What labels reveal about the prospects for peace in Israel and Palestine
Today’s society, and our generation in particular, is becoming less and less enamored with labels. Most of the time, that’s totally fine. Our world can’t always be divided into standardized categories and you don’t owe anyone a label justifying your sexuality or relationship status. That being said, it would be a mistake to assume that trying to label things is a superficial pursuit that does not positively contribute to society. Sometimes, labelling forces us to address matters of justice and injustice, of peace and war.
“…labelling forces us to address matters of justice and injustice, of peace and war.”
As conflict escalates in Israel and Palestine, the media has begun questioning whether recent events should be labelled a third intifada. With 56 Palestinians and 8 Israelis killed since the beginning of October, labels have quite literally become a matter of life and death. Labels of identity, like Israeli and Palestinian, Muslim and Jew, have an obvious and measurable impact on who fights, who dies, and who desires what; but how does the label “intifada” impact the conflict?
“With 56 Palestinians and 8 Israelis killed since the beginning of October, labels have quite literally become a matter of life and death.”
First, let’s define that buzzword. Literally translated from Arabic as “tremor” or “shuddering,” the label intifada denotes a period of sustained, Palestinian rebellion against the Israeli state and its occupation of Palestine. Since Israel was founded in 1948, there have been two major intifadas, from 1987-1993 and 2000-2005.
The discussion of the “third intifada” label, by linking recent events to previous intifadas, reveals the cyclical nature of history and gives an accurate representation of the prospects for peace. When we look at the grievances that caused the recent upsurge in violence, the First Intifada, and the Second Intifada, a common thread emerges. In October 2015, rumors that the Israeli government intended to demote the special status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, sparked violent protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. In the First Intifada, long-term tension over Israel’s occupation of Palestine erupted into violence after the death of four Palestinians in a car accident caused by an Israeli truck driver. Just a few years later, the breakdown of progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state fueled the Second Intifada after the visit of former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to the Al-Aqsa holy site.
“In trying to label these disparate instances of violence, we get to the root of the conflict.”
In trying to label these disparate instances of violence, we get to the root of the conflict. Although these three cases have different immediate catalysts, the underlying grievances fueling the violence remain the same: Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Palestine’s frustrated attempts at statehood. Negotiations over minor concessions and temporary truces are a worthwhile step in the right direction. However, if these underlying grievances are not addressed, the cycle of history and violence will almost inevitably repeat itself, painting a grim picture of the prospects for a true and sustained peace.