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Part 3: Palestinian youth revolt - Any role for political parties?

Nov. 26, 2015 7:12 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2015 4:19 P.M.)
(AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
By: Al-Shabaka

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

The following is the third segment of an eight-part publication on the current absence of authentic Palestinian national leadership and the current youth uprising against Israel’s prolonged military occupation and denial of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

The segment is authored by Nijmeh Ali, a Palestinian from Haifa currently working on her PhD at the National Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University, New Zealand. Her focus is on the Palestinian citizens of Israel as an indigenous people,

The Palestinian youth that have taken to the streets are initiating an important phase in responding to the Israeli occupation and to injustice, indicating the significant role the younger generations could play replacing the current leadership.

However, the question remains: is the new generation capable of bringing the uprising or wave of anger from the street into political or diplomatic spheres? The problem lies in the failure to revolt against the traditional Palestinian leaderships of Fatah, Hamas and the left: This is what is needed in order to transform the spirit of revolution into diplomatic and political results.

The Palestinian political parties are currently acting like parties everywhere: They are weighing the political gains they can reap from this wave of anger, such as resuming negotiations with Israel. They are not acting like revolutionary parties fighting a battle for liberation, and are out of line with the public mood. Thus, the parties are likely to erect obstacles rather than to support the youth uprising or any other action outside established institutional frameworks such as the factions armed wings. Uncontrolled actions do not benefit political parties because they cannot steer them.

The issue is not about creating a new space within or outside the PLO. It is also about changing the political behavior of Palestinians as a people affiliated with existing political bodies. It is imperative to transcend the narrow partisan affiliations have entrenched the internal Palestinian division and weakened the PLO. The popular wave of anger is an open rebellion against such narrow affiliations and an expression of the need to reinforce national as opposed to partisan attachments.

However, given this reality and the deepening partisan division, it would have been more promising had the youth rebelled against the current political leaderships and replaced them with younger leaders with political energy, confidence and vigor.

Local leaders have never been isolated from their central leaderships: Fatah and Hamas, for example, are mass political movements rather than political parties in the traditional sense. Therefore, one does not envisage a scenario in which an independent popular movement could emerge, even though popular committees could be established as was the case in the first Intifada. It is worth noting that the unified national leadership of that Intifada was formed by political actors who espoused common political goals and a vision centered on ending the occupation as a fundamental step towards liberation.

In short, we need a Palestinian spring within the Palestinian parties rather than alternative political frameworks that would reinforce the division and the narrow partisanship. Without rebellion from the youth within the Palestinian political parties, no uprising will effect real political change. The sacrifices of the Palestinian people will go to waste, increasing the frustration with their sense of helplessness. It would be truly alarming if this frustration slowly kills the Palestinians' faith in their power to become liberated.

This piece is part of Al-Shabaka's roundtable discussion publication. The full version was originally published on Al-Shabaka's website on November 23, 2015.

Part 2 can be found here.

The views expressed in this article are the authors and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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