What influenced the Palestinian youth to participate in the Intifadas?
By Brayn Hammad
The literal meaning of the term
Intifada means “shuddering”. It is derived from the Arabic word nafada
which means “shake off”, the term Intifada is a key concept in the modern
Arabic language. The term is used to refer to a legitimate uprising against
oppression. In English it is often translated as “uprising”, “resistance”, or
‘rebellion’. The term is used widely in
the Arab world for different uprisings against monarchies, governments, and occupation.
In the history of Palestine there where two officially recognized Intifadas.
It refers to attempts to “shake off” the “Israeli” occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. The First Intifada took place between 1987 and 1993, and
the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005. Between 2010 and now there
have been calls for a Third Intifada, the latest call for one was after
Trumps decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of “Israel”.
In this essay we will go through three-time
periods, in a chronological order. The first period is 1980 until 1995, the
second period will be from 2000 until 2015, and the last period that we will look
at is the period between 2010 and now. Palestinians, especially the youth, live
in an atmosphere of poverty, destruction, and violence. Despite the conditions
they live in, the Palestinian youth have a sense of motivation and ambition
that is inspiring. The history of the Palestinian struggle shows that the youth
are the real leaders in radical change in the society from the beginning of the
occupation till present day. Trough out the time the Palestinian youth have
been subject to many obstacles that deter their efforts to play an effective
role in the Palestinian political sphere.1
Palestine is a male-controlled society, which affect the young people and their
attitude towards politics in their country. It has negatively affected their
willingness to participate in politics. Social conditions affected the
different generations of youth. The involvement of the Palestinian youth is
based on a culture of significant interest in the political. The anticolonial
struggle laid the foundation for social mobilization organized in public spaces.
The youth used various methods to fight the occupation. Examples of their
methods are, direct clashes with the occupation, fighting back curfews, and
rejection of threats and blackmails.
The Palestinian generation of the First Intifada
during the late 1980s has often criticized its successors. The younger generations
have been accused many times of being politically uninformed. However, the
youth have always played a big roll in the various Intifadas. In this
essay we will look at what influenced the Palestinian youth to participate in
the uprising, their thought about them, and the various ways of resistance.2
The First Intifada was a violent,
yet unarmed, Palestinian revolt against the “Israeli” occupation of the
territories in Palestine. The Palestinian youth initiated this revolt. Without
the help of the PLO or any other political party. In that time Palestinian
youth used various methods to resist the occupation.it varies from civil
disobedience to actual violent clashes with Israeli forces. In this period of
the Palestinian resistance it was considered that the youth were at their peak,
because they were organizing, leading, and shaping their own Intifada.3
The first known Palestinian youth movement is Al-Shabab, not to be confused with
the terrorist organization in Somalia. This movement later became as a model
for current actions. The reasons behind their actions varied. Allot of the
youth felt let down by the Arab countries that in their eyes failed to free
Palestine from the occupation. 4There
was no central control who was fighting against the occupation and after
several incidents between the Palestinian youth and the “Israeli” army, the
so-called bomb exploded. Mass protest broke out starting in the Gaza Strip
and it spread to the West Bank and the occupied territories. The youth
organizers of the uprising emphasized a bottom-up, grassroots approach to the
decision-making on collective action, and often merely transmitted needs and
decisions taken by popular committees.
With ‘peaceful’ means, and no arms, the
Palestinian youth drew the attention of the whole world and shed light on their
goals of freedom and self-determination. The actions were evidence that
Palestinians can engage directly with the occupation, without the help or
contribution of leaders or other Arab countries. However, the results of the
first Intifada was not how the youth expected it to be. The leaders of
Fatah and the PLO reached an agreement with “Israel” and did not look at what
the Palestinian youth had to say even though they were the ones on the
During the second period the Palestinian
youth was depressed and stressed, they saw no hope in the political process.
Frustrated at seeing their land being confiscated on a daily and systematic
basis around the West Bank. The illegal separation wall and the hundreds of
illegal settlements were destroying their dreams of independence. It led the
youngsters to a state of uncertainty. The difference in the Second Intifada
was that the youth did not conduct in only nonviolent demonstrations but also
decided to align with resistance forces and pick up the arms.5
During this uprising the revolts were more organized than before, and the
different political fractions in the country called the people to stand up
against the oppression. The youth also began to look up to the armed groups and
militants, they are respected and appreciated buy them. The mostly young male
fighters are seen as the brave protectors of Palestine.
The Second Intifada ended even
worse than the first one. The restrictions by the occupation became worse on
the Palestinian people. This had a grate impact, especially on the Palestinian
youth. In the years between the second and third period the youngsters began to
seek for new ways to define the occupation and to make sure that their voices
The different NGO’s that are present in Palestine play a big role because of
their mostly neutral platform. The NGO’s are a platform for the young people
where they can express their opinion freely. To the Palestinian youth ‘freely’
means free of something they cannot do under the umbrella of a political party.
