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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

By DPA

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.
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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.

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1075465.html

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YOUTH AS A CRYSTAL BALL: THE FUTURE OF PALESTINE AND ISRAEL

Published by mgopin at 10:15 pm under Arabs, Muslims, Palestine


Palestinian Youth from Beit Ula

Palestinian Youth from Beit Ula

The United Nations released an extremely revealing survey of Palestinian youth that says a great deal about the future of this region, if read properly.

Palestinian youth oppose violence to resolve conflict Jerusalem - Nearly 70 per cent 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 Programme (UNDP) study released Tuesday.

Only 8 per cent 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 per cent of young Palestinians are depressed, and 47 per cent identify themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian.

It found that 39 per cent were “extremely” depressed and 42 per cent 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 per cent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 per cent as Palestinians, 14 per cent as humans and 10 per cent as Arabs.


Read more here.

What does it mean that 47% identify first as Muslims? Only 10% as Arabs? Only 8% think violence is helpful? It means many things. It means that, as I have seen for years, Palestinians are a cause for the Arab world, but Palestinian youth ‘know the score’ about their fate in the Arab world and who really cares or does not care about them. It means that the average Jewish Israeli who labels these youth as ‘Arabs’ and part of an Arab world that wants us gone simply do not understand these kids. Many have turned to Islam as their first identity, a significant minority to Palestinian nationalism, some to humanism, and a small proportion to Arab identity. It means that most don’t believe in violence which means that despite Hamas being an uncorrupted alternative to Fatah, and a Muslim organization, it does not really satisfy the youth’s  longing for nonviolent alternatives. It means that everyone has failed them and their identity aspirations, Hamas, the Palestinian national movement and the Arab world. It explains their depression, and yet they are the ones most brutalized by the Occupation, most suspect, most harassed by Israel, the most trapped with no future. And that is why 8 out of every 10 of them are depressed. Who wouldn’t be? The adults have failed them, both the occupiers and the resisters and those who stand in solidarity with them around the Arab world. They have been abandoned.

Any serious peace process focusing on these youth would A. have a strong religious alternative for engagement, B. give them a nonviolent set of outlets to resist the Occupation and empower themselves, C. include serious funds for counseling, D. Fund a massive education program in Israel about these youthful ‘enemies’ who they encounter every day at checkpoints.

Palestinian Girl Eating Sunflower Seeds Outside Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

Palestinian Girl Eating Sunflower Seeds Outside Damascus Gate, Jerusalem

Neri, I have been thinking of Mazin's response to me saying that Israelis (and internationals) can help support Palestinian youth initiatives and wondering if there is a way to link Israeli and Palestinian initiatives. Do you have any connections to any of these in Israel? Maybe even sharing resources or a joint initiative to help young children- something that can bring the two together in a productive positive way.
I agree it has to be a slow and well thought out process. Mazin is giving us his impressions and beliefs from his standpoint but what do the youth want, are they willing to work with Israelis, etc. this is crucial if the goal is to create mutual change. if you want help on this, let me know. I have lots of access to research in conflict studies on what works and what doesn't.
I can only give two further points on this:
1. lIke my elephant example (below I think) most Israelis also feel betrayed by Oslo- Olso brought more violence, more terrorism, more fear for Israelis- before Olso there weren't suicide bombings to the same degree, no missiles from Gaza,etc. Israelis point to Oslo and peacemaking and say "you see, you can't trust Palestinians. you give a little and they prove they just want to kill you".

What is the truth between how you see the peace process and Israelis see the peace process? I have no idea. I do not believe in conspiracies because there are too many people like me in Israel who like to expose things like that. I think it is more that we ignore/forgive the sins of our own side and look for the sins of the other side. When we find the sin, we say "you see, we knew we couldn't trust them. We now have to..." whatever that reactionary thing is makes the other side react as well and the cycle continues.

