Bears for Palestine, a UC Berkeley student organization, hosted their fifth annual gala this past semester. The gala was “in honor of the unity intifada” — the latest in a series of violent Palestinian uprisings against Israel. Honoring an intifada disregards the violent history of past intifadas, downplays the trauma and impact they have had on Jews in Israel and around the world, and trivializes the lives of the thousands of civilians killed.
What is an Intifada? In the Israel-Palestinian context, the word Intifada refers to violent Palestinian insurrections. The First Intifada spanned six years from 1987 and 1993, while the Second Intifada took place between 2000 and 2005. More recently, Palestinian terrorists have led intifadas tied to specific forms of violence. The Knife Intifada of 2015 and the Unity Intifada last May are prime examples.
The Unity Intifada began in May 2021 when Palestinian leaders called upon Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians in East Jerusalem to riot and attack Jews. Amid rising tensions in Jerusalem over a civil property dispute, the spread of Palestinian Authority commissioned propaganda on social media, and the cancellation of elections by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – Palestinian violence erupted throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Jewish-Arab violence spread throughout the country, particularly in cities with large Arab populations. Arabs primarily carried out violence – radical Arab rioters looted 386 Jewish homes and damaged another 673, set 10 synagogues and 112 Jewish homes on fire, threw rocks at Jews on 5,018 occasions, and set 849 Jewish cars on fire. Although much less frequent, violence against Arabs was also carried out by Jewish extremists, with 13 Arab homes damaged and 13 Arab vehicles set on fire. Moreover, during the escalation of violence, Hamas, the internationally-recognized terrorist organization that controls Gaza, indiscriminately fired more than 3,500 rockets into populated areas in Israel. Fortunately, over 90% were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
Unfortunately, this was not the first instance of widespread violence against Israeli civilians. During the First Intifada, Palestinians carried out 3,600 Molotov cocktail attacks, 100 hand grenade attacks, and 600 assaults with guns or explosives targeting soldiers and civilians alike. Terrorist attacks became widespread, with 200 Israelis killed.
The Second Intifada was far more violent and deadly. Over 1000 Arab and Jewish Israelis were killed and several thousand injured by suicide bombings in highly trafficked, public areas. Out of 1010 Israelis killed, 764 were civilians, 178 between ages 12-29. Between 2000 and 2005, 141 terrorist suicide attacks took place, including the Passover suicide bombing at the Park Hotel that killed 30 people, the Dolphinarium Disco terror attack that left 21 dead, and the bombing at Sbarro pizzeria with 15 casualties.
It is unacceptable to celebrate the death of innocent civilians. As shown above, Intifadas have not been demonstrations of peaceful resistance but terror campaigns aimed at murdering innocent people. Intifadas have become synonymous with violence against Jews, not only in Israel but across the globe. This was especially true during the ‘Unity Intifada’; while violence was flaring up in Israel in May, violence and hate crimes against Jews rose to near-unprecedented levels in the United States. Calls for “intifada,” which we commonly hear on campus, were answered. Antisemitic rhetoric spiked on social media; synagogues were vandalized, Jews were harassed and beaten up in the streets. The association between the ‘Unity Intifada’ and the antisemitic attacks across the globe only makes one thing clear – the ultimate goal of the intifada is to harm Jews, wherever they are.
In times of alarming antisemitic incidents across the country, our duty as Jewish students is to stand up against hate and speak out against antisemitism whenever we see it. Honoring the intifadas on our campus makes Jewish students feel unsafe. What assures us that this event, which called to ‘honor and globalize the intifada,’ will not lead to violence against Jews, as the ‘unity intifada’ did last May? As a proud Jewish student on campus, I strongly condemn this gala and will continue to fight until Jewish students feel safe on campus.
This article was originally featured as a column on JNS.org.