Excerpt from Comminiqué No. 1 of the Intifada (January 8, 1988)
Issued by Unified National Leadership (UNL)
Reprinted in Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Edited by Charles D. Smith
Published in 2001
"We continue to be loyal to the pure blood martyrs and to our detained brothers. We also reiterate our rejection of the occupation and its policy of repression...."
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and then occupied by Israeli military forces. These Occupied Territories, as they came to be known, were already home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and many more Palestinians moved there to live in refugee camps as a result of the war.
After taking over the territories, the Israeli government maintained strict control over the Palestinians living there. Israel determined who had access to land, water, and electricity. It set curfews, monitored movement within and between the territories, and severely punished any anti-Israeli activities. Israel also outlawed certain organizations and political groups in the territories. Over the years, the restrictions and limitations placed on Palestinians living within the Occupied Territories became increasingly difficult for them to tolerate.
Adding to the difficulties for Palestinians was the problem of Jewish settlements. Jewish settlers built houses, then small villages, in lands once thought of as Palestinian. By the 1980s the number of Jewish settlements had more than doubled in the territories. These settlements were built close to Arab townsand villages, sometimes annexing, or taking away, part of the Arab land. The Jewish settlers were allowed greater access to limited resources, such as water. Any Palestinian resistance to Israeli activities was met with what came to be called "iron fist" policies, including beatings, arrests, detentions (holding a person without trial for a period of up to six months), confiscation of Arab land, and destruction of Arab homes. Over time, these sources of friction led to nearly constant conflict between Jews and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
Despite nearly two decades of ongoing, isolated conflicts and riots, Palestinians for the most part had hoped that neighboring Arab countries would come to their aid. Arab nations had been working through diplomatic channels to solve the Palestinian problem since Israel declared its independence in 1948. By the 1980s, however, many Palestinians were growing tired of waiting. They had no self-government and little land to call their own.
On December 8, 1987, an Israeli driver lost control of his vehicle and struck and killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The people of the Occupied Territories rioted in response, accusing the Israeli driver of killing the Palestinians on purpose. A generation of Arabs who had lived their entire lives under Israeli rule revolted. Children grabbed rocks from the ground and hurled them at armed Israeli soldiers, and adults rose up in anger in what became known as the First Intifada, or uprising. For nearly a month the uprising continued through the Occupied Territories.
By January 1988 a group calling itself the Unified National Leadership for the Uprising emerged as a coordinator of the attacks. The group was made up of members of Palestinian political groups—all of which were illegal according to Israeli law—including Communists, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fatah (a group within the Palestine Liberation Organization), Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Unified National Leadership circulated thousands of flyers and broadcast announcements on Palestinian radio to coordinate general strikes and waves of violent protest. The following Communiqué of the Intifada No. 1 expresses a sense of the frustration felt by the Palestinians at the time, and also provides a good outline for Palestinian demands for independence.
Things to remember while reading "Comminiqué No. 1 of the Intifada"
- Notice that the Unified Leadership of the Uprising names the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO; a Palestinian group that used military force to gain Palestinian goals) as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
- At the time of the Comminiqué, the PLO headquarters were in Tunis, Tunisia.
- Israelis considered the First Intifada to be a form of terrorism.
- Those directing protests of the First Intifada tried to limit the use of weapons, believing that Palestinian use of sticks and stones against Israeli military weapons would garner international support for their cause.
Excerpt from Comminiqué No. 1 of the Intifada (January 8, 1988)
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.
Our people's glorious uprising continues. We affirm the need to express solidarity with our people wherever they are. We continue to be loyal to the pure blood of our martyrs and to our detained brothers. We also reiterate our rejection of the occupation and its policy of repression, represented in the policy of deportation, mass arrests, curfews, and the demolition of houses.
We reaffirm the need to achieve further cohesion with our revolution and our heroic masses. We also stress our abidance by the call of the PLO, the Palestinian people's legitimate and sole representative, and the need to pursue the bountiful offerings and the heroic uprising. For all these reasons, we address the following call:
All sectors of our heroic people in every location should abide by the call for a general and comprehensive strike until Wednesday evening, 13 January, 1988. The strike covers all public and private trade utilities, the Palestinian workers and public transportation. Abidance by the comprehensive strike must be complete. The slogan of the strike will be: Down with occupation; long live Palestine as a free and Arab country.
