The second Intifada, which started in October 2000 and ended in October 2004, is barely being discussed or written about. It has been marginalized and pushed out of public discourse. Books about it are hidden away at bookstores. Political journals barely mention it. The media forgot it. Cultural institutions ignore it.
The amnesia in relation to the second Intifada is surprising in the face of its high casualty toll and the heavy price it exacted from Israel’s society and economy, as well as the ruin it brought to Palestine and the Palestinians. What then is the reason for this amnesia, which borders on denial? The human desire to ignore a sequence of events that undermines and breaks away from convention. Once it’s over, we all rush to repress it from our consciousness and return to the comfort of the familiar, acceptable, predictable, and normal.
The second Intifada contradicted and disproved two basic assumptions, axioms almost, which were commonly accepted at its outset and end. The first one: Economic prosperity brings peace. The second one: Terrorism cannot be defeated by force. Both these arguments were and still are deeply rooted in our collective perception and instigate the leading narrative when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both axioms are politically correct and provide an orderly doctrine for analysis and interpretation.
Bidding these arguments farewell means abandoning viewpoints we have become accustomed to and heading into the unknown. Therefore, so many prefer to forget that there was ever an Intifada here and ignore its lessons. However, that which is repressed will resurface – it always does.
Palestinian future sacrificed
The second Intifada broke out at the zenith of Palestinian economy prosperity. The fruit of the Oslo Accords finally started trickling down to the poor and neglected strata in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian standard of living skyrocketed, money was readily available, tourists flocked to the whole of the Holy Land, foreign investors discovered cheap and skilled Palestinian labor, and Palestinian merchants discovered the purchasing power of Israeli consumers.
These achievements were erased on one clear day in October 2000. The second Intifada cost the Palestinians an economic loss of a generation. It will take at least 10 to 15 years before the per capita income in Palestine will return to its level on the eve of October 2000.
The welfare and future of millions of Palestinians were sacrificed on the altar of maintaining the zeal of the national and religious revolution. Normalcy, stability, the growing middle class, and the pursuit of a higher standard of living became a disaster and crime in the eyes of leaders such as Yasser Arafat and Ahmed Yassin. They wanted violence, ongoing war, blood, and fire – and that’s what they got. Now, both of them are buried deep in the soil of Palestine among with thousands of their countrymen who paid the price of their caprice.
Overwhelming Israeli victory
And what for? For nothing. After all, there is no arguing that Israel scored an overwhelming and unpredictable win in the second Intifada. Hundreds of articles written in its midst warned Israel’s leadership against attempting to fight terror by force, because the failure is guaranteed: The regular army of a democratic state would never defeat terror-resistance-guerilla groups that operate within oppressed civilians like fish in water. This is what we learned from Cuban genius Che Guevara and Vietnamese genius Ho Chi Minh.
In the absence of any other choice, Israel ignored the strategic warnings. In an integrated move, which included assaults on urban terror headquarters, assassinations of the most senior terror leaders, and the extensive deployment of human and technological intelligence means, Israel defeated its enemies. The unbelievable happened – and was repressed after it happened, particularly after Ariel Sharon’s hospitalization.
The world continues to pour aid money into the Palestinian Authority in the hopes that money will buy an agreement. Most Palestinians voted in favor of yet another destructive “ongoing revolution” introduced by Hamas. Tens of thousands of Israelis continued to settle in the West Bank and embitter the lives of the Palestinians, even though the IDF’s Intifada victory proved that settlements are a burden, not an asset.
Meanwhile, the false conviction that “a terror organization cannot be defeated” has paralyzed the Israeli government ever since Hamas came to power; at the end, we shall be forced to recognize the state of Hamastan, instead of Hamas recognizing us.
Did the Intifada ever happen, or was it just a bad dream?