Voices from the Palestinian uprising against Israel

Al Jazeera asked young Palestinians whether the current violence is a precursor to a general Intifada or not.

Palestine 3 pictures
Palestinian protests against Israel's occupation, settlement expansion, and Al-Aqsa incursions have largely been led by students and the youth [EPA]

In September, Jewish settlers backed by Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

The event triggered widescale protests against the Israeli occupation and policies in Jerusalem aiming to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque and to isolate the Palestinians living there.

Dozens of Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli security forces using army-grade weapons and Jewish settlers armed with automatic weapons. In addition a few attacks were undertaken by lone Palestinians using kitchen knives against Israelis.

According to official Israeli and Palestinian accounts, 44 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed so far.

Al Jazeera asked several current and former Palestinian university students about their opinions and views of whether the current violence is a precursor to a general Intifada or not. 

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The students voiced their criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s governance, and questioned whether the PA should continue negotiations with Israel, given that many Palestinians view Israel’s approach to the negotiations as “one big game they play”.

Lina Khattab, 19

A student at Birzeit University, Lina is a refugee from Jerusalem, currently living in Ramallah. She is a member of the Democratic-Progressive Students’ bloc at the university. She was arrested last year by the Israeli army for participating in a protest demanding the freedom of Palestinian prisoners who are in Israeli jails. She was sentenced and spent six months in jail.

[Photo courtesy of Lina Khattab]
[Photo courtesy of Lina Khattab]

“We are protesting against the Israelis because of what they have done to us. They make our lives a living hell. We cannot move around, we cannot travel, we cannot work or go to school.

“Moreover, they’re repeatedly trying to attack and destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Muslim and Christian holy places. They burned to death the young child Ali Dawabsheh and Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the murder of young men and women proves to us for the millionth time that Israel will remain our enemy forever. Yes, Jews have a right in Palestine – but only as Jews, not as an entity that based its existence on eliminating our very own existence. How can we live with such a programme?

“We cannot have peace with such a state that was founded on top of us. This is a racist state. They treat us like sub-humans, they shoot at us to kill us, often without provocation. They destroy our olive orchards, and they keep thousands of us in jails without charges. We have reached a boiling point with them.”

Mohammad Zaid, 23

An accounting student at Birzeit University, Mohammad is a member of the Islamic bloc student association.

[Photo courtesy of Mohammad Zaid]
[Photo courtesy of Mohammad Zaid]

“We feel it is our duty to support our communities’ right to express their anger at Israeli violence against Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. We are very angry that the Israelis are killing innocent civilians in cold blood and with total impunity. This is why we support our people’s choice to rise up against the Israeli aggression and attacks against our holy places.

“At the same time, young students, of all political persuasions, have, for the most part, lost all hope in the Palestinian Authority’s ability to achieve peace with Israel. Although we want peace and security for our people, for Israel, peace only means that it always has to come at our expense. The Israeli idea of peace is actually more about killing us and building Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land.”

Bayan Iseed, 19

Originally from Jericho, Bayan is a student at Birzeit University.

[Photo courtesy of Bayan Iseed]
[Photo courtesy of Bayan Iseed]

“As a student, I am active within my school in supporting my people’s right to live in peace and to be free. But at this point, I don’t think we will have peace with Israel. In fact, I don’t support any peace with Israel. This is because after 22 years of the so-called Oslo Accords we have become worse than we were before. Experience has taught us that peace with Israel is futile and a waste of time.

“I believe that what’s taken by force must be taken back by force. We Palestinians are not weak. We are strong people and we can resist the Israeli occupation on so many different levels.”

Majd Shanaa, 21

Originally from Jenin, Majd is a recent graduate in graphic design from al-Najah University and is a painter.

[Photo courtesy of Majd Shanaa]
[Photo courtesy of Majd Shanaa]

“There is no question that Israel is our enemy, but to confront this enemy we must first see a change in our leadership. Moreover, in addition to Israel’s systematic violence and schemes, the Palestinian Authority also restricts us and treats us with disrespect and repression.

“As for peace with Israel, we as Palestinians cannot trust the Israelis because what we have in Israel is really Zionism, not Jewishness. We have no problem with Jews, our problem is rather with the Zionists who want to eventually destroy us and take our lands away from us. Therefore, and based on our current situation today, I think it is impossible to have peace with Israel.”

Mutaz al-Nazer, 23

Mutaz, who is from Hebron, recently graduated in political science from the University of Hebron. He is also a volunteer with the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

[Photo courtesy of Mutaz al-Nazer]
[Photo courtesy of Mutaz al-Nazer]

“Unfortunately, what we see today is not a full Intifada. It is rather a spontaneous reaction to Israeli aggression against Al-Aqsa and the deliberate killing of young Palestinians. I think an Intifada at this time would be counterproductive for us because we are not ready for it yet.

“We need to plan better for a bigger and much more organised Intifada that will result in kicking the Israeli army out from our country once and for all. But the current Palestinian leadership is not the proper conduit for that to take place. I think new, younger leaders will have to emerge and lead the Palestinians out of this quagmire with Israel.”

Mariam Hamarsheh, 25

From Jenin, Mariam is a recent law school graduate from al-Najah University.

[Photo courtesy of Mariam Hamarsheh]
[Photo courtesy of Mariam Hamarsheh]

“For us Palestinians, we know that Israel is our enemy which humiliates us on a daily basis, but what I think is even more humiliating is the total subjugation of the Palestinian Authority to Israel.

“The reason young Palestinians are protesting on the streets and getting killed by Israel is because they are under so much pressure and have reached the point that they have nothing else to lose.

“This is why I support a third Intifada because we must get out of this situation – even if it costs us everything.”

Tamara Habaybeh, 23

From Nablus, Tamara is a recent graduate from al-Najah University’s media school.

[Photo courtesy of Tamara Habaybeh]
[Photo courtesy of Tamara Habaybeh]

“I don’t think that what’s happening today in Palestine is an Intifada per se, but rather a ‘rising up’. This is due to the fact that people, especially young people, have reached the point of being suffocated, politically and economically. People feel the need to vent their frustrations with the lack of hope for a better future.

“Although I don’t support a third Intifada because of the lopsided balance of power between us and Israel, I do believe that we will remain in a state of conflict with the Jews in Palestine until the end of days. That said, however, I have no problem with the idea of peace with Israel, but I do not think they want peace with us. Israelis don’t want peace. All their talk about peace is just one big game they play.”

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @clearaliyounes

Source: Al Jazeera