force.

However, there is also no evidence on which to conclude that the PA made a consistent effort to contain the demonstrations and control the violence once it began; or that the GOI made a consistent effort to use non-lethal means to control demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. Amid rising anger, fear, and mistrust, each side assumed the worst about the other and acted accordingly.

The Sharon visit did not cause the 'Al-Aqsa Initifada.' But it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited. More significant were the events that followed: the decision of the Israeli police on September 29 to use lethal means against the Palestinian demonstrators; and the subsequent failure, as noted above, of either party to exercise restraint."

May 20, 2001 - George Mitchell, JD