Palestinian youths form one of the largest sectors of Palestinian society, a sector that is often overlooked and requires close attention when trying to solve the challenges facing it.
Broadly speaking, young Palestinians face challenges and conflicts on three fronts: "family" conflicts, "social" conflicts and "political" conflicts.
A subject that is rarely broached in Palestinian society is that of family conflicts. There are enough dysfunctional families in society for this to be an issue of serious concern and there is now also a major problem of families that have been separated, especially in the past seven years and as a result of the difficulties imposed on the movement of Palestinians within and between the Palestinian areas.
Youths from such families become victims as their insecurities at home affect behavior. It is clear that young people who suffer conflict within their families face a lack of motivation in school and at work, can become violent and generally lack confidence in themselves.
Another important challenge Palestinian youth face is the "social" conflict, pitting traditional values against modernity, fundamentalism against liberalism. With developments in technology, youths are very exposed to other cultures and traditions. These new ideas and influences often contradict, or seem to contradict, the values they have been brought up with or that they see around them. Often, young people start to make comparisons and contrasts that don't actually help them realize a transition in their thoughts. Consequently, one of two things is likely to happen: they blindly imitate another culture, leaving them alienated from their surroundings; or they totally reject any outside influence, turning away from new ideas and thoughts.
The final and greatest challenge Palestinian youths face is of course the political conflict with Israel. As in so many areas of Palestinian lives, any resolution or progress toward resolution of the many challenges facing young Palestinians will be extremely limited in the absence of a resolution to the one conflict that all Palestinians have to deal with on a daily basis and that affects so many areas of life.
The suffocating occupation affects young people in a multitude of ways, whether directly and in the short term in the form of the absence of decent employment opportunities, the inability to move freely from area to area let alone country to country, and the lack of control over their own political destinies, or in the long term, where psychological factors may inflict more damage insofar as the occupation instills a deep sense of mistrust toward authority and creates enormous anger. Witness how young people identify with the suicide bombers of the intifada. Look at the disruptions to normal life that they have to suffer on a daily basis, whether in terms of curfews, fear of simply walking the streets should a military incursion be under way or the humiliation of waiting in endless lines at checkpoints with not even a guarantee that one can cross. This anger is real, deep and will not go away overnight.
But the political conflict is evolving now to include more than just Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The growing Palestinian-Palestinian conflict, which started in Gaza, is moving slowly but surely, infiltrating other parts of the land, especially between young people because of their misinterpretation of authority and power.
Palestinian youth, like any nation's youth, plays a key role in the development of the country's culture, politics, economy and education. The PA, interested organizations and individuals should work hard to guarantee a peaceful life for active non-violent youths by building their capacities, training them on issues related to society and communication, opening their horizons to other cultures, reinforcing conflict management training courses on a community level and creating a fruitful basis to enable them to achieve their ambitions and improve their skills.- Published 30/7/2007 © bitterlemons.org