Palestinian Youth from Beit Ula
Palestinian Youth from Beit Ula

The United Nations released an extremely revealing survey of Palestinian youth that says a great deal about the future of this region, if read properly.

Palestinian youth oppose violence to resolve conflict Jerusalem – Nearly 70 per cent of Palestinian young adults believe the use of violence to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not very helpful, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study released Tuesday.

Only 8 per cent believe violence is an important tool, the study, based on interviews with 1,200 Palestinians over the age of 17 in the West Bank and Gaza.

The study also found out that more than 80 per cent of young Palestinians are depressed, and 47 per cent identify themselves as Muslim rather than Palestinian.

It found that 39 per cent were “extremely” depressed and 42 per cent were depressed by their conditions. Depression was more marked in the Gaza Strip where 55 per cent said they were “extremely” depressed.

When asked to define their identity, 47 per cent identified themselves as Muslims, 28 per cent as Palestinians, 14 per cent as humans and 10 per cent as Arabs.

Read more here.

What does it mean that 47% identify first as Muslims? Only 10% as Arabs? Only 8% think violence is helpful? It means many things. It means that, as I have seen for years, Palestinians are a cause for the Arab world, but Palestinian youth ‘know the score’ about their fate in the Arab world and who really cares or does not care about them. It means that the average Jewish Israeli who labels these youth as ‘Arabs’ and part of an Arab world that wants us gone simply do not understand these kids. Many have turned to Islam as their first identity, a significant minority to Palestinian nationalism, some to humanism, and a small proportion to Arab identity. It means that most don’t believe in violence which means that despite Hamas being an uncorrupted alternative to Fatah, and a Muslim organization, it does not really satisfy the youth’s  longing for nonviolent alternatives. It means that everyone has failed them and their identity aspirations, Hamas, the Palestinian national movement and the Arab world. It explains their depression, and yet they are the ones most brutalized by the Occupation, most suspect, most harassed by Israel, the most trapped with no future. And that is why 8 out of every 10 of them are depressed. Who wouldn’t be? The adults have failed them, both the occupiers and the resisters and those who stand in solidarity with them around the Arab world. They have been abandoned.

Any serious peace process focusing on these youth would A. have a strong religious alternative for engagement, B. give them a nonviolent set of outlets to resist the Occupation and empower themselves, C. include serious funds for counseling, D. Fund a massive education program in Israel about these youthful ‘enemies’ who they encounter every day at checkpoints.

Palestinian Girl Eating Sunflower Seeds Outside Damascus Gate, Jerusalem
Palestinian Girl Eating Sunflower Seeds Outside Damascus Gate, Jerusalem
© Marc Gopin