Jerusalem crisis: Hamas's call for a new intifada will strike terror into the hearts of Israelis

What is an intifada? - Hamas calls for action in response to Donald Trump's decision on Israel

Some violence has already broken out between Palestinians and Israelis

Thursday, December 7, 2017

You're likely to have heard the news that a Palestinian leader has now called for an intifada in response to Donald Trump. Of all the soundbites we've seen since the US President made his bombastic recognition of Palestine, this is probably the most chilling.

Ismail Haniya, the leader of militant group Hamas, gave a speech today (December 7) in Gaza calling on Palestinians to stage an intifada in response to Trump, which he said should not stop until Jerusalem and the West Bank are liberated.

In literal terms the word intifada means 'shaking off' and it is used to refer to an uprising.  This definition might sound rather meek and tame, but it's a word that has brought terror to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

There have already been two intifadas in the Palestinian territories, between 1987 and 1993 and 2000 and 2005 respectively.  The two insurrections claimed a total of 5,500 lives, 4,500 of them Palestinians.

The two events were markedly different in character, the second far more brutal than the first. The first intifada was known as 'the war of stones'; Palestinians pelted police and the Israeli army with rocks in daily confrontations, but major acts of terrorism were relatively rare. Palestinians rose up by all manner of means, including strikes and boycotts as well as direct confrontation. The second intifada, however, witnessed numerous suicide bomb attacks; indeed some credit the second intifada with giving birth to the suicide bomber, a most unwelcome legacy. 

Given that Hamas, which is leading the calls for a third intifada, is regarded as the more violent of the two main Palestinian factions, observers will be concerned that a new uprising will more closely resemble the second intifada than the first. Fatah, Hamas's counterpart in the West Bank, has yet to make its own call for an uprising, but given the two groups signed a unity deal just a few weeks ago, they may well be bound together on this.

That unity deal has been part of a new, conciliatory approach by Hamas, which has seen the group moderate its own founding charter; the new document says Hamas is not seeking war with the Jewish people, only the Zionists who occupy the Palestinian lands.

Hamas won widespread acclaim for this softening of its core stance, but not from Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which insisted that the group was "trying to fool the world."

With tension boiling over again, the world will soon see Hamas's true colours. Observers around the world will be hoping, and praying, for reason and moderacy to win out.