Brother workers, your abidance by the strike by not going to work and to plants is real support for the glorious uprising, a sanctioning of the pure blood of our martyrs, a support for the call to liberate our prisoners, and an act that will help keep our brother deportees in their homeland.
Brother businessmen and grocers, you must fully abide by the call for a comprehensive strike during the period of the strike. Your abidance by previous strikes is one of the most splendid images of solidarity and sacrifice for the sake of rendering our heroic people's stand a success.
We will do our best to protect the interests of our honest businessmen against measures the Zionist occupation force may resort to against you. We warn against the consequences of becoming involved with some of the occupation authorities' henchmen who will seek to make you open your businesses. We promise you that we will punish such traitor businessmen in the not too distant future. Let us proceed united to forge victory.
Brother owners of taxi companies, we will not forget your honorable and splendid stand of supporting and implementing the comprehensive strike on the day of Palestinian steadfastness. We pin our hopes on you to support and make the comprehensive strike a success. We warn some bus companies against the consequences of not abiding by the call for the strike, as this will make them liable to revolutionary punishment.
Brother doctors and pharmacists, you must be on emergency status to offer assistance to those of our kinfolk who are ill. The brother pharmacists must carry out their duties normally. The brother doctors must place the doctor badge in a way that can be clearly identified.
General warning: We would like to warn people that walking in the streets will not be safe in view of the measures that will be taken to make the comprehensive strike a success. We warn that viscous material will be poured on main and secondary streets and everywhere, in addition to the roadblocks and the strike groups that will be deployed throughout the occupied homeland.
Circular: The struggler and brother members of the popular committees and the men of the uprising who are deployed in all the working locations should work to support and assist our people within the available means, particularly the needy families of our people. The strike groups and the popular uprising groups must completely abide by the working program, which is in their possession. Let us proceed united and loudly chant: Down with occupation; long live Palestine as a free and Arab country.
What happened next ...
Israel had a difficult time containing the First Intifada, and the violence continued for nearly six years. Far more Palestinians died in the riots than Israelis, and tens of thousands of Palestinians were detained or arrested for their actions. Despite the costs, the Palestinians had found a voice of their own in the First Intifada.
The First Intifada did not bring peace, but it did change the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict and helped lead to further diplomatic actions. In November 1988 the Palestine National Council, an elected body of Palestinian representatives, issued a declaration of Palestinian independence. The council also recognized the land-for-peace and mutual recognition guidelines of the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242 (see entry). Furthermore, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat (1929–2004) denounced terrorism, acknowledged that the future Palestinian state would co-exist with—not replace—the Jewish state of Israel, and sought opportunities to begin peace negotiations with the United States acting as mediator. By 1991, Palestinian leaders had entered into their first direct negotiations with Israel.
Did you know ...
- The international peace conference held in Madrid, Spain, in 1991, was held in part to help address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
- The Israeli government and the PLO formally recognized each other with the signing of the Oslo Accords (see entry) in September of 1993.
- The First Intifada came to adopt political principles, called the Fourteen Points, which called for Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and an independent state for Palestinians, among other things.
- Israeli military personnel subdued the First Intifada with strong counter measures, including shooting at unarmed demonstrators, using tear gas in enclosed areas (against international law), and random vandalism of Arab homes.
Consider the following ...
- The Israeli military had been controlling inhabitants of the Occupied Territories with strict rules. Why was it so difficult to contain the First Intifada?
- Why would the violence of the First Intifada lead to diplomatic relations between Israel and the Palestinians?
- What other means could the Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories have used instead of mass strikes and demonstrations to bring their plight to the attention of the world?
For More Information
Long, Cathryn J. The Middle East in Search of Peace. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1996.
Sharp, Anne Wallace. The Palestinians. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2005.
Smith, Charles D., ed. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents. 4th ed. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.
"Revealed: The Groups Plotting against Israel." Sunday Times (London, England) (January 31, 1988).
"Intifada: Then and Now." BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1061537.stm (accessed June 24, 2005).