2. the problem with the Palestinian belief that the world is against them (and I can relate and understand because that is the paranoia of the Jews), is that it beomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You believe everyone will turn against you, your actions (or inactions) through feeling powerless create the situation you are most afraid of. I suggest working from a place of true power: you don't like the peace process as it is, then create your own ideas and reach out to Israelis to discuss them. I know this might seem impossible idea (reaching out to the very people who oppress you) but again, it is that elephant thing- they see the situation from the reverse and you are terrorizing them. Understand these dynamics, create a meaningful process for peace from Palestinians, by Palestinians.
Hey Neri, I'd like to react to your proposition for peace because I find them really interesting.
A. Have a strong religious alternative for engagement,
B. Give them a nonviolent set of outlets to resist the Occupation and empower themselves,
C. Include serious funds for counseling,
D. Fund a massive education program in Israel about these youthful ‘enemies’ who they encounter every day at checkpoints.

I totally agree with the last two points. Education and counseling on both side of the fence is good. I know that in Israel, there is a vast experience in post-conflict stress... and victims of attacks are offered counseling. While on the Palestinian side, this possibility is not offered even though the violence encountered is much higher and widespread (due to inter-palestinian fighting, Israeli "retaliation", group sponsored culture).
But even though education and counseling are important and the needs should be adressed immediately, one shouldn't forget that dealing with them is dealing with the symptoms, not the cause...

I believe that the first two points you make are more problematic. You have several political parties in Palestine that represent or pose as an alternative to religion. Fatah is one of them. And the Western Powers have supported some of them extensively. This didn't do Palestinians any good. I personally don't believe religion as being a problem. Moreover, identifying as Muslim doesn't always denote a religious inclination, but sometimes a certain communal identification. In Lebanon, like in Israel, this is very clear. Just like you have secular Jews in Israel, we have in Lebanon people who identify themselves as secular Muslims or secular Christians... this is also true in Greece and in Turkey. I think what is needed in Gaza is alternatives within religion (i.e. religious diversity and recognised diversity within the muslim sunni religious group), in authors words, Hamas' monopoly over religious identification and policy making should be challenged.
This being said, I believe that your suggestion for an alternative is important... but what kind of alternative? what can be proposed in a place like Gaza suffering from so many woes (Israeli and Palestinian induced). What will be relevant and accepted in a place suffering from structural problems and within a population has lost hope for any positive change? I don't know. I face something a bit similar in the work I do in Palestinian camps in Lebanon. I honestly don't have an answer to that question.

And finally, your B point is I believe by far the richest and most complex proposition of all. It actually includes three ideas that are great but hard to tackle:
- Nonviolent set of outlets. What could those outlets be?
- Resisting Occupation. How? How do you do it when the occupier has fenced you in and you have no direct contact with him?
- Empowerment. How can you do it in an area where there is no State, hardly any institution and people are disenfranchised?

I wish I had an answer to any of those million dollar questions. Do you?
I think Palestinians (youth or old like me) desire peace just as much as any other people. But they want their freedom. Today I was in teh isolated villages of teh Salfit area and talked to youth. The sewage of the settlement of Ariel is dumped on their agricultural lands (I saw cows eating in the grass there). Israel even refused tehm permission to build a sewage treatment plant. The same villages get toxic substances dumped on them from the industrial Israeli settlement of Burqan (named after teh nearby Palestinian villager of Brukin). 30,000 settlers now took over most of the hilltops in teh Salfit district. The head of eth health department in Salfit tells us of the health disasters of eth occupation (just two weeks ago his daughter in law was beaten by settlers and aborted her baby that same night). Palestinians want freedom and would be happy to live in peace with anyone who want to live as neighbors/friends not as occupiers/colonial settlers. Is that too much to ask for?
Sami my friend, you know the story of the blind men and the elephant- how each one feels a different part of the elephant and believes it to be something different. One feels the body and thinks it is a wall, one feels the ears and thinks it is a leaf, etc. Hearing how Israelis and Palestinians talk about the conflict is exactly the same: each sees it from their perspective and the two versions of the same conflict don’t match in any way.

