The Palestinians have suffered violations of their basic human rights since 1948.
The core of the Palestinian – Zionist conflict was the expulsion of about 70 percent of Palestinians from their homeland. Besides that, violations to human rights and children rights occur on a daily basis in Palestine.
In 1994, after 46 years of the Nakba, or catastrophe, Palestinian leaders came close to compromising many of the Palestinians’ rights by signing the Oslo Accords.
For 46 years before Oslo, Palestinian factions marginalized the participation of the Palestinians living in their homeland in the struggle. After Oslo, Palestinian leaders switched sides. Palestinians-in-exile were marginalized and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza became the spinal cord in the new era of political negotiations.
For 17 years, the newly-formed Palestinian political body — the Palestinian Authority — has struggled in fruitless cycles of negotiations with the state of Israel. Oslo-affiliated business interests reined in any form of struggle for Palestinian rights.
Nonetheless, in the sunrise of the Arab spring, the sun has paved the way for the uprising of popular resistance for rights in Palestine that has been taking place for a long time. The non-military resistance in several Palestinian towns is building on the momentum of this Arab spring.
Palestinian youth, away from factions, started their movement in a series of demonstrations and a 40-day sit-in in Ramallah’s Al-Manara square. A parallel movement took place in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The movement in the Gaza strip faced most difficulties. But after failing to hijack the youth movement in the West Bank, the Palestinian Auhority used several methods to disperse it, mainly because the youth movement called for a democratically-elected Palestinian National Council.
Last week, a member of Fatah Youth was still boasting that the PA sent the group to disperse the youth protesters. He expressed his annoyance that the PA failed to prevent protesters from setting up a tent in Al-Manara square.
The youth faced the difficulties and remained in Al-Manara for 40 days. After a series of hunger strikes and demonstrations, few accomplishments were achieved. Nonetheless, this gave hope to the Palestinian youth movement.
The first stage of the movement concluded with the signing of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement in Cairo on May 4. Although it seemed like an agreement on quotas rather than a real reconciliation, it energized the youth to move forward.
The second stage of the youth movement started on May 15. The youth diverted their full efforts against the occupation. May 15 witnessed the first Palestinian uprising to unite Palestinians in homeland and in exile.
Non-militarized demonstrations marched towards checkpoints and the Palestinian homeland. It was a beautiful scene of Palestinians marching peacefully towards their rights. This youth uprising on May 15 witnessed the first, though short-lived, return of refugees.
It was followed by another on June 5, when Palestinians factions abandoned their people in the West Bank, Gaza and in exile.
The resentment from the factions was clearest in exile refugee camps. There are over 20 Palestinian factions, and they were established to liberate Palestine. Factions are tools to liberate Palestine. After decades of struggle, the factions have failed to liberate any part of Palestine or to retain any Palestinian rights.
Therefore, it is time to move on to a united front. This particular argument is still being denied by faction-affiliated politicians and youth. They all use the same argument of the long history of struggle of these factions and their martyrs. This is clearly an over-used card now.
The next stage of our struggle will probably start after the UN bid for statehood in September. We know and the political leaders know that it will fail. Nonetheless, it will be the last nail in the coffin of decades of fruitless and destructive negotiations.
We want to make it clear: our struggle is not about political solutions, it is about rights — the rights of return, equality and freedom.
Factions could continue to pursue their political agendas, but the youth have it clear in their minds more than ever before. We know that a lot of sacrifices must be made. Nonetheless, in the last three months it has been clear, at least for the occupation, that these youth are willing to make these sacrifices.
Despite the violence used on May 15, June 5 and weekly in Nabi Saleh and other fronts, we keep on coming week after week.
The state of Israel had a chance to kill Palestinians’ rights if they had taken negotiations seriously. This chance is over now.
Over the next few months, the area will witness a strong united movement for Palestinian rights, a movement that is led by Palestinian youth in exile and in the homeland.