Youth to mobilise in the north
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Youth to mobilise in the north

***image2***The conference, entitled “The Role of Youth in the Palestinian Popular Resistance Movement” saw lively and productive discussion from dozens of young activists from Tulkarm, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilia, Jayyous, Tobas and Salfit.

Among the themes that emerged from discussion was a deep frustration with the normalisation agenda currently being supported by traditional political forces – foreign and domestic – and a need to move beyond the current arrangement of politics, in which youth are often not taken seriously.

It became clear that young people had no intention of stopping their resistance and protests against the occupation, in spite of a Palestinian Authority largely perceived as hostile and pro-normalisation. It was noted that youth are generally not a part of the decision making process in the traditional parties and organisations, which generally do very little to empower them, and that youth must struggle in their own right in order to be taken seriously. There is therefore a need for youth to be conscious and empowered, and to actively take responsibility. The conference had not invited high-profile speakers or high-ranking officials as it believed that youth must organise independently.

A number of youth-related issues were raised, among them the difficulty in finding work, which forces some to take work in settlements and Wall construction, and the difficulty in getting the media to cover wider youth issues. The majority of coverage of youth is generally negative and centred on violence, with Occupation forces shooting at youth in places as Bil’in and Ni’lin.

Participants discussed the ICJ’s advisory opinion and also spoke of the extreme and corrosive impact of the Wall on Palestinian communities. One speaker noted that, especially in rural communities, the Wall and the settler roads are separating villages and cities in the West Bank, which will make the building of an economically viable Palestinian State impossible; young people will want to emigrate, meaning a ‘silent transfer’ of Palestinians.

Participants also raised the issue the negative social and geo-political impact of Occupation policy, which has divided Palestinians into three blocs: those living in the ‘48, those in the West Bank and Gaza, and those in the Diaspora. These developments have had a particular impact on the remit of the conference: ‘the North,’ which previously referred to Palestinians in Galilee and Nazareth, now refers only to the north of the West Bank.

Youth agreed on the centrality of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in fighting Israeli policy. It was felt that it was important that this should be pursued internationally, but most of the discussion focused on the domestic dimensions of the campaign. It was felt that the boycott movement could play a vital role in mobilising young people.

One of the main issues raised was that there is often not much alternative to buying Israeli products and that it is difficult to control their entry into Palestine, which is the second biggest market for Israeli goods (Palestinians spend 1 million US$ on them every year) after the United States; so, for Palestinian economic survival, it is crucial that all Israeli products be boycotted, not just those from the settlements.

The conference also gave participants an opportunity to talk about the wider discourse of the Palestinian struggle, the bulk of which focused on normalisation. Speakers believed that when Palestinians are invited abroad it is essential that they make sure what the real purpose of the program is, and to make sure that there is no covert normalisation motive behind the invitation. The foreign and Israeli media tend only to be interested in activism if it is working towards the normalisation of relations. There were calls from the conference to draw up a blacklist of normalisation organisations – such as those which organise joint Israeli-Palestinian summer camps with children to ‘talk about peace.’ Such organisations can only exist with massive support from established institutions and donors. Indeed, it was noted that the general climate for anti-normalisation work is very difficult; reports have been given about the involvement of all three stake-holders – the PA, the Israelis and the foreign donors – in projects of normalisation.

On this point the conference was especially scathing of the PA. There was agreement that that the PA needed to be publically condemned as many politicians and officials have shamelessly had a hand in building the Wall and supporting development projects which sustain the occupation.

The conference concluded with a concrete achievement, as the participants formed youth committees in each of the seven areas represented. These new committees have awarded themselves the task of taking forward the struggle for Palestinian rights and dignity among young people, and mobilising support for BDS and a renewed opposition to normalisation.