Unrest across the Arab world hasn’t passed Palestinians by. Palestinians will march for unity and against the occupation on March 15th.
“Gazan youth groups are near unanimous in their support of the Palestinian Authority’s call for elections, although – as Abu Yazan points out – that will be impossible until the two parties reach some kind of unity agreement. Hamas has come out firmly against Fatah’s plan for September elections, and without its participation, they would be a farce.
Ali Abdul Bari, a 24-year-old leader of Esha (Wake Up), a liberal, secular group devoted to promoting human rights, tells a story to illustrate just how deep the divide is. His group posted a sign demanding elections near the destroyed Palestinian Parliament building in downtown Gaza City. It was removed by Hamas 90 minutes later, despite the permit they had obtained. Later, many group members were interrogated or had their backgrounds checked.”
There is little prospect of Egypt lifting the blockade of Gaza:
“Meanwhile, there is broad agreement that the blockade against Gaza is the primary cause of their suffering. Many youth leaders interviewed are not optimistic that the regime change in Egypt will reverse its longstanding collaboration with Israel’s blockade of Gaza. “The military (in Egypt) have already said they will honour all prior international agreements,” observes Mohammed Ashekh Yousef, 22, a leader with the youth group Fikra (idea).”
Nevertheless, Sandy Tolan in Al Jazeera:
“In the revolutionary spirit spreading across the Middle East, Palestinian youth groups have become a small but important catalyst in a building wave of discontent with PA repression and complicity in a failed “peace process” backed by the US. The groups’ actions are sparked not only by events in the region, but by the US veto of the UN Security Council’s condemnation of Israeli settlements. A widening circle of Palestinian groups are calling for an end to negotiations with Israel, an end to the political division between the West Bank and Gaza and wholesale reform of the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Some advocate dissolving the PA completely.
Fatah and Hamas have failed Palestinian society,” says Nader Said, a Palestinian pollster and political analyst. Youth, he says, “represent the pulse and conscience of Palestine”. In Gaza, Said says, young people “are the ones who have demonstrated in the middle of the shooting, covering their faces with paper bags,” so that security forces would refrain from possibly shooting a brother or cousin. “They are the soul of the Palestinians,” but by themselves, “they’re not strong enough to carry the emancipation agenda.”
Yet the message is resonating well beyond the youth groups. As Palestinians under a 43-year occupation watch their Arab neighbours fight for democracy, pressure increases on the PA to reform itself – or at least, to appear to do so. Faced with the threat of the US veto, the PA sought to burnish its resistance credentials by refusing to yield to American pressure to call off the Security Council vote. And Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, recently sent a message to Palestinian youth via Facebook, asking for input as he forms a new Palestinian cabinet. Within hours, he received hundreds of replies – some supportive, some sceptical.”
It is dangerous for Palestinians to demonstrate against their authorities. Omar Karem has an account of police beatings at Gaza City’s equivalent of Cair’s Tahrir Square, the Square of the Unknown Soldier. Modernity has more. Gaza Youth Breaks Out, whose manifesto we reproduced, have been attacked for criticising Hamas. Perhaps including a few slogans about Zionists controlling the international community will persuade the Hamas supporters that GYBO is down?
“Many activists reject our movement and consider us as some Zionist machinery because in the manifesto, we’ve been denouncing Hamas – among others. It’s always amazing to see the shortcuts people’s minds can take and how good they are at condemning without even trying to understand. We’d like to remind all our goal: yes we are frustrated and tired of being oppressed, killed, humiliated and kept from even leaving to study in other countries, yes we denounce political parties governing us because they didn’t help in anything, but we denounce ALL of them, not ONLY Hamas. We are TIRED of the status quo, from all sides. Political parties have all had the time and chances to BRING THE CHANGE, but we haven’t seen anything yet.
We’re NOT calling for a political coup, let’s be clear on this. We’re young people who want to work for the PEOPLE, we denounce the misery we live in, we denounce their division, and reject their fight, because they are not helping us. But more than Fatah and Hamas, who remains Palestinians just like us, ABOVE ALL we denounce the Occupier & its puppet the International Community who fails, day after day, in its duty to impose sanctions on “Israel”.
Our followers, readers, and those who are not supporting us yet must keep in mind THIS message: we have ONE enemy which is the Zionist Occupier. Hopefully this call will shake our political leaders, wake them up and remind them that they are responsible of us! Hopefully they will realize that what we want is UNITY, and NO MORE DIVISION, because it makes Israeli terrorism’s impact on our lives even worse.”
On Harry’s Place, Shlomo Yosef notes that the international solidarity movements for Palestinians have their own agendas, and cautions:
“I urge everyone to look at the careful messaging on the Arabic page, look at the demands and look at the slogans that people will carry on March 15th itself. The Palestinian protest is different from the others across the Arab world due to their liminal situation – listening to what the youth are actually calling for is vital in considering how to respond.”
It can’t be easy. Palestinians can seek a unity along nationalist lines, with hatred of Israel as the glue. Alternatively, Palestinians can pursue a positive agenda of strong democratic civil society against the occupation, and claim the support of the Israeli people.
To end, Gaza free running: