The protests and revolutions that have swept through the Middle East, have not left Palestine untouched. Youth in Palestine began their own movement, calling for an end to the internal divisions between Palestinian political factions. In their eyes, the power struggle between Hamas, which runs Gaza, and Fateh, which runs the West Bank, has worsened their hopes for a peaceful, prosperous future. On March 15, tens of thousands protested in Gaza and the West Bank. Recently their hopes were realized when Fatah and Hamas signed a reconcilliation accord. However, the reconcilliation between these groups remains fragile and acceptance of the unity government by the US and other members of the international community is important if the agreement is to hold.
Here Roba Salip, an 18-year-old student from Gaza, Palestine shares her perspective on recent events and on the need for Palestinian unity.
I believe that I have a role to play in society, and to build a better society my community needs me to fill my role. I have to be an active citizen to make a positive change, and need to start with myself. Along with other girls, I have joined many projects and participated in community groups as part of my effort to be an active girl. I also joined AFSC’s Popular Achievement Program, which led me to connect with my society in a way that helps me feel like an important part of my community. The program made me believe that youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow but are also citizens of today.
I sincerely hope that Palestine will improve and that people will do as our neighbors did in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and elsewhere. I believe that every time there is repression, it gives birth to revolution. The people of the Middle East have been repressed for too long. For too many years we have suffered from dictators who have imposed their own wills upon the masses. They have subjugated us, denied our rights and exploited us. The West is vocal about democracy, but when it comes to Middle East the West has preferred silence and has cooperated intimately with dictators. This double standard has made us realize something has to be done. We were all waiting for a spark that would ignite us. We know that the time is neigh to break out of our cocoon and to set ourselves free from oppression.
I live in Gaza which is under siege by land, sea and air. Last year over 1,400 people including 350 children were killed during Israel’s attack. I was here when the bombs were falling. I would close my eyes when they exploded, not knowing if I would live, but I survived. One of my friends and her three cousins were not so lucky. We are under blockade and occupied and the international community seems to be deaf, dumb and blind. They don’t do anything.
We must therefore take action and the only way we can fight for a liberated Palestine is by being united – but sadly our political parties are deeply divided. There is anger and mistrust between them. However, despite the political divisions every Palestinian aspires to freedom. Perhaps all we have been waiting for is inspiration.
Then, very suddenly, something happened.
First came Tunisia, then Egypt. I watched with enthusiasm when a young girl in Tahrir Square said in a firm and determined voice, “We will make the change.” I was amazed to see that a young girl could find enough courage to speak like that in public. I began to believe that if we all can speak against injustice the Middle East will be a much better place. The young people leading the protests in Tahrir Square stood their ground for 23 long days despite many difficulties. They were not tired or afraid because they had a cause to defend and a reality to change.
The interesting thing connecting all these movements is social media. People started to speak their minds using blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Some youth here in Palestine also started to talk about ending the divisions between our political parties. There were groups in Facebook who wanted to start this change on March 15. As days went by more and more people started to show their enthusiasm.
On March 15th I went to a protest in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the Gaza strip. I went with all of my family members and friends, attired in a traditional Palestinian dress.
Mao Tse-Tung said, “Revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and modestly.” I learned the reality of this on March 15th.
While we were peacefully protesting, waving Palestinian flags, we were attacked by Hamas supporters. I don’t understand why they thought our movement was a threat to them. Many people, including women, were beaten. Many were arrested. One of my cousins was injured in her leg. My sister was trapped in a UN building. I was chased by Hamas supporters as I was taking pictures of their violent crackdown on us. Things went against us, but I guess that is how revolution happens.
Our aim is to unite the whole of Palestine under one flag - the national green, white, black and red flag - not just a green Hamas flag or a yellow Fatah flag. Perhaps we have to deal with the biggest revolution of all - we have to win over our own people.
As I continue my struggle here, many people have been killed in Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. I don’t know when we or they will achieve victory, but I have faith that when truth collides with falsehood, falsehood perishes. Falsehood by its nature is bound to perish.
I hope and dream for a day when every people of the world will be able to live their lives with dignity and honor, enjoying freedom and peace.