UN: 70% of Palestinian youth oppose violence to resolve conflict with Israel

Last update - 03:42 01/04/2009

UN: 70% of Palestinian youth oppose violence to resolve conflict with Israel


Tags: palestinians, israel news, UN

Nearly 70 percent of Palestinian young adults believe the use of violence to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not very helpful, according to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) study released Tuesday.

Only 8 percent believe violence is an important tool, the study, based on interviews with 1,200 Palestinians over the age of 17 in the West Bank and Gaza.

The study also found out that more than 80 percent of young Palestinians are depressed, and 47 percent identify themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian.

It found that 39 percent were "extremely" depressed and 42 percent were depressed by their conditions.
Depression was more marked in the Gaza Strip where 55 per cent said they were "extremely" depressed.

When asked to define their identity, 47 percent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 per cent as Palestinians, 14 percent as humans and 10 per cent as Arabs.

"Young people are exceptionally vulnerable in a conflict situation. They are more likely to be injured, arrested or sucked into harmful situations," said Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, special representative for UNDP's Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People.

"At UNDP we have always understood that you cannot develop an economy or a nation without developing its youth, particularly when the economic and political environment appears to offer limited hope," he said.

Unemployment rates for Palestinian youth range from 35 percent in the West Bank to 51 percent in Gaza, said UNDP.

The survey of attitudes of Palestinian youth was part of a report commissioned by the UNDP and presented to a workshop designed to plan a strategy for youth development for the Palestinian Authority.

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This is a very important subject. IN the early/mid 1980s there were similar polls showing similar results and tis set the stage for the uprising of Dec 1987- 1991. I think the biggest problem I see among my students is that they feel disempowered by elders. We need to empower them.
Mazin, what are some practical things we can do to help empower youth? I can't end the occupation or remove checkpoints but is there something we can do to help empower youth in a constructive way as conflict prevention?
Dear Corey:
This is an excellent question and thanks for asking it. There are youth centers in Palestine. There are also universities. Many of my students spend hours just trying to get to the university and back to their destitute villages every day. Most have unemployed parents and can't afford tuitions (even though those are cheap compared to Western/Israeli universities). Some logistical support would go a long way. But simple moral support. Emails and encouragement for them to pursue what I like to call "beautiful resistance" (ie. resistance with education, empowerment etc as opposed to violent resistance). Here is one center that does that in a refugee camp for example that you could come visit and support:
There are a million other ways but that is why I say to others come and visit and see and interact. Lighting a candle is certainly better for each of us than cursing the darmness,.
How disheartening [sigh] ... "8% believing violence an important tool" translates to some 350,000 potential terrorists ... enough to keep the conflict on a high flame for another century perhaps.

I too hope that peace will prevail, but your statistics here are far from encouraging. What exactly is being done to reduce this 8% number?
Actually, I think that the vast majority of Palestinian youth opposing violence is wonderful. I am realistic enough though to also know that if only 1% of that 8% resort to "violent resistance" that will be 3,500 terrorists, and the roadblocks and the fences will not go away.

Basil, I'm not into some stupid blame game. I am looking to find a path to peace. Today a 16 year old Bedouin girl died trying to kill police near Beersheva. That is a tragedy that stems from a brainwashed mindset that won't allow for peace. That is what makes me angry. Young Palestinians are dying. How did Al Jazeera, a mainstream Arab news outlet report it? "In a separate incident, Israeli occupation border police shot dead a Palestinian woman who shot at them in the south of the occupied country" The "occupied country" is Israel, and this inability, even in the mainstream, to accept that Israel is there, and there to stay, is at the root of the problem that is driving the "armed resistance", and therefore driving the need for walls and roadblocks, which you claim furthers the violence.

On Saturday two young Palestinians died trying to place a bomb by the wall near Gaza. Again Al Jazeera:
"Two Palestinian resistance fighters were martyred on Saturday in clashes with Israeli occupation troops"

"Martyrs" "heroes" "Israel is occupied" "stolen" ... I'm not surprised that Palestinians are dying. This is a mindset to create these disasters. But then, it allows you Basil to play the blame game and blame Israel. Have you not noticed that, despit over 1,000 Israelis being killed by terrorists, Israeli youth isn't being encouraged to "martyr themselves" and aren't out there blowing away 1,000 Palestinians? Have you noticed that they don't resort to violence? Have you noticed that the occupied, humiliated, persecuted Tibetans don't resort to violence?

Basil, the Palestinians have problems of their own making, and they are the only ones that can change that. It's not about blame. It's not even about having a better future. It's about having a future at all. For that there is only one path, and it doesn't involve violence.

Basil, please note the crux of the disagreement between Hamas and Fatah, from today's Jerusalem Post:
"Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said the Hamas negotiators were shocked to see that Fatah was trying to impose the "unjust" demands of the Middle East Quartet and Israel on the Palestinians, which call for renouncing violence, accepting previous agreements signed with Israel and recognizing Israel's right to exist".

