By YOSEMITE HARRISONA and YULAI BERNSTEINYThe young Palestinians who make up the largest number of the Palestinian refugee population in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip don’t like the Israeli occupation and its security arrangements, they say.
In the summer of 2018, more than half of the young Palestinians surveyed by the Al-Quds University of Islamic Studies and Political Science in Jerusalem said they felt threatened by Israeli security forces, with only a third expressing support for Hamas and its armed wing, the Islamic Jihad, and only one in four saying they support Palestinian unity.
In Gaza, only one-third of the respondents to a survey conducted in October 2018 said they supported Hamas, which is not the only group that dominates Palestinian politics in the Gaza Strip.
However, there is broad agreement among the Palestinian youth that the current state of the West Bank is not only unjust, but that it is harmful to the Palestinian people and a threat to Israel.
“The occupation is harmful, and it is unfair,” said 18-year-old Mohammed al-Qubaisi, a Gaza-based Palestinian refugee.
“The Israeli government is a colonialist, it is the reason for the Palestinian refugees’ situation, and the Israelis keep attacking Palestinians and harming the Palestinian society.
The Israeli government can’t afford to keep treating us this way.”
Palestinians and Israelis have different perceptions of how to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
For the Palestinians, it’s a fundamental human right to return to their homes.
They also want to maintain the status quo in the West Gaza Strip, where they live under an Israeli blockade, a security system that continues to protect the Israeli settlements on the border with the Palestinian enclave.
While some Palestinian factions in the Palestinian Authority (PA) favor reopening the Rafah border crossing with Israel, the vast majority of the Palestinians want to see an end to the Israeli military occupation.
The Palestinian Authority has been in power for decades and the PA’s current prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has pledged to make a major effort to improve living conditions for the refugees, who make a living from farming, collecting firewood and fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, among other jobs.
Fayyad said last year that the Palestinians would receive at least 50 percent of the $1 billion Palestinian budget for rebuilding Gaza, and that he was “pleased” with the progress.
But for some Palestinians, the Palestinian government’s efforts to provide more jobs to refugees is simply a means of keeping the situation in the area in check.
“For us, it doesn’t matter what the government says, it affects the lives of the people,” said 25-year old Naji, who is a refugee from the Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.
“Our life depends on the welfare of the refugees.
The people have to earn a living.”
But for other Palestinians, like Naji’s mother, the only way out of the crisis is to join the ranks of the armed Palestinian resistance, a movement that aims to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated solution.
“We don’t need to fight for the rights of the Jewish people, we need to work for the liberation of the whole people,” she said.
“I think we have to fight the Israeli government, not only the Jewish one, but also the Israeli state and the occupation,” Naji said.
“We need to support the resistance, and I hope that we will eventually achieve victory in our struggle for the right to freedom and dignity.”
Despite the lack of progress in Gaza, many Palestinians see a long-term future for the region.
The PA’s security forces have been deployed in Gaza since the beginning of the summer and Israel continues to build new settlements in the coastal strip, which has seen the highest number of deaths since the outbreak of the conflict in 2014.
There is little political space for the Palestinians in the international community to intervene, and even fewer for them to organize a popular uprising against Israel, even if it were possible.
However one group of young Palestinian activists is hoping to change that, with a new grassroots movement they have dubbed “The Young Palestinian Youth Movement.”
The movement is a direct response to the government’s failure to improve the lives for Palestinians in Gaza.
The movement has been active since the summer months, when the government announced it was withdrawing from Gaza and opening the borders for Palestinian refugees.
A spokesperson for the movement said the group’s efforts were aimed at helping the Palestinians rebuild their lives, and its goal is to bring them closer to their own people.
The spokesperson told Al-Monitor, “The movement aims to reach out to young Palestinians through a platform that has a strong and deep political, social, cultural and economic agenda.
It aims to be the new generation that leads Palestine to a future in peace and dignity, in which Palestinians have a place in society and are recognized as a people.”
The Young Palestinians are currently in discussions with the government about the next steps they would like