Instead of rage, Palestinians planning 'day of unity'

In what is being billed as a day of rallies in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank to "end the division," youth call on Fatah, Hamas to reconcile.

Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Drawing on the leftover momentum of bottom-up people's revolutionary movements in Egypt and Tunisia, Palestinian youth are preparing for their own opportunity to be heard by their leaders.
Palestinians are organizing online for their own January 25 movement, on March 15. Unlike in Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries, however, the Palestinian call to take to the streets is not for the government to step down, but rather for it to unite.
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Already with more that 20,000 supporters on Facebook, several online groups were calling for "all the Palestinian factions to unite" in order to "reform the political system in Palestine, based on the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people."
The movement, called "End the division," claimed to be based in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In its manifesto, the group called on the governments of both Palestinian territories to respond to "the legitimate demands of the people," defining those demands in seven points.
Topping its list of postulations, the thus-far-online group called for the release of political prisoners held by both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Other demands include ending hostile media campaigns by the two Palestinian governments against each other, the dissolution of the PA and Hamas governments "to rebuild a government of national unity," and the restructuring of the PLO "to contain all the Palestinian factions."
Other demands addressed Palestinian authorities' relations and contacts with Israel. The group's remaining demands call for an end to "all forms of security coordination with the Zionist enemy" and a complete freeze of peace negotiations until a Palestinian unity government is formed.
Most of the points listed by the Facebook group directly mirrored demands made by a group of 81 Palestinian NGOs last month, who called on Palestinian factions to "take practical steps toward ending the disagreement."
Reflecting a frustration with the lack of progress made by either of the Palestinian governments, the manifesto posted on Facebook lamented that "20 years of negotiations have not achieved" our demands. Yet the call to action also noted that "the resistance," a reference Hamas rule in Gaza, "has left more than a million and a half Palestinians under Israeli blockade."
However, more than a frustration with the current face of Palestinian leadership or its policies, the motivation for the movement seemed to be more about a disenchantment with the divisions among its political leaders.
"We are not aiming for revolution," one of the movement's Gaza-based organizers told The Guardian. "In Egypt they wanted to end the regime. Here we want to bring the regime back to life, united in the Palestinian cause."
In addition to planned rallies in Gaza City, Ramallah and major cities throughout the territories, organizers were calling for satellite rallies to be held in Palestinian refugee population centers in Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in front of Palestinian embassies worldwide.
Since the beginning of the year, several demonstrations calling for Palestinian unity have been held West Bank and Gaza Strip cities but were dispersed by PA and Hamas security forces, respectively.
Optimistically acknowledging the difficulties faced by the still-unborn movement, the Gaza based organizer told The Guardian, "It's going to happen. We are spreading the word. The first day will be hard, the next day will be better. It will grow."
With peace talks stalled and calls for democracy rising throughout the Middle East, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said last month he would hold overdue general elections in the West Bank this September.
But Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has said it would boycott the vote unless there is reconciliation first. Hamas won a parliamentary election in 2006, and a year later violently routed Abbas' forces and seized full control of Gaza.