Palestinian youth in Bethlehem area fully support non-violent resistance

Poster of the Palestinian Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.


The Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI), an initiative of YWCA of Palestine and East Jerusalem YMCA, carried out research among young people from the Bethlehem area, to examine the attitude of Palestinian youth towards non-violent struggle against the occupation and oppressive practices. The results published in a report recently[1] show that almost sixty percent of the youth are affiliated to a political party and they fully support non-violent means of resistance against the Israeli occupation. The opinions voiced by the youth offer clear building blocks for a strategy of national resistance. A strategy that shows striking similarities to the strategy successfully used by the African National Congress of South Africa to fight apartheid.

Characteristics of the sample

The research of JAI was carried out among 234 young people aged between 18 and 25 years old of both sexes from ten different locations within the Bethlehem municipality, including three refugee camps. The youth represented various political affinities, such as religious, secular, leftist and independent. The randomly chosen youth from the sample also differ in educational background varying from illiterate to post-graduate. 79 percent were single and 67.9 percent were male.

The level of education amongst the studied youth is high, which is a reflection of the attitude of the Palestinian community towards education. The level of devoutness to a faith is high for 20.5 percent and medium by 65.8 percent of the sample. The level of politicization of the youth is high with 59.9 percent being affiliated to a Palestinian party, consisting of 18.4 percent faith based parties, 24.4 percent secular and 17.1 percent left wing. The high ration of 39.3 percent ‘independent’ can be a reflection of the gap between what political parties and factions offer in their political programmes and what the Palestinian youth aspire.

Support for non-violent resistance

Almost all of the young Palestinians interviewed (94 percent) classified the Israeli Occupation and their different operations as being violent.

Questions about different types of non-violent resistance make clear that the youth interviewed are aware of and support non-violent means of resistance to the Israeli occupation. Almost half of the youth state that the refusal to give in to the Israeli pressure to leave their country is the best means of non-violent resistance. Israel encourages Palestinian immigration to other countries and forces Palestinians to leave their houses and lands since 1948.

26.5 percent of the youth interviewed mention a boycott of Israeli products as the best non-violent means of resistance. This reflects the awareness that Israel has an interest in the Palestinian consumer market and that a boycott can have an effect on Israeli policies.

14.5 percent considers demonstrations as the best means of non-violent resistance and 4.3 percent the (re)planting of olive trees.

Boycott of Israeli products highly popular

In the survey the youth were asked whether they agree or do not agree with statements about what needs to be done.

‘Boycotting Israeli products is a successful means of resistance’ attracts most of the support, 82.7 percent of the sample agree with this statement. 66.7 percent agrees with ‘The PA should carry on with the negotiations with the Israeli government’ . ‘Armed resistance is the best means to rid the Israeli occupation’ is in third position with 63 percent of the youth agreeing with this statement. Only 6.5 percent of the Palestinian youth interviewed agree with ‘Israeli takes “Truce” into consideration’. This can be seen as an expression of a lack of trust in how serious Israel is about negotiations for peace.

The use of non-violent and violent means of resistance is also reflected in a survey among 520 opinion leaders held by Bir Zeit University [2]. It shows that half of the interviewed opinion leaders are in favour of combining peaceful resistance and negotiations, while 40 percent are in favour of combining armed resistance and negotiations.

One-state solution

A survey that was recently executed by Near Eastern Consulting in Ramallah revealed that 70 percent of the Palestinians support the one-state solution [3]. The survey was held amongst 1200 randomly selected Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.

This result is in line with the survey amongst 520 opinion leaders. 67.5% of the interviewed Palestinian opinion leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip see the solution of the conflict in one democratic state in historical Palestine for all its citizens without discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, color or sex.

Strategy for national liberation

On the basis of the views expressed by the Palestinian people the elements for a national strategy become clear. The Palestinian people wish to strive for one state where they live side by side with the Israelis with equal rights for all. Several means of resistance have to be used where non-violent means like boycotting Israeli products, demonstrations, and refusing to leave the land seem to be most popular.

Another means that the youth mentioned dialogue with the Israeli government. Two third of the opinion leaders believe that a lasting peace and a historical reconciliation between Palestinians and Israeli’s are possible or possible to some extent. This offers a basis for dialogue.

Armed resistance is another element of the strategy for national liberation mentioned by the youth.

It is striking how similar these elements are to the liberation struggle of the African National Congress of South Africa [4]: a clear vision of freedom and a democratic state with equal rights for all, which were achieved through a liberation struggle that was built on four pillars: dialogue, armed resistance, mass mobilisation in the country and international pressure and solidarity. Just like the South African people the Palestinian people can succeed in achieving its vision.

Adri Nieuwhof is an independent consultant and human rights advocate.

Footnotes

[1] Attitude of Palestinian Youth Towards Non-Violent Struggle (21 Ferburary 2007)

[2] Opinion Leaders’ Survey, Bir Zeit University.

[3] Survey: 70 percent of Palestinians support one-state solution, Near Eastern Consulting (24 February 2007)

[4] Bangani Ngeleza and Adri Nieuwhof, African National Congress: An Inspiration for Palestinians (9 April 2006)

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