Home Youth activism “We live in a new era”: the next generation of Palestinian activists

“We live in a new era”: the next generation of Palestinian activists

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On his doorstep in occupied East Jerusalem, Mohammed al-Kurd, a 23-year-old Palestinian writer and hero to many young people in the region, lambasted the Israeli crackdown by pointing at the stun grenades fired by police the night before.

Kurd is fighting attempts by Israeli settlers to evict him from his home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which has been a hotbed of violence in recent weeks and the center of legal battles for years.

“Last night we saw gangs of Israeli settlers attacking us and our children with pepper spray,” he said late last month. “If we tried [to defend ourselves] the Israeli occupation forces would brutalize us with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Israel’s Supreme Court is due to hold a hearing on the settlers’ claims to the Kurdish house and the homes of three other Palestinian families on August 2.

Kurd and his twin sister Muna are part of a new Palestinian generation, whose calls for justice echo the same values ​​of equality that fuel global campaigns such as Black Lives Matter. The twins, who are hugely successful on social media, regularly post about their fight to save their home.

In a video of his college graduation speech shared on social media in recent weeks, Muna urged Palestinians not to “remain silent about oppression.” “We live in a new era where Palestinians can make their voices heard, despite obstacles and attempts to muzzle,” she said.

Social media and the real activism of the Kurdish twins ring with an emerging Palestinian movement, which increasingly unites young activists from the occupied territories with Arabs who live within the borders of 1948 Israel and hold citizenship Israeli.

An image shared by Muna al-Kurd on Instagram, where she has 1.6 million followers © Muna al-Kurd

“A deep understanding of our unity”

Activists said the new movement, which is leaderless and without a clear vision of the future beyond ensuring equality and justice for all Palestinians, gained momentum after the conflict in May in Gaza.

About 250 people in the territory were killed by the Israeli strikes, many of them women and children, while Palestinian militants Hamas fired thousands of rockets that killed 13 people in Israel.

Large protests against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza swept not only the West Bank, but also mixed Arab and Jewish towns in Israel.

“Israel has always worked to fragment the Palestinians to create a people whose daily reality is different from each other,” said Riya al-Sanah, a Palestinian of Israeli citizenship and civil society activist. “But what the recent uprising has shown is the failure of this policy. We have seen a deep understanding of our unity on the ground.

This renewed sense of Palestinian unity comes at a time of increased international solidarity and interest in a cause that had seemed dormant and marginal in recent years.

Progressive Democrat US MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke during the Gaza conflict of “injustice and human rights violations” against Palestinians and their “right to survive.”

Young Palestinians practice parkour between houses destroyed by Israeli attacks in Gaza

Young Palestinians practice parkour in the rubble left by the Israeli strikes in Gaza on May 31 © Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Desperation over the two-state solution

The anger of young Palestinians is rooted in grievances resulting from the humiliations of the occupation, the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory, discrimination against Arabs in Israel, and disappointment with an aging and autocratic Palestinian leadership. .

The settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories captured by the Jewish state in 1967, are considered illegal by most countries around the world. But they are home to around 650,000 settlers and cut up chunks of the West Bank, where the Palestinians hoped they would build a future state.

As a result, many activists have given up on the two-state solution, which is still nominally the goal of international diplomacy, even though the peace process has been dying for years.

Sanah, who lives in Haifa, northern Israel, described his own vision of a state covering Israel and the occupied territories. She said this would mean “the end of Israeli settler colonialism” and the dismantling of the restrictions on movement that plague the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.

“It’s not that [the Israelis] have to go [the country], “she said.” We want to remove the structures that govern this place and change them into something more just, [including] removal of control points and walls [in the West Bank] which are the physical manifestations of colonialism and also the dismantling of the institutions that sustain racism. “

For many, this desire is unrealistic at best. “The Jews should give up all their privileges to have a democratic state. . . I don’t see this happening, ”said Yehuda Shaul, co-founder of Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers opposed to the occupation.

Map showing Israel and the Palestinian Territories and properties under threat

“We are not really equal”

In Arab and mixed Arab and Jewish towns inside Israel, discontent has been sparked by issues ranging from high crime rates to restrictions on new construction by Arabs, as well as poverty and lack of housing. employment.

“They give us more privileges [than Palestinians in the occupied territories] because we are citizens here, but we are not really equal, ”said Amir Toumie, 27, a graduate student from Haifa. “The whole state is built on Jewish supremacy. By law, if I marry a Palestinian woman from the West Bank, she cannot obtain citizenship or settle in Israel.

Police have shown little interest in tackling Arab-Arab crime, said Baraa Sherem, a 27-year-old businessman from the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Her father, a former mayor, was seriously injured in an unsolved shootout in January that sparked weekly protests “against the police and the state”.

These unrest were given new impetus by the anger sparked by the recent conflict in Gaza. “I think he charged all young Palestinians with a sense of hope,” Sherem said. “Many young people from across the country are reaching out to us to benefit from our experience. ”

Palestinians protesting demolition of properties in Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood

Palestinians demonstrate against the demolition of properties in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood on June 29 © Mostafa Alkharouf / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Disdain for Arab rulers

The outburst of anger has destabilized Israel, as it highlights the lingering tensions in the state.

Israel’s new coalition includes Mansour Abbas’ Islamist Ra’am party, which became the first Arab party to join an Israeli government in decades. Abbas’s party said it had secured pledges of $ 16 billion to fight crime and improve infrastructure in Arab towns, as well as pledges to freeze the demolition of Arab homes built without a permit.

But many young activists criticize Arab politicians, whether in the Israeli government or in the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited autonomy in the occupied West Bank.

“We do not believe in [Mansour Abbas’s] talk about service improvement, ”Sherem said. “We will not sell our identity for money.”

There is also growing anger at corruption and authoritarianism within the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, the aging Palestinian president whose term expired in 2009 and who postponed the long-delayed parliamentary elections in April.

“The PA is a second type of occupation,” Toumie said. “It is an obstacle to liberation. It even stops the protests in the West Bank, which are the most basic thing people can do against the occupation. “

In recent weeks, Nizar Banat, a vocal critic of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, has died hours after Palestinian Authority security men trained in the West arrested him and beat him with iron bars , according to his family. The UN, US and EU have all called for an investigation.

“The Palestinian Authority is over,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer. “It’s a slow death because they no longer have legitimacy.”

“I want to see protests in all the damn cities in the world”

While Buttu said she was “excited” by the emerging youth movement, she argued that better organization and clearer leadership was needed. “The feeling is definitely unified, but the action is still localized.”

For now, the young activists have focused their efforts on initiatives such as a campaign to boycott Israeli products and promote Palestinian businesses. “There is, however, some suspicion about the development of traditional management hierarchies,” said Fadi Koran, a Palestinian entrepreneur from the West Bank city of Ramallah. “The new leaders will gain their legitimacy from initiatives on the ground.

The Kurds, who have already managed to capture the world’s attention, are not giving up. On Twitter for the past few weeks, Mohammed wrote: “I want to see protests in every fucking city in the world. “

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