In answering the question that imposes itself at every hurdle in the Palestinian cause: ‘What is to be done?’ the question of young people comes to the fore: ‘Where are the youth in decision-making positions to make a difference? In the Palestinian National Council? In the Central Council? In the Executive Committee of the PLO? In the political offices of Palestinian organisations and parties? Where is youth in the many events that are organised to stand up to the serious challenges facing the Palestinian people?
Despite the legitimacy of the questions, I think the problem lies in the fact that many consider young people a single, homogeneous group that carries a single vision which does not reflect the reality, since young people carry multiple visions. The most dangerous thing is that the method of presenting the issue, often addresses the age group of those occupying decision-making positions, at all levels, without linking it to democracy, as if the presence of a young age group in decision-making centres is the magic wand that will bring about change in the internal Palestinian situation, and will lead the people towards freedom.
There is no doubt that the Palestinian people live in worsening political, economic, social, cultural and health conditions, and there is no doubt that we are facing a new historical juncture, where the reality is getting harder and dimmer, the conspiracies intensify, and the need for all sectors of the Palestinian people to participate in the dialogue becomes more demanding. Young people are at heart of this: to formulate a national strategy capable of thwarting Trump’s vision and annexation plans, and guaranteeing the defeat of the colonial Zionist racist and displacement project, and to determine the main link that guarantees getting out of the impasse: ending the division? Reviewing the Palestinian experience, the confidence in the ability to win? Emphasis on the Palestinian historical narrative? Crystallizing the features of the Palestinian national project, the first of which is to restore the liberating side of the Palestinian national project? What defines our positions? Our age group or our political identity?
The position on this issue was defined by a young Palestinian woman from Lebanon, Maya Zebdawi. Her paper was discussed in the closing session of the ninth annual conference ‘Palestine After Trump’s Vision ... What to Do?’, at the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat), on August 31, 2020. The young woman was not satisfied with presenting her position on this topic. Rather, she linked it to an integrated vision of political reality that should be discussed, with agreement or disagreement. Her vision included the class dimension of the conflict, and identified ways out of the state of sluggishness in which the Palestinian people live, chiefly the clarity of the political programme, the clarity of the ideology, and the need to demolish, dismantle and rebuild the Palestinian strategic orientation. ‘I refuse to be defined as a youth activist, we are not defined by our age position. We are defined by political identity, by my right to political practice in order to protect my ability to engage and work against Zionism and the supporters of Zionism. It is necessary for the struggle to be based on three elements: emancipatory education, organisation, and armed struggle.
The rules of our engagement are determined first by our geographical location; second by our class position; and third by the system of exploitation that governs our daily life, which frames our areas of manoeuvre, the nature of our alliances, and our tactical battles, and that the struggle against displacement colonialism in its Zionist form is an integral part of the struggle of the inhabitants of the Arab countries, and against the existing capitalist system protected by Arab regimes.’
Many young people participated in attending the Masarat Centre conference sessions (23-31August 2020). Moreover, the Centre allocated two sessions to host a number of young researchers to submit research papers; to answer the question ‘What is to be Done’. A large number of interested persons participated in the conference, most of whom were young people from various Palestinian gatherings, in addition to hundreds of young people attending these sessions on social media. During the two sessions, nine working papers were presented, which discussed the question of ‘what is to be done’, and the challenges facing Palestinian youth, facing Trump’s vision.
The visions of young people were presented, based on the importance of spreading hope, and the importance of mobilizing the youth group and strengthening their role within a contemporary political discourse. The papers agreed on the importance of defining the Palestinian national project as a liberation project, and presented visions for the reform, construction and development of PLO. They defined the foundations of the Palestinian struggle, and focused on the importance of reforming the factions, restoring confidence among the young people and the political forces, and the necessity for national consensus to define the strategic goal of the next stage and the interim solution. They also showed the importance of reviewing the Palestinian social structure and trying to reform it. They stressed the need to end the division, and to set unified goals for political work in the next stage. The discussion of the papers was vital in the two sessions. The commentators emphasised that young people live ‘in the stage of aborting of their abilities due to several pressures.’
They stressed the importance of young people taking a major role in political work as a whole. ‘How can young people have a role in a leadership where the youngest is 70-year-old? When can we talk about an effective role for young people?’ Moreover, they discussed the importance of activating their initiative role in promoting the culture of boycott; strengthening Palestinian steadfastness in various gatherings; their role in promoting the Palestinian narrative; the importance of reaching decision-making centres; organising them in inclusive national frameworks with a liberal dimension; dealing with them seriously; investing their political, social and economic energies and capabilities away from political parties.
The two sessions reflected clearly youth angering against the Palestinian factions, which ‘exploited youth, did not enable them to reach leadership positions, and contributed to their reluctance to participate in politics.’ There was a proposal to establish a ‘youth parliament that transcends geography, which includes Palestinian youth everywhere to influence thought and the political arena.’
It is necessary to note that the forces of counter-revolution, reactionary and opportunist forces also possess young forces who have been, and still are, trained and prepared, to be included in the internal arrangements of the Palestinian home. It is of great importance to discuss democratic concepts among the sectors of the Palestinian people, especially the young age group, because they carry the energies and capabilities that put them at the forefront of confrontation, engagement and initiative. I believe that youth presence within the decision-making positions will be logical and inevitable if the traditions of democratic work become entrenched in Palestinian society, and authority is rotated at all decision-making positions, both official and popular.