Back in my student days, like many journalists, I was very active on campus. I probably learnt more about the university of life in the student refectory than I ever did in the rather stuffy corridors of academia.
Debates in the students’ union were a particular pleasure, watching others and often participating myself, discussing issues of world importance of which we knew precious little. From sanctions against Cuba, through anti-apartheid motions to the first Palestinian Intifada.
We bandied about the word intifada as if we really understood the mindset of tiny children prepared to stand in front of tanks for what they had been told was freedom.
The truth is, in those days, the late 1980s and early ’90s, the Palestinians really were taking part in an intifada or uprising. It was run from the streets by local groups, with families rushing out from their homes to hurl stones at Israeli soldiers. There was fervor, a sense of hope, instilled in the people, by the people.
That was then.
The four-and-a-half years of violence that the Palestinians and the world media refer to as a second intifada, is anything but. Uprisings are by definition popular, grassroots movements. They comprise fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, old men barely able to contribute, farmers, factory workers, unemployed.
The intensified violence that began in September 2000 was not only not a popular uprising, it was most definitely a pre-organized series of acts that were carefully orchestrated in the upper echelons of the Palestinian areas.
Suicide bombers replaced stone-wielding children, Qassam rockets took the place of street demonstrations.
Comparing television footage from the Intifada and the recent violence is testament to the difference.
The masked men of the 2000s are members of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while the covered faces of the ’80s and ’90s belonged to disenfranchised, angry youths.
There has been little impromptu of late, but carefully strategized marches, statements and attacks.
If you are looking for proof, take a quick glance at the death tolls in the two bouts of violence. When it was truly a David and Goliath struggle the numbers of Palestinians killed outweighed those for Israelis tenfold, but this time around the ratio was cut to 3:1.
I have not come here to say which is the more noble, which is the more just or which will prove to have been the more successful. All I want to point out is that the violence of the last four years, including the terror attacks, has been no intifada.