The third period is characterized by the
following events, Hamas’ coup in the Gaza Strip, the ongoing corruption in
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, the continuing “Israeli” occupation of the
West Bank, and the Arab Spring. In this period the Palestinian youth movements
did not only resist the occupation but also the Palestinian Authority. With nonviolent
mobilizations the youth expressed their disagreement with the PAs’ position on
many matters.7 These
counterproductive conditions that surround the youth in Palestine helps spread
the belief that there is no political solution in the future. This made the
Palestinian youth to join other political institutions. The Palestinian youth
is fed up with the constant fight between Fatah and Hamas. The Jerusalem Media
& Communication Center conducted an opinion poll that showed that the
majority of the Palestinians want an end of the split between Fatah and Hamas,
even to “Israel” and the US might enforce sanctions on Palestine which would
make the living conditions even worse, they assert that the two parties much
achieve a compromise. In the last period there is a big expansion of advocacy group
in response to the situation in Palestine. To be effective they formed smaller subgroups
to focus on specific issues. An example is the anticolonial opposition group.
The beginning of the Arab Spring in
Tunisia and later other countries energized new Palestinian movements, the
young Palestinians formed various independent youth movements. Their focus was
this time on the cause of national reconsolidation. 8Their
aim and number one goal were to popularize the resistance. The uprisings that happened
all over the middle east inspired the Palestinian youth to stand up for their
rights and act. The youth that stud up as activist in these movements
were mostly new actors in the political scene. Many of them young and
well-educated and as in previous Intifadas most of them came from the
middle class. The youth movements maintain drive by preforming effective
actions and strategies. They try to be close to the people, so that they can
understand their feelings and get their trust. This goes along with being free
of any political fraction so that people can talk without consequences about
During every demonstration or march the movements try to find new creative ways
to get the attention of the public opinion and (inter)national media outlets.
The Palestinian youth movements are in
close contact via social media with activist around the world. It is a way for
them to find new forms of collective actions. Like for instance, the Black
Americans against racial policies in the United States of America but also the
legacy of South Africans’ fight against racism. During the Ferguson protest in
the USA many Palestinians twittered tips and tricks, an example was on what to
do when the police shoot teargas at the protestors. Social networks are an
important tool to mobilize and to influence the public opinion.10
New technologies of the 21st century helped mass mobilization that
censorship has otherwise circumvented.
There is also this form of popular
resistance. Villages like Bilin, Nailin, and Nabi Saleh became symbols for the
resistance against land theft of the “Israeli” occupation forces. Their
resistance to the occupation in forms of weekly Friday protest made these
villages famous. Activist from around the world come to these villages to
participate in the weekly protests. The involvement of political leaders and
the existence of persistent youth leaders encourage the people to volunteer in these
peaceful protests. An example of a leader is Ahed Tamimi from Nabi Saleh, a 17-year-old
girl who participate weekly in the protest often on the frontlines standing in
front of the soldiers preventing them to shoot at the protesters. Couple weeks ago,
she was arrested late at night by the “Israeli” occupation forces and is facing
a 2 to 10 years jail sentence for allegedly slapping an armed “Israeli” soldier
in front of her house.
Also, another form of resistance is music
and musical performance, during the last years these forms have been noticeably
effective for nation building and resistance. However, in contrast with
traditional Intifada songs that were popular during the first and second
uprising, Palestinian youth developed new forms of cultural activism that is
more aligned with multiethnic principles of art.11
The spread of cultural activism as seen in the expansion of music and arts
festivals that take place in Palestine offers a good contrast to the
old-fashioned model of resistance in Palestine. This new concept of resistance
gives local Palestinian musicians opportunities to engage and interact with the
The Palestinian youth movements have been
forming and expending for some time now, starting back in the 1950’s with
simple student organizations and later groups that effectively fought against
the occupation. In the last period we saw the groups achieve significant
publicity by not only resist the occupation but also the Palestinian Authorities.13
The youth have increased their social and symbolic status trough out the time. People
respect them, and they proved their worth trough strikes, boycott, civil, and
other actions of disobedience. The Palestinian youth became one of the most
politicized youth in the world. This due their influences on a broad group of
people. Many political organizations made various youth fractions to get their
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the Politics of Youth Activism.” New
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2 Naser-Najjab, Nodia. “Palestinian youth show how
to resist.” Guardian, no. 1707 (October 21, 2015).
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4 Barber, B.K. “Political violence, social integration,
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5 Erlanger, Steven. “A Generation Lost: Years of Strife
and Lost Hope Scar Young Palestinians.” The New York Times, March 12, 2007.
6 Leech, P. “Youth and the Palestinian Resistance in the
West Bank.” University of Lancaster, Lancaster (2007).
7 Abu Labdeh, Razan. “Changing strategic priorities
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9 Haddad, Haneen A. “An exploration of collective
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10 Khoury-Machool, Makram. “Palestinian Youth and
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11 McDonald, David. “Performing Palestine: Resisting
the Occupation and Reviving Jerusalem’s Social and Cultural Identity through
Music and the Arts.” Institute for Palestine Studies, no. 26 (2006).
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Tradition of Art for Freedom in Occupied Palestine,” This Week in Palestine June,
13 Jadallah, Murad. “Palestinian youth mobility and its
role in Palestine question” Journal for Palestine Studies, no. 10, 2012, p.