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In the chapter, The Earthquake, Thomas Friedman introduces the intifada. The intifada was an uprising of the Palestinians that started in the late 1980's, characterized by mass protests, general strikes, civil disobedience, and even the stoning of Israeli soldiers by the Palestinian masses. After 20 years of oppression, the Palestinians had enough. After another wave of Palestinian deaths at the hands of some Israeli citizens, simultaneous protests occurred. Thousands of people stood up against the Israeli authority. However, the fact that the Palestinians and Israelis had lived together for so long, even the mass civil disobedience could not totally separate the two groups of people. What the intifada accomplished was not a Palestinian state or even greater liberties for Palestinians, but international awareness of the realities of the situation. Or as Friedman describes the intifada as "...I always think of the intifada as an earthquake - an eruption of twenty years' worth of pent-up geothermic steam - raw Palestinian rage - that opened the Palestinian-Israeli fault line and created a physical chasm between the two communities. But it didn't open a chasm wide enough to totally disconnect the two communities (Friedman, 376)."


This chapter discusses the creation of the intifada and its long lasting effect on Israeli and Palestinian communities. Throughout the chapter Friedman describes the Intifada as an earthquake. “I always think of the intifada as an earthquake an eruption of twenty years’ worth of pent up geothermal steam raw Palestinian rage that opened the Palestinian Israeli fault line…” (Friedman 376). This rage that Friedman describes finally erupts as the world continues to ignore the Palestinian community of nearly five million inside of Israel.
The intifada was a massive non lethal civil disobedience movement where Palestinians were trying to separate themselves from the Israeli culture and state. When the Palestinians living in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip started the intifada due to their anger and frustration, it was “an uprising of anger more than having a purpose. At the beginning, it had no purpose or aims. It started just like that” (Friedman 373). According to Friedman the Palestinians began to get agitated as the global and Arab community began to ignore the Palestinians and their symbol of national aspirations, the PLO.
The Palestinian issue was not brought up at either the summit meeting between Soviet Union and the United States in Washington or at the Arab leader’s conference in Amman. West Bankers and Gazans took this neglect as a direct insult. The Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip displayed their anger and frustration differently than their PLO leaders had in the past. Instead of attacking the Israelis with terrorist acts, Palestinians in Israel protested by throwing rocks at Israel soldiers and practicing mostly non lethal civil disobedience such as refusing to shop at Israeli stores. In fact the term name intifada comes from the Arabic word nafada which means “to break with someone” (Friedman 375).
As the intifada became more focused the West Bankers and Gazans focused the goal to be to create their own state separate from Israel. This goal is much different than the PLO’s goal of the destruction of Israel and the returning of the land to the Palestinians. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip practiced civil disobedience that in their eyes could affect the Israelis such as having shop owners close early based on their terms instead of on the Israeli government’s rules. Palestinians also went on worker strikes while refusing to buy Israeli products and shop at Israeli stores. Some Palestinians went as far as to stop paying taxes. Friedman portrays the Palestinians thinking during the intifada and when throwing stones as “I am not part of you and, I have no intention of becoming part of you” (Friedman 375).
Friedman describes a story supporting that claim is when he is interviewing a Palestinian lawyer who as been imprisoned for alleged Palestinian nationalist agitation and asks him what is the most important thing the intifada has accomplished? The lawyer answers, “If it did not happen today, we would be just like Israelis only without our land and without our Palestinian identities. In twenty more years Palestinians would be without personalities we would be Israelis in our thoughts” (Friedman 378).
The Palestinian’s anger is a deep one that goes on for generations. Friedman quotes one Palestinians who describes the feeling he gets when he throws a stone. “When I throw a stone I feel there is a movie going on in my head. And it is showing all the pain, all the time that I spent in prison, all the time the Israelis asked for my identity card, all the insults Israeli soldiers said to me. I see all the times the soldiers beat me, and beat my parents. That is what I feel when I throw a stone” (Friedman 373-374). Another story that Friedman uses to describe the Palestinian anger is when he was interviewing General Orr an Israeli commander in the Gaza Strip and how he recently saw a child who was barely one and could barely walk holding a rock to throw at someone. “For that little kid anger is part of his life, a part of growing up as much as talking or eating. He still didn’t know exactly against whom he was angry; but for now, he knew he was supposed to be angry. He knew he was supposed to throw a stone at someone” (Friedman 374).
For the Israeli government, the intifada just reinforced the need to keep a tight reign on the Palestinians. The actions of the West Bankers and Gazans confirmed the widely held belief that more check points, regulations and less freedom to the Palestinians was the only way to keep social order. The Israelis were determined to not give in to the Palestinians demands as they were fearful that only more demands would surface. Friedman shows that the only possible way for the Palestinians to convince the Israelis to give up the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be massive civil disobedience with millions of Palestinians breaking the law. Without full Palestinian support the intifada is only “a drop of water in the sea” (Friedman 424).


Friedman, Thomas. From Beirut to Jerusalem. Toronto: Collins Publishers, 1989.