The new Palestinian

A hidden revolution is going on now inside our community and the issues are no longer just the occupation and Israel.

Palestinian women walking in J'lems Old City 370 (photo credit: HAMZE AWAWDE)
Palestinian women walking in J'lems Old City 370
(photo credit: HAMZE AWAWDE)
I was born in 1990. I experienced a bit of the first intifada; the creation of the Palestinian Authority and what is called Palestinian self-administration; the rounds of negotiation between Israel and Palestine; the second intifada; the failure of the peace process; Hamas in government; the West Bank separating completely from the Gaza strip; and revolutions in the Arab world called the “Arab Spring,” that changed everything in the region. I am only 22 years old. This is not only my experience, it’s the experience of Palestinian youth, 30 percent of the Palestinian population.
This 30% has a different way of living than the most of the world’s youth. We live under occupation. This means a wide range of authorities and regulations oversee our daily lives. The authority of Israel as the occupier; the Palestinian Authority or Hamas as the political authorities; and our extended families as the “family authority.” All these combined make the lives of the young generation empty of hope or fun. Added to that is the depressed economy and the lack of jobs, as most young people are unemployed.
Historically, the young people in Palestine were the base for creating change. The first rebellion against Israeli soldiers was initiated by young people; the fighting between the Palestinian refugees in Jordan against Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom came from young people.
The Lebanese civil war and the Palestinian participation in the Lebanese civil war conducted by young Palestinians from the refugee camps in Lebanon; those Palestinians who left Lebanon after the 1982 war were young people; the establishment of Islamic political groups like Hamas and The Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza were by small religious student groups. The first and second intifada were no different, with young people running the show as always.
However, the young generation of today are different. Different in their political affiliations, in their relationship to the conflict and in their relation to community and family.
In general, young people in the past used to be carbon copies of their parents. For example, if somebody lived in Hebron, his kids grew up and lived in Hebron, too. If he was a doctor, his kids would study medicine. If he was religious, his kids would be religious as well. If the parents affiliated themselves politically with the Fatah movement, the kids would have the Fatah ideology running through their veins.
However, today the influence and the control of the family is much less prominent than it once was. Children take a very different path than that of their parents. The children of Hamas parents are Fatah sympathizers.
The kids of Fatah parents are not interested in politics at all, and so on.
All this happened due to the interaction that the current generation of young people has had with the world of the Internet, at a time when checkpoints make it difficult for a boy from Nablus to know about the culture of a girl from Hebron. This technological revolution is overcoming many of the physical and non-physical barriers inside the Palestinian community, and between it and the world.
The interaction and the ease of access to knowledge that Wikipedia and Facebook provide to the current generation has a huge impact on the character, the affiliations (political and otherwise) and the way of life of today’s youth.
Blind loyalty to family and political groups or values and norms are disappearing.
A hidden revolution is going on now inside our community and the issues are no longer just the occupation and Israel. People began thinking about democracy, corruption, societal roles inside the family and the village.
Young people are becoming familiar with how other young people live in Europe, the United States of America, Israel and the Arab world. They have started to ask for a better life in all senses – they want to have jobs, travel, have fun and have an independent life with freedom of belief and affiliation.
All those unique factors in the life of young Palestinians have created a new generation who are sticking to their land and are politically independent. They believe that no one will be able to push them out of their homes again. Meanwhile they believe that no one will be able to throw the Jews or the State of Israel into the sea. However, they see the occupation as the main reason for their suffering and as preventing them from advancing the Palestinian economy.
I have huge hopes for the future, because among these young people there are leaders, in every sense of the word. They care about their people and want a future for themselves and their nation. They approach the building of that future in pragmatic terms, with passion and drive, and it is the prospect of that future that drives them, not their resentment for their occupiers.
They have the knowledge and the courage to face today’s reality and to change it. They are willing, even eager, to partner with their Arab and Israeli peers to bring that change, a partnership enabled by social networks and technological innovation. They light candles to break the darkness, instead of blaming others.
The writer is from Hebron and is a member of the YaLa – Young Leaders Online Middle Eastern & North African Movement for change in the region.