This idea of “managing the conflict”, “ending the occupation” etc. mean different things to Palestinians than to Israelis and others. What you and other Palestinians write doesn’t make sense to Israeli or to many others and that is part of the problem. We need to stop speaking in abstractions (general terms that will mean different things to different people) and start speaking about specifics.

About helping Israelis feel not guilty, etc. I understand what you are saying and I agree that subconsciously that is what most Israelis want- how to not change but feel better about themselves- I call this “lazy peace”. But Palestinians want to change their reality. So when the two groups meet for social reasons, the Israelis get what they want but the Palestinians see no changes and are disappointed, I will tell you about me: as an Israeli citizen, I have NO control over checkpoints, occupation, or cerfews even though I wish I did and I could make both peoples lives better. No one I know has that kind of control. I still believe meeting is very important because meeting stops average people like me from believing that all Palestinians are bad (and who knows, maybe some day one of those people will be the prime minister or the head of the army), it also shows that Palestinians want peace and we get to peace by finding understanding. It is a very slow process but the alternative- never meeting, seeing each other as bad, back and forth violence- is getting worse.

I see that you want the end of the occupation and that all Palestinians want freedom. I see how much pain Palestinians are in. The only way I know to get that is for us to meet and explain calmly and specifically what each of us wants.
Dear Sami,

Occupation is bad to all sides: most people here agree with that.
We need to change reality : most people here agree with that.
Palestinians are weak in this conflict, so we need not to negotiate, and more work from human perspective and address the needs of the population: some people here will agree to that.
We should all seek, from all sides to reduce and stop the violence: most people here agree with that.


Do you think we have a future where Israelis and Palestinians leave and share goals as better education, better economy and better health, or such idea is not available to you?


There is one human tissue here, we need to build a future for it that will include all people from the Palestinians to the Israelis. while we do not go in that directions, Israelis and Palestinians will have interests to attack any peace directed initiative, The Israelis will not halt their settlement activity, and Palestinians will not halt their "attacks" on Israel interest.
Sami, as I see it, peace is a process. Palestinian youth, and the not so young, need freedom. We can all understand that because we all want that. Israelis also need freedom. They need to be able to go shopping without fear of being attacked. Oslo, Annapolis, the roadmap, all call for steps so that each group can be a little more confident in the other. All of them call first and foremeost for Palestinian terrorist groups to be dismantled, disarmed and the violence to stop. The view is that the Israelis have to respond to attacks, so if the attacks stop, so will Israeli responses. It may be a different perspective to the Arab one, as Corey suggests, but it's one all sides agreed to, including the Palestinians.

So I suppose Palestinians can allow some to target Israelis, then complain that they are suffering when they didn't do anything. Or they can recognise that if they stop people from attacking Israelis, the Israelis in turn will lighten up and ultimately two states will evolve with all the freedoms that entails, in line with all the agreements.

I don't know if that helps at all ... I have learnt that people come at this from very different rationales.
Mick:

You have said this already 15 times using similar language: if Palestinians stop resisting then (and only then) "Israelis in turn will lighten up and ultimately two states will evolve with all the freedoms that entails." Do you think if the blacks in South Africa had all dropped all resistance, teh whites would have dropped apartheid? If algerians dropped their resistance and had complete quiet, do you think France would have just nicely left algeria? Also you seem to think that the Israeli government is doing what it is doing just to respond to violence and not because they want a Jewish state? And how would a Jewish majority state have been created here if Palestinians never resisted? Do you think Palestinians could have been gently asked to vacate their lands and they would all agree to leave without one of them resisting. And how many resistance fighters does it take to keep this imaginary blockage to peace in place? In other words, should you like Sharon demand absolute surrender and no resistance before we see that you will be generous enough to give me back what was mine? And why shoudl Palestinains believe that you will return any stolen prop[erty if there was no resistance?

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