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Part 5: Palestinian youth revolt - Any role for political parties?

Nov. 28, 2015 3:04 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2015 4:19 P.M.)
Palestinians wave the national flag. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)

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 fifth 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 Jaber Suleiman, a Palestinian independent researcher and consultant, who is currently a consultant for the Palestinian program of UNICEF in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The youth movement underway in Palestine raises several questions regarding its motives, causes, and nature. Is it an expression of despair and frustration or a rekindled national spirit? Is it triggered by Palestinian division, the tattered state of the PA, the demise of the Oslo process and the two-state solution, aggressive Israeli settlement expansion, the desecration of holy places, or declining Arab interest in and international neglect of the Palestinian cause? Will it evolve into a popular uprising like the first intifada or will it remain an expression of anger that will soon recede? What conditions need to be met in order for this movement to evolve into an uprising guided by a unified national leadership and national program? What role should the PLO factions and the wider Palestinian leadership play to strengthen and protect the uprising and develop a unified national leadership, given the institutionalization of the Palestinian division? And how?

This unprecedented youth movement, which is led by Palestinians born around the time of the signing of the Oslo Accords, is directed against the occupation. Yet it also includes anger and protest against the PA and its political performance, which is responsible for the current state of the Palestinian cause in general and the conditions in the OPT in particular. This is the paradox we face: How can the Palestinian factions, within and outside the PLO, which helped to create the current state of affairs contribute to developing the movement and creating a unified leadership? In fact, the factions can neither be excluded nor exempted from responsibility, especially given the lack of an alternative national movement or a popular, non-factional bloc (a historical bloc in Gramsci's sense) capable of formulating an overarching national body inclusive of all Palestinians.

The importance of coordination between the political leadership and the youth who are confronting the occupation on a daily basis cannot be overstated. This does not mean that the factions are free to hijack and exploit the movement to achieve other goals that are not in line with fighting the occupation, ending the division and finding a way out of the current Palestinian impasse, especially as the Palestinian people continue to pay the price for the way in which the first Intifada was exploited in order to sign the Oslo Accords.

There are urgent national tasks for all to undertake. The factions should not overburden the youth movement or push it towards militarization or achievement of quick results such as an immediate ending of the occupation that they themselves have collectively failed to realize. Consequently, there needs to be agreement on modest phased and tactical goals. The factions should treat this wave as one step on the long and thorny path of struggle, and must contribute to and support it on this basis. The factions should listen to the younger generations and include them in the field leadership and local committees that need to be created.

The parties should focus on forming a unified political leadership that represents all factions, even before ending the division, so as to sustain the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and prepare for a long battle with the occupation. This is indispensable for developing the current youth movement into a popular uprising and extensive civil disobedience along the lines of the strike of 1936, together with diplomatic and legal battles against the Israeli occupation on the international front. To achieve these efforts, the security coordination with Israel must cease immediately, as an essential step towards dismantling the administrative and legal structure of Oslo. The PA's functions should be reconsidered, and the division between Hamas and Fatah should be overcome so that the PLO can be rebuilt on an inclusive national foundation.

The anti-occupation forces, which include civil society institutions, grassroots organizations, trade unions, professional associations, universities and the BDS campaign must engage more actively in the youth movement. They need to use their international ties with solidarity groups and anti-discrimination and anti-occupation movements around the globe to support the youth and their drive to ending the occupation.

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 4 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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