December 2013 echoed with the wailing of women, as they mourned the killing of 15 year old Wajih al-Ramahi by Israeli forces in Jalazon refugee camp. His young face, lifeless and underground, was printed on posters as young children decorated the narrow alleyways with them.
Wajih’s family weeped while some of the younger women sat wide-eyed, retreating into the distant world of their imaginations. As women gathered to give condolences to the family, one elderly woman whimpered “why don’t [the Israelis] just kill us all.”
Her old body shrivelled underneath a black dress, she threw her palms onto her knees, “let them just gather us and kill us all. This slow death is unbearable, it’s unmerciful.”
This is a common story as Israeli forces and settlers killed 38 Palestinians in 2013 alone, including the two year old Hala Sbeikha from Gaza. Since 1948, thousands of other Palestinians were killed by Israel, the remnants of the mass graves are still being discovered decades later.
This year marks 69 years since Israel officially colonised this land, and fifty years of occupying the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights—but the story is the same every year. The difference is that the land annexation, arrests, and discriminatory laws keep increasing. We tirelessly – and hopelessly – arm ourselves with these facts in an attempt to divulge the harrowing reality of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and the mutilation of the consciousness of coming generations.
“Kill us all” is exactly what Israel has been doing. Slowly and gradually it is eradicating an entire population and replacing it with another, all under the myth of “a land without a people, for a people without a land.”
The war of 1967 was another step in the Israeli endeavour to build Eretz Israel (from the Nile to the Euphrates).
The “Naksa”, meaning setback, in 1967 and the years to follow did not only give Israel an opportunity to pursue its dream of greater Israel, but also catalysed the Palestinian national movement.
Since 1967, more than 20% of the indigenous Palestinian population has been detained by Israel. In that same time period, thousands more have been killed, settlements increased, an apartheid wall built, natural resources stolen, and an elaborate labyrinthine system of restrictions on movement and expression have been enforced.
The older generation witnessed this increase of violations and incessantly tried to confront it in the first intifada, the second, and in between – there was never rest. There was always some form of mobilisation. This confrontation, we learn from an early age, is the sine qua non of survival under an oppressive power. It is this constant necessity to fight, especially after a huge defeat in 1967, that resulted in the grave fatigue of an entire population.
It is understandable that after 1967 the older generation aimed to push for a two state solution. What little they had, they wanted to preserve, water, and allow to bloom. But even the most resilient of flowers cannot flourish in a dark box. The diplomatic compromise was a reflection of optimism soaked in defeatism, especially after the complete takeover of the West Bank and Gaza – it comes from the fear of returning to the traumatic days where tanks and soldiers were at every corner.
Today’s generation, in contrast to the older generation, was born into a fully mutilated Palestine. One that is broken into small bantustans, and an ID system that divides us into small categories; the Jerusalemite, Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, West Banker, Gazan, and refugees in exile carrying a kaleidoscope of nationalities, or none at all as is the case for refugees in Lebanon.
For us, the image of the occupation is no longer the army that is raiding homes and killing Palestinians in mass graves, as it once was. It is an image of theft, not of land but of the aspirations of Palestinians as it horrifyingly capitalises on the fear and grief of Jewish history.
It is the abuser that efficiently utilises the aid of greedy and power hungry leadership to create a proxy power such as the Palestinian Authority, and uses Hamas as a tool to deflect from its own crimes against humanity. All the while the hope to live a dignified life continues to slip through the cracks of colonialism.
Similarly, the image of the Palestinian has transformed. Once the dispossessed refugee and spectator to tragedy, it mobilised into the empowered and active freedom fighter. Changing once more with the Kafkaesque interference of the international community, the diplomatic Palestinian was created. One that has learned to address the international community in the language of human rights and UN resolutions.
This was the chapter where we believed there was active movement towards Palestinian ambition, but as conferences and accords proved, we were actually reduced to idle commentators as the ball rolled for Israel’s benefit. Finally, we have a generation of cynical and disenchanted youth that are still trying to shed themselves of the mistakes committed by the older generation.
The reality we live in, as youth, is an inherited burden of occupation coupled with the political heirlooms from our parents and grandparents of the days before the state of Israel, or the days of active freedom fighters since 1967.
Our imagination for liberation and dignity, as youth, is a borrowed image from our elders' brief tales of the little splendour they witnessed. The sad fact is that there is no return to the days that the older generation speaks of. Our venture is to reimagine a new path to liberation, as we continue to be dragged between the political chaos that is forced on us and the new face of our reality.
Between the increase of Israeli violations and the complacency of the international community, youth in Palestine must also account for a growing police state in the form of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – and Hamas in Gaza – coupled with the factional rivalries and a lack of representation for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and the diaspora.
The obstacles of security coordination birthed by Oslo, Israeli impunity and international silence also hinder the prospects of achieving real change and justice in the region. It is this memory of trauma and failure that is imprinted in our consciousness –which Israel ensures we never forget. The current Palestinian psyche is informed by the collective trauma of the past and the heavy consequences of occupation faced everyday.
Younger generations are trying to reconcile that we have been born into the betrayal of farcical conferences and abusive leadership, while attempting to fathom that this horror does not have to be permanent. The older generation’s exhaustion and collective trauma has led to a series of compromises that have created greater challenges for younger generations to confront.
The Nakba and the Naksa helped formulate the political approach of the older generation, but it is the perpetual presence of the occupation in its current form, that has influenced and will configure the upcoming political aspirations of Palestinians.
What the future hides is an implosion of dreams for liberty and change. Whether it will work for the benefit of justice and peace is entirely up to those who continue to be complicit in oppression. Israel, does not fight alone, it cannot and is not capable of, fighting alone. Its entire backbone is the support and nourishment of the global community in their silence, aid, and positive reinforcement of Israel’s mythical right to defend itself against the people it is trying to eradicate.
What Palestinian youth is attempting to channel in civil disobedience, grassroots efforts or even in the lone wolf attacks, is that our search for catharsis will come not through efforts that serve to make this a quiet occupation, rather to address it in its true form: a grave disgrace for universal justice.
It is time to forego the patterns of previous efforts, and to truly listen and oblige to Palestinian demands. If the voices of the youth continue to be pushed behind the web of the older generation’s experience and vision, Israel will indeed “kill us all.”
The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.