A Glance at the Word “Intifada”

by Alejandro Beutel, Minaret of Freedom Institute (minaret.org)

Recently a fellow blogger had given some commentary on our blurb on August 10 citing a news story about an Arab school principal who was forced to resign from her position after coming under scrutiny for wearing a t-shirt that said “Intifada NYC”. This blogger gave his commentary on the story and our blurb of it and proceeded to give an analysis of the word citing a wikipedia article.

While his citation to the Wikipedia article is correct, he missed the wiktionary entry, which validates the Principal’s definition of the word as “a shaking off”.

However, this was not the only part of his analysis that I felt needed further clarification. My main focus is that he also grossly mischaracterized intifada as “violent radical Islamic nationalism”. A little more research would provide better context into the matter.

An intifada is not necessarily violent nor is it “Islamic” per se. In fact the term is quite secular and there are Palestinian Christians, for instance who support the intifada as well as Lebanese Christians who were involved in their own (peaceful) intifada. In fact, along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, one of the most prominent hardline and violent opponents to Arafat’s agreement to the 1993 Oslo accords was George Habash, a Greek Orthodox Christian, the founder and leader of the militant PFLP.

Nor is the intifada automatically violent either. In fact, the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 was mostly non-violent. Furthermore, there have been calls for a peaceful Palestinian intifada coming from both Muslims and Christians, however they have been undermined by Israel’s occupation, which if not directly attacking peaceful protesters, then agent provocateurs are employed at peaceful demonstrations.

Hopefully this will provide extra insight into the political, (non) religious, historical and etymological significance and meaning of “intifada.”


Alejandro Beutel is program assistant for the Minaret of Freedom Institute with expertise in religious freedom, democratization and security issues.

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