The Second Intifada: Trauma and Tragedy

To appreciate the current Israeli and Palestinian psyches, it’s vital to understand the first five years of the 21st century — the period of the Second Intifada. Noam Weissman gets to the heart of the issue and asks why this serious attempt at peace between Israel and the Palestinians ended in one of the bloodiest periods in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how the effects of those defining years are still felt to this day.

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. How many people were killed in the Second Intifada?
    • 5000
    • 1200
    • 2500
    • 10,000
  2. While many Israelis believe the Second Intifada was premeditated, many Palestinians believe the Second Intifada started as a result of:
    • Israeli terrorism
    • Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount
    • Ehud Olmert’s job as mayor of Jerusalem
    • Ehud Barak’s peace offer
  3. According to Israel, why did prime minister Ariel Sharon build the security barrier?
    • To steal Palestinian land
    • To expand Israel’s territory
    • To stop Palestinian suice bombings
    • Because it looked nice
  4. How did the Second Intifada differ from the First Intifada?
  5. Why did Israeli society move significantly to the political right after these events?
  1. Historian Anita Shapira writes, “For Arafat, as long as there was no peace, he was a hero.” What does she mean by this? Do you think this statement sheds light only on Arafat or do you think it is also descriptive of most Palestinians?
  2. At the closing of the Camp David Summit, in which no peace plan was reached, President Bill Clinton said to Yasser Arafat, “I am a failure and you have made me one.” How did Arafat make Clinton seem like a failure? Why would a third-party president take this matter of foreign politics so much to heart?
  3. The Israeli left, which had been a large body that strongly supported the peace process and compromise, came to see negotiating with the Palestinians as “dangerously naive” (in Daniel Gordis’ words) after Arafat’s rejection and the Second Intifada. The country has swung to the right ever since. When two parties do not trust one another, is peace possible? How is peace attainable or is the conflict intractable?
  4. What the Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary is one of the most sensitive places in the world. Learn more about it here. Ronen Bergman in Rise and Kill First notes that “Any incident on the Temple Mount would be a snowball that could quickly set off an avalanche.” On the one hand, Ariel Sharon had the right to visit the Temple Mount. He declared, “It is the right of every Jew in Israel to visit and pray on the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is ours.” On the other hand, he was greeted by Palestinians who remembered him as “The butcher of Beirut, murderer of children and women.” Do you think Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount was a critical moment in the sparking of the Intifada?
  5. Sari Nusseibeh offers a window into how some Palestinians internalize how the Second Intifada, what they call the “Al Aqsa Intifada” started. After Sharon made his visit, the top Palestinian official in Jerusalem named Faisal Husseini was roughed up a bit as a skirmish broke out. Nusseibeh writes, “As chance would have it, his turban, a symbol of the exalted status, got knocked off his head and tumbled into the dust. Viewers saw the highest Muslim cleric of this highly-charged Muslim site standing bareheaded. He might as well have been naked. Shame and outrage can be intimately coupled in the Middle Eastern psyche.” When hearing this, to what extent can you empathize with the anger of many Palestinians and where does your empathy end?
  6. The Second Intifada was a time of stress and fear for Israelis, with suicide bombings and other terror attacks occurring frequently and at random. Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz called it a “national trauma… No tourism, people were scared to go to shopping malls, scared to sit at restaurants, and didn’t ride in buses.” Put yourself in the shoes of Israelis at the time and share your thoughts on this time period.
  7. When Ariel Sharon took over as prime minister from Ehud Barak, he was seen as someone who felt deep pain for his people when they were killed. His military secretary Yoav Galant said about him, “his heart was crushed.” Why is empathy and compassion for one’s own people such an important aspect of leadership?
  1. Lead a podcast listening party. Download our PDF Guide.
  2. Play our Second Intifada Kahoot!
  1. Unpacked for Educators:
  2. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Palestinian Responsibility for the Second Intifada (2000-2005)
  3. My Jewish Learning, The Second Intifada Begins
  4. Jewish Virtual Library, Background & Overview of Al-Aqsa Intifada
  5. Daniel Gordis, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, chapters 16-17  
  6. Sari Nusseibeh, Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, Chapter 28
  7. Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First, pp. 487-497

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