Three young Palestinians, each carrying a different history, a different identity card from a different landscape--but from the same land--met for the first time thanks to the AFSC’s Palestine Youth Together for Change Project (PYTC). Each of them carries the burden of living under occupation, and each wants to be liberated in body and spirit.
Mohammed, Tasneem, and Ibrahim are newcomers to PYTC and participated in the national meeting held in Jericho end of March. They met in Jericho due to access and movement restrictions imposed on Palestinians.
During that long weekend, the 120 project participants from the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel met and introduced the work they’re doing to a group of more than 60 newcomers. Together, they brainstormed ideas on cohesion, de-fragmentation, and identity.
The lack of Palestinian cohesion, which runs deep and goes beyond the geographic separation, is likely one of the main obstacles for having a clear political vision. In such a forum, young activists can interact and better understand issues related to their fragmentation. They can also address their priorities in the struggle against occupation.
Connecting Palestinian activists
The project stands out because it connects Palestinian activists from various localities, and for many, this is their first time to meet in person. Mohammed Kabha is one of many newcomers who is planning on joining the project, provide input to the policy papers drafted, and be an active member in its “movers” campaign.
Often, such a meeting offers first time opportunities for fellow Palestinians to meet each other. It is not always easy or practical for Palestinians living in Israel to meet fellow Palestinians in the West Bank.
Mohammed is 31 years old from the town of Ar’ara, in Israel. He became aware of the project through AFSC’s partner, Baladna. He joined the group last week where he “had a very good impression of the project, that focuses on de-fragmentation and crossing the imaginary borders imposed by the occupation, which should always be at the heart of all projects”, he explains.
The youth have received training through the project on how to draft policy papers. With freedom of access and movement as the main theme, the young organizers organized a campaign across the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel to raise awareness about the Palestinian identity, the importance of cohesion, and pledging other young Palestinians to join in their campaign “movers” which currently also calls for divesting from HP products.
The campaign started at the end of March 2015 and will last until June 2015.
Incubator for change
The newcomers were excited about this campaign but also believe that the project could be an incubator for change.
Tasneem Al Qadi, a 24-year-old from Ramallah, was excited to listen to all the discussions about identity, involving Palestinians across the board. Tasneem says she plans to “continue to work with the group, since it will broaden my horizons and work as a popular incubator of resistance.”
Ibrahim Al Talla’, a 26-year-old from Gaza City who a university student, adds that the meeting in Jericho offered an opportunity for the youth to break the barriers and work together.
“It is important to overcome stereotypical images of each other, and get to know each other well,” he says. “There are many cross-cutting issues in this project that can be pursued. I will definitely continue to participate in PYTC.”
Indeed, Palestinians need to work together and stand united in their cause to end the occupation of their homeland.