RAMALLAH – Young Palestinians who are fed up with the existing leaders' attempts to establish an independent Palestinian state launched their own initiative designed to give the young people a voice in determining the Palestinian future.
Several Palestinian entrepreneurs launched NEWpal, a youth group based in this city, which got started this week by hosting a full day "Future Palestine" conference.
The event, funded privately by Palestinian companies, drew some 150 participants who chose from five workshops: Diplomacy; Economy and Development; Environment; Education; Scientific Research and Innovation; and Communications.
"We wanted to contribute to give this generation hope, for them to have the ability to influence, so we want to take this responsibility,” Majed Bamyeh, a 29-year-old diplomat and one of the founders of NEWPal told The Media Line. “Our generation has the potential, but needs the opportunity."
More than half of the 4 million Palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are below age 35. Yet most Palestinian leaders are in their 70’s and have been involved in politics for many years.
"In this phase of disappointment and lack of a clear vision of where we are heading as a nation, it's important for us to start discussing challenges and options," Reem Ahmed, 25, a political activist attending the conference told The Media Line.
Bamyeh, who served in the Palestinian delegation to Brussels before coming to the West Bank, said he founded the group, along with other friends and professional contacts. The group started attracting young Palestinian professionals six months ago. Only 14 were there at the beginning, but that number has jumped since to 40.
"NEWpal is a network of young Palestinian professionals seeking to promote exchange of ideas between this generation and beyond, in order to achieve a free and bright future for Palestine and Palestinians wherever they are," a statement on the group's Facebook page reads.
"What unites us is that we are all Palestinians. We come from different professional backgrounds and we all want to help our country and end the Israeli occupation." NEWpal member Ayman Arandi told The Media Line.
But the new group's core members also include some from outside the Palestinian Authority, such as Doha Wazany, a communications specialist from the United Arab Emirates.
"Every Palestinian is a NEWpal member because everyone has ideas and thoughts about how to advance our situation," Wazany told The Media Line. She said the group is going to build on the "Future Palestine" initiative.
"We don't claim to have answers, but we want to create a platform for dialogue to raise questions and provide answers for them," Wazany and Bamyeh said as they launched the group's first conference.
Participants who chose a session could hear from experts in the field under discussion in hopes to explore new ways of facing the collective Palestinian challenges.
In the communications session, experts agreed on the lack of a strategic plan to convey the Palestinian issues and problems clearly, both domestically and internationally. Participants also discussed the best use of social media in light of recent statistics that found that 1.5 million Palestinians use Facebook and 15,000 use Twitter.
Computer engineer Ayman Arandi, co-founder of Iris Interactive Solutions, who hosted the Education session, said that the most important idea in this initiative is to be able to open Palestinian society to discussion and questions.
"We hope to be able to have recommendations on how to deal with our issues. For example, we are not saying we will change the field of education today, but we want to take a step in the right direction to improve education," Arandi said.
Hana Mustafa, a 40-year-old science teacher, said she was encouraged by the spirit of the discussions. "The education system in Palestine needs a new vision because we had a strong system that has deteriorated," she told The Media Line.
Organizers say that their group is not affiliated with any political party. "We are not a political group and we have people coming from different political backgrounds. I myself don't belong to any political party. The purpose is to bring young professionals together," Wazany explained.
"We don't claim to be representative of all Palestinian schools of thought but members of NEWpal have diverse political backgrounds," Bamyeh added.
Organizers also sent a message to those attending Israel’s "Facing Tomorrow" Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, which was held at the same time and date as the "Future Palestine" initiative. That conference discussed the political, economic and social future of Israel and was organized to mark President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday.
"With occupation there is no tomorrow or after tomorrow," Bamyeh and Wazany said in their message, referring to Israel’s control of lands acquired in 1967. Palestinians say all of these areas must become the future Palestinian state.
Wazany, who heads the communications department at the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, was born and raised in the UAE. She joined the initiative and plans to settle in Palestinian territories in August.
"I want to come home to my homeland," she told The Media Line.
For more stories from The Media Line go to www.themedialine.org
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