Why Palestinians will protest on 15 March

On 15 March Palestinians will demonstrate, calling for unity. (Luay Sababa/MaanImages)

We are a group of Palestinian youths who have come together for the sole purpose of leaving behind our political identities and affiliations, and deciding to put our best interests above all else, united under our Palestinian flag. We have called for peaceful demonstrations on Tuesday, 15 March across the Palestinian nation — in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the territories of 1948 and the Palestinian diaspora, calling out together one slogan: “The people want to end the division!”

We call for peaceful actions in support of unity in the Palestinian political scene under one banner, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Division in the Palestinian body politic has affected every aspect of our lives: socially, economically, educationally and intellectually. It is ordinary Palestinians who have paid the price of the four-year long division that serves no one but the Israeli occupier.

Our campaign to end the division started out as a thought which stirred discussion, and some youths decided to give it a try and did everything possible to make this initiative happen. Day after day, the idea grew and became a plan and then a public decision to not be silenced anymore, not to be terrorized or oppressed and most importantly, not to be ignored and forgotten anymore. That is how we came to our decision to demonstrate on 15 March, state the public’s refusal of the status quo and the practices of the political “leadership.”

It is an idea so beautiful in its simplicity and purity, that all the political parties’ attempts to alter it, complicate it, or accuse those behind it of serving some subversive agenda, have failed. And after discovering that this is a genuine movement that reflects nothing more than the conscience of the Palestinian public being awakened, the political parties are in distress and confusion. To oppress or not to oppress? — that is the question they now face.

In recent weeks, we worked to spread the idea among the people, encouraging them to participate with their families, to trust that their voice will be heard once they raise it, and to trust each other and understand that we are all in this together no matter what political affiliations or beliefs we hold. We have sought to convince them that with unity in our call and in the field, we will vanquish the fear that is nesting inside us, and that when we stand together as one to claim or rights, no one can harm us or oppress us.

The peaceful 15 March demonstrations will be the start of a series of activities, and the first day of an open-ended sit-in. The main idea is that we’re staying until the political “leadership” wises up, subjects itself to the people’s demands and takes serious actions toward fulfilling them. What happens next is totally in the hands of the people.

This movement is from the people, and for them. As for Gaza Youth Breaks Out (GYBO), and all other participating groups working in the field, we have only the honor of initiative. All else now depends on how the Palestinian street responds, and on how strong they can be.

Things will be hard; there are threats, whether of violence from controlling parties, or fear of chaos. But we have complete faith in our call and in our people. We are betting on the patriotic Palestinian conscience to act up, and for all to learn to accept, respect and salute our differences, forgive the past and start anew, showing the world a true Palestinian example of tolerance. Our calls are peaceful and our only purpose is to restore the lost harmony in Palestinian society.

The campaign to end the division is a long-awaited public decision to move, and to cast away all the fears. There is a long list of reasons why people are so fed up and why they are going out to make their demands heard.

Palestinians have now come to understand that through their silence and submission to the political parties’ wills, through accepting to be manipulated and terrorized, they become accomplices just as guilty as the parties themselves.

The people are going out so that they will do their part in bringing change, and breaking out of the general air of indifference that has been filling our hearts for the past four years.

We Palestinians, with all our different backgrounds, will no longer be ignored. We will claim our rights as citizens and human beings to be respected, protected and recognized as the sole source of legitimate power. Our government must understand that we the people are a force to be reckoned with. We will not be deceived by speeches — we’ve had enough of those. We believe that actions speak louder than words and we, the Palestinian public, are doing our part with this initiative to give the “leadership” one more chance to earn our trust.

The day of a one-way relationship between the governors and the people will be, come 15 March, over.

The division among Palestinians must end. It has weakened our cause and instead of remaining the internationally-renowned symbol of a righteous and lawful struggle that it has always been, it has deteriorated into an illusion of authority and positions, allowing our occupier and real oppressor, Israel, to violate us. Israel continues to kidnap and imprison more innocent Palestinians without fair trials, to invade our territories, wreck our homes, uproot our trees, steal our heritage, bomb our cities and besiege the Gaza Strip for five consecutive years. Israel continues to violate UN resolutions without anyone holding it accountable. And with the lack of a proper Palestinian leadership, there will be no stopping Israel from doing what it wants.

So our message is clear and simple: end the division, turn to Palestinian public opinion and work for the prosperity of Palestinians to pave the way for the establishment of our democratic, independent Palestinian state. Unity is due.

Our call goes out to every Palestinian, be true to yourself, be true to your cause, be true to the sacrifices that our great people have given throughout 63 years of suffering. Go out on 15 March, denounce the division and anyone who stands by it.

Together in the name of our sacred cause, our martyrs and our prisoners, we call for unity under our Palestinian flag. There’s absolutely no doubt in our hearts that our peaceful demonstrations will be the dawning of a new Palestinian day, where every Palestinian feels that he or she belongs.

Rawan Abu-Shahla is a member of Gaza Youth Break Out and lives in Gaza