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Mahed Monem

Photo: Ilona Kassissieh / AFSC

Putting an end to Palestinian fragmentation and division

By Willie Colón and Ilona Kassissieh

Mahed Monem is from Beit Anan, a small Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank. He grew up in a time that saw the start of construction on the Israeli separation wall—now over 400 miles long—which cut off his community from others and severed access to jobs, services, and other places vital to everyday life.

Now 23 years old, Mahed has a clear vision of the world that he could live in. A world without walls and military checkpoints that restrict Palestinians’ freedom of movement and divide them from each other. And as part of AFSC’s Palestinian Youth Together for Change (PYTC) program, Mahed is committed to creating that new future through nonviolent resistance.

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory has had a devastating impact on many levels, including the fragmentation of Palestinian society caused—at least in part—by geographic boundaries and severe restrictions on movement. That lack of unity and cohesion among Palestinians is a significant barrier to effecting social and political change in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, Mahed says.

“Palestinians inside Israel live under different cultural, social, and political conditions than the ones living in the West Bank or Gaza, for example, but it is important to understand that we are all Palestinians in the end,” says Mahed, who is now a sociology student.

Mahed became involved with PYTC in 2012, taking part in workshops on nonviolence and communication skills. Despite severe travel restrictions and other risks, he and other young Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel regularly come together for face-to-face meetings to develop a mutual understanding about issues of national importance. And they plan projects that enhance their Palestinian identity, breaking down stereotypes that Palestinians have about each other while addressing their biggest concerns.

In 2013, PYTC launched its Mutaharkeen (Movers) campaign to advocate for the right of free access and movement while countering the fragmentation of Palestinian identity and society. Through that effort, Mahed and other organizers developed an effective campaign to boycott Hewlett-Packard, which sells the software and hardware that track and restrict the movement of Palestinians.

“In the past, people were working individually without believing or having faith in the capacity of others,” Mahed says. “Now, we believe in the importance of our identity, working collectively, standing firm with our principles, and putting an end to Palestinian fragmentation and division.”

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