Sunday, May 08, 2011

Youth Protests and Palestinian Unity

Noura Erakat believes that the youth protests sweeping the Arab world were an important factor behind the Palestinian unity deal:
"Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah may present the first victory of a nascent Palestinian youth movement, which earned its moniker, the March 15th movement, from the first day of its mass protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Only one day after the launch of their movement demanding an end to the four-year internecine conflict that also divided the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to engage in unity talks, while other leading Fatah members, aware of the youths’potential force, opened twitter accounts just to follow the pulse of the movement.

"Arguably, the unity government is a preemptive tactic to thwart rising Palestinian discontent, and the increasing relevance of youth protests, in a broader Arab Spring. In fact, on the day of its announcement, Hamas security forces violently dispersed nearly 100 jubilant youth celebrating in Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza for failure to obtain prior approval to congregate. Ibrahim Shikaki, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and Ramallah-based youth organizer comments that Hamas and Fatah have tried to undermine the organizers’ efforts by inhibiting media coverage, accusing its leaders of receiving foreign funding and shifting the focus of the protests to the factional division for fear of 'losing grip over power and authority.' In that case, thawed relations alone will not suffice to quell the budding movement."

Moustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative, says something similar:
"There are several factors. One major factor in my opinion is the degree to which Palestinians on all sides have grown frustrated by internal division -- and this was in part an impact of the Arab revolutions in Palestine. There was the beginning of demonstrations in late January and the beginning of February demanding the end of division, and people were wise and mature enough to realize that what we need is not a third division against both but rather pressure to end existing division. This public pressure was extremely important. Fatah and Hamas realized that they both stood to lose popular support."



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