As the Arab world witnesses uprising after uprising, seeing dictators fall and others exposed one after another, the Palestinian case looks like the ultimate goal. The fate of Palestine has long suffered from its neighbors’ incapability (more or less intentional) of forming a strong block against Israel, whether through feeding the divisions inside the Palestinian political scene, or more directly by being an ally of Israel.
When in 2006 the last elections saw Hamas’ wide victory, the Palestinian Authority (PA) – backed by the USA, Israel and the EU among others – unilaterally decided to form its own government, while Hamas ruled over Gaza. A civil war between Hamas and Fatah supporters finished to settle the divisions, immediately followed by the ongoing Israeli siege on the Strip, while in the West Bank the Occupation continues to take root deeper and deeper in what is left from the Palestinian territory.
In late November, one month before Mohamed Al Bouazizi’s self immolation sparked the Revolution in Tunisia, an anonymous group called Gaza Youth