This isn't some spontaneous thing that "just happens" ... it is orchestrated by an elected government, and involves brainwashing through TV programs etc.

It's a great credit to Palestinian youth that they manage to resist it, and that over 70% oppose violence. That gives room for a lot of hope ... but it doesn't fix the problem.
Are you sure Mick that you are not entering a blame game? When you espouse one worldview and keep out of sight one side of the conflict?
Israel and Palestine are just two sides of the same coin: One side facing the sky and the other facing the ground; one expecting to flip the coin, the other hoping to maintain the position.

This is not about a blame game, it's about recognising that the two sides may be distinct, yet the actions of one have a direct consequence on the other.
Yes, you are right, the Palestinians are trapped in a particular mindset. Yes, you are right to say that Palestinians should be attentive to the fact that some of their nationals believe that violence is a legitimate means to fulfill their national aspirations (i.e. self-determination)...

But the comparison you make between the Palestinian youth and the Israeli youth is unfair. Doesn't a part of the Israeli youth believe that violence is a legitimate means to fulfill their national aspirations (i.e. security)? Didn't it massively support the last Gaza war in which part of it was called to blow away more than a 1,000 Palestinian (to rephrase you)? Yes, they didn't go on a suicide mission for that, they had a whole army that vowed to realise the national objectives through violent ways while keeping their lives intact.
Yes... you are right, there is something rotten in Palestine... It should be addressed without further ado. But do you honestly think that it can be fixed without recognising and dealing with what is rotten in Israel?
Hey Basil,
I agree with you. It is hard to engage people to admit an opposing perspective (or the perspective of the opponent). It is hard for us (hell, for me!) to accept a divergent viewpoint.
Due to what I have endured in Lebanon, I really have problems seeing the PLO or Fatah as embodying Palestinian national aspirations. I also have problems seeing the IDF as an army of "defense".

But what I try to do is see how the other side sees things and why it sees them that way. It's not about espousing the other's viewpoint but simply recognising it.
I think the other crucial point is accepting dual responsibility and not using it as an excuse or a justification of the actions of either side. Yes, there was a civil war between the Druze and the Christians in Mount Lebanon in 1860. Yes, it was triggered by a couple of Druze feudal lords with foreign support. Yes, their were more Christian casualties than Druze casualties. But isn't that due to the fact that the Christians were weaker? Wasn't there a conflict between the two groups before it turned violent? Didn't both sides realise that? What did the Christians do to prevent it? Why did they engage militarily as well? Didn't the war finally serve their purposes by giving them the political autonomy they aspired to?

I'm not saying that to clear any side of its wrong doings. I just believe that each side should be accountable for its actions (toward it's popular base), responsible for its actions (toward the opponent) while being compensated for its losses. It's not simple arithmetics, but quite a complex equation.

The Lebanese example you proposed and I developed can be extended to 1948 and to the last Gaza war. Don't u think?
I think Mick and Sami has some communality in the way the protect their side as if we are negotiating who is the good and who is the Bad so we can punish the Bad side and give a trophy fro the Good side.

They also choose to engage in discussion which is a door for communication.

It's not simple arithmetics, but quite a complex equation.

This is the problem of many who have same style as Sami and Mick who expect that the simple and direct solution can be enforced on the other side to accept "our people" interests (Israelis/Jews fro Mic and Palestinian for Sami).

As it is stand, this position of one side fighting to get respect from the other side (notice the call for respect comes from Mick for the Jewish Holocaust and from Sami for the Palestinians under occupation).

So when we come to talk with them we need to keep a balance between respect their "inner community" valued issues as holocaust and occupation and the "combined community" valued issues as peace and change,

We should discuss as people who care for all, and not as negotiators. there is no justification to negotiations where Israel is doing what it wants and the Palestinians are under occupations. In such situation we can understand why the only negotiation element the Palestinians have is their support of Hamas violent illegal by international law actions. whne justify for the pro-israelis the Israel illegal by international law actions.

BTW, thank you for the reference to 1860 Lebanon conflict I learned a lot.
Dear Basil,
My presentation of the 1860 Lebanese civil war was intentionally sketchy. My point was to show that a conflict (especially a communal one) is always a complex issue and most of the times, one cannot approach it in a binary manner "the good"/"the bad", "the guilty"/"the innocent"... but i also wanted to say that victimhood doesn't absolve the vanquished from his crimes... and that the recognition of his crimes doesn't absolve the victorious side from its responsibilities. That is, if we have "justice" in mind.

I do not agree with a couple of your statements for factual and epistemological reasons. But I believe that those errors are very commonly shared. What does the statement "the Druze were the Lords" mean? When you look at Mount Lebanon's society in the 19th century, you discover that it's a very complex society in which most of the Druze were poor uneducated farmers, while the Christians were generally more educated (due to a very large roman catholic and maronite school network) and owned more land (private property was very common in christian and mixed districts - even amongst peasants - which is quite exceptional in the region), and were socially more mobile... Not to speak of the cultural and economical power of the christian elites. It is more accurate to say that there were "feudal" lords among the Druze, a handful of them. But there were "feudal" lords among the Christians too (some of them were recent Druze and Sunni converts like the Abillamah-s and the Chehab-s). One can then see that there was in fact a power struggle between those "feudal" lords, which was turned into a communal conflict amidst a regional power struggle (between Egypt, England, France and the Ottoman Empire).

Your point on communal domination is an interesting one (though I don't agree on your interpretation of the power-sharing system in Lebanon that you interpret, like many people do, as a manifestation of a communal domination). Even though I agree with you that ethically, communal domination is not acceptable, some political scientists have tried to prove that it is a lesser evil: Are you familiar with the work of Ian Lustick (he calls Israel a Control Democracy) or Sammy Smooha (he coined the term "ethnic democracy)?

I would comment on the coin metaphor

The situation is not equal, and the Israeli side has more power and west-world influence then the Palestinian side, add to that the occupation relationship and you get a trap, or a unbalanced coin.

Mazin type remarks come from frustration and they heart and do not respect the Israeli side, while Mick is mainly reacting to the emotional charge (as the use of SHOAA/HOLOCAUST concepts by palestinians that is "crossing the lines" for many a Jewish and Israeli perspective)

As I also think that many of Mazin comments need to be moderated and more sensitive to the Israeli/Jewsh experience; we are not equal and I suggest to tolerate more "wrong expression" of Palestinians then of pro-Israelis because we do not have a "balanced coin".

I also suggest to take less personal attacks and seek to see the whole person. Mazin is with us for some time (as Mick and many others). he agree and disagree to many issues brought here and I see him as a person who seek cooperations to change our reality, and same I can say about Mick. so I hope we will find a way to engage with the whole picture.
JC, for me it is enirely about cause and effect and the choices people make. For years some Palestinians (who in my opinion don't care about what happens to other Palestinians) have been lobbing missiles into Israel killing Israelis. They had to know how Israel would respond, because Israel just responded in the same way to Lebanese missiles and kidnappings. They clearly wanted that response, saying that if Israel came into Gaza it would be a bloodbath, because they are even stronger than Hezbollah.

I travelled the West Bank and Gaza when there were no roadblocks, when Palestinians found work in Israel, and their standards of living and health shot up. Bombings, incursions into Israel, and shootings by groups (Hamas, El Aksa, Fatah, PFLP, DFLP) whose only interest, whose only rwason for existing at all, is to try to destroy Israel, changed all that to what we see today. The pattern is a clear one. If Israel was left alone there would be no roadblocks and no attacks on Gaza. Remeber that Israel got out of Gaza and has not, nor has it ever had any interest in keeping, owning or being responsible for Gaza.

That is my view on the conflict. It is supported by charters, by PA teachings, where Israel simply doesn't exist in geography books. Israeli children all learn about the Nakba ever since OIslo. It isn't the same for both sides, JC. If it was, nobody would be dying, and we would today have two states. On the other side there are no groups who advocate the destruction or the killing of the Palestinians. But this Hamas isn't just a terrorist group, it is the Palestinian elected government, who can't get together with Fatah, because Fatah wants to let Israel survive for the moment and even recognise agreements made with Israel, where Hamas is adamant Israel must cease to exist. But both the Hamas charter and the Fatah constitution call for the elimination of the Jewish state. These are Israel's "peace partners"?

For the record, I see Palestinians and Israelis both as victims of that same element I just described ... those people who care only about destroying Israel. They even murdered other Palestinians to further that aim. They are so faeek natical that they don't realise that they can't succeed, but only succeed in making life intolearable for other Palestinians. But then they also believe that if the misery is great enough, they will have lots of fighters against Israel, all prepared to commit suicide.
Your comment is quite dense and I think it sums up the position and grievances of a great number of Israelis, in the same way Sami's does in relation to Palestinians. It very clearly expresses the general disappointment in the peace process. And I'm certainly not the one that's going to blame you for that because I share your disappointment, even though it never gave me much hope (but that's another story). Your comment equally expresses a general lack of confidence... did I say "lack of confidence"? I meant blatant distrust!! of the other side. Again, who am I to blame either you or Sami for distrusting each other's political class.

Your comment also reflects two dominant Israeli paradigms whose authorship can easily be traced, one to the security apparatus, the other to the political class. They now form the Israeli consensus view because they seem to be supported by your experience of the conflict. These are:
- the "Cause & Effect" paradigm.
- the "Absence of peace partners" paradigm.
I believe one of the aims of MEpeace is to foster a paradigm shift through the direct contact (Peace café) and the cyber-discussions between the opposing sides.

What about the Palestinian side? Well, I think it would be more polite to answer that by replying to Sami's comment.



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