Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Simon Davis

Subject Categories



First Intifada; Gender; Intifada; Palestine; Palestinian; Youth


The First Palestinian Intifada (1987 - 1993) began on December 9, 1987 with riots protesting the killing of a young Palestinian man by the Israeli Defense Forces. The riots quickly grew into a much larger grassroots uprising -- Intifada -- against Israeli occupation. In the following weeks and months, the Occupied Territories were engulfed in waves of protests, demonstrations, boycotts, and other acts of civil disobedience, which continued until 1993. Although Intifada protestors represented a cross-section of Palestinian society, encompassing both old and young, male and female, a single, particular masculine trope soon came to dominate-that of young male activists risking life and limb to throw stones at Israeli forces.

This thesis is about the development of that symbolic imagery at the intersection of youth culture, factional politics, and gender in the Palestinian Occupied Territories during the first Intifada. It explores the nascent political rivalry between nationalist and Islamist leadership and how this determined that a culture of male youth activism and martyrdom came to dominate the uprising. These two developments, nationalist-Islamist rivalry and the rise of male youth activism, are intimately connected to one another, as the support of young male activists became crucial to the legitimacy of Palestinian political organizations. Conversely, the support of formal political groups empowered, shaped, and encouraged the activism of young people. Increasingly, the nationalist-Islamist rivalry was articulated around youth and youth political activism. In particular the representation of young male protestors became an integral trope in official writings, public discourse, and policy presentation. This reification of male youth activism in turn contributed to a cult of martyrdom and increasing violence among young male activists, marginalizing female activism during the latter part of the Intifada and symbolically transforming the Intifada into a predominantly male endeavor.

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