Israel and Hamas shocked by Gazan youth manifesto

By staff writers
January 2, 2011

A group of students and young people in Gaza have taken the political world by surprise with a manifesto that expresses frustration with both Israel and Hamas.

The cyber-activists behind Gaza's Youth Manifesto for Change have largely remained anonymous, though recently gave an interview to the UK's Observer newspaper.

Since the document was launched on Facebook last month, thousands of people from around the world have declared their support. The eight students who wrote the document – three women and five men – say that their lives and their families were at risk because of their involvement in the project.

More than half of Gaza's population of 1.5 million are aged under 18.

The activists declare that, “We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community”.

The document ends with three demands. “We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

It describes the repressive nature of everyday life in Gaza, which has been sealed off from the outside world by the Israeli authorities – with the assistance of the Egyptian government - since Hamas was elected to power in 2006.

"Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed," say the activists.

They add, "We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even can't think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!"

The Observer reports that two of the authors have been detained by the Gazan authorities several times, accused among other crimes of "immoral" behaviour. They say that they have been abused in jail and claim that physical and psychological punishment is commonplace in Gaza's detention centres.

Another one obtained a scholarship to attend a workshop at an American university, but he says Israel did not issue a permit that would allow him to leave the Strip.

The Israeli blockade forbids Gazans to travel in and out of the Strip without a permit, which is difficult to obtain.

Israeli shelling has become part of everyday life in Gaza. Power cuts, ruinous sanitary conditions and high unemployment are also major problems.

In the places where young men and women are allowed to meet, the police are said to be keen to challenge unmarried couples.

But according to Ihab Al Ghusain, a spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, the problems highlighted by Gaza's disaffected youth are sometimes the result of over-zealous officials, not official policy.

"There are no laws prohibiting men and women sitting together in public places in Gaza," he said, "But some policemen at their own initiative interrogate the couples. Those policemen should be punished."


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