A still-undefined, embryonic group of a few hundred across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the activists made their mark by organizing protests that peaked in March. Demanding unity between the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, the demonstrations reflected disenchantment with both parties. The result was a reconciliation accord between the factions a few weeks later, although steps to carry out the pact have stalled.
To Ziada and her cohorts, the Palestinian Authority’s bid for recognition of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with its capital in East Jerusalem, is a shriveled vision of what Palestinians at home and in the diaspora deserve. Although the main struggle, for Ziada, is against Israeli occupation, she also opposes what she views as the limited political horizons of the Palestinian leadership.
“We have to start a revolution,” she said, “so people can take their freedom in their hands. If the Palestinian Authority will not stand in the way, we don’t have a problem with them. But we can’t settle for the current situation.”
An alternative to statehood
Abbas’s government in the West Bank was eclipsed recently by Hamas, after it struck a deal with Israel for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for Sgt. 1st Class Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held captive in Gaza for more than five years. The deal brought concessions from Israel that peace talks pursued by Abbas had failed to secure, bolstering Hamas’s claim that only armed action yields results.
More broadly, Abbas’s vision of negotiating the creation of a Palestinian state in areas occupied by Israel in 1967 is seen by Ziada and other youth activists as inadequate. They talk about human and civil rights, not territory, as the basis for their struggle.
“I don’t care so much about land as about gaining my own basic rights,” said Ziada, whose first name means freedom.
She and other activists envision a campaign similar to the American civil rights movement and the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Their vision extends to Palestinian refugees in neighboring Arab countries and Israeli Arabs.
In the activists’ study sessions and discussions, the concept of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip competes with an alternative goal: one state that would also include the area of Israel, with equal rights for Jews and Arabs, and Palestinian refugees allowed to return.