But others take a dimmer view of the young activists. “They have little influence on the Palestinian street, and their vision is unclear, while Fatah is a popular movement that reaches all sectors of society,” said Younis Abu Rish, a Fatah leader in the Amari refugee camp outside Ramallah.
Nonetheless, when young activists staged solidarity demonstrations to support the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, some of the gatherings were broken up by Palestinian police, signaling a nervousness that the protests could turn against the Palestinian Authority.
At a large demonstration in March demanding Fatah-Hamas reconciliation in Ramallah, scores of young men from Fatah youth organizations turned out, effectively commandeering the demonstration. Hamas did the same in the Gaza Strip, and club-wielding police later broke up a breakaway protest.
‘The right to move freely’
In a conversation at a Ramallah cafe, Ziada asserted that the Palestinian leadership’s vision could leave Palestinians with a truncated mini-state with limited sovereignty and no resolution of the refugees’ status. Quran said the restrictions under Israeli occupation could be “replaced by Palestinian oppression” in a state with an authoritarian government.
“When I have kids, I don’t want them stuck in the West Bank,” Ziada said. “I want the right to move freely. I want to go to Jerusalem, the city where I was born and to the village my family was kicked out from in 1948,” she said, referring to the displacement of Palestinians in the war that accompanied the creation of Israel.
Her family originated in the destroyed village of al-Falouja, in what is now southern Israel. Her father, a union organizer and member of a militant leftist faction during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, was arrested repeatedly and jailed for months without trial. In the second uprising, which erupted in 2000, her older brother, then a member of Fatah’s armed wing, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in a shooting attack on an Israeli settlement.
Today, Ziada says, she runs up against a wall of apathy when trying to persuade people to demonstrate against Israeli soldiers and settlers. People of her parents’ generation, she says, “are exhausted.” Many young Palestinians are alienated from established political movements and have lost faith in their own ability to bring change, according to activists.
“People are sick of politics,” Quran said.
Unlike other countries swept up in the Arab Spring, where popular demonstrations were a novelty after years of harsh repression, Palestinians have staged two uprisings and years of protests, Ziada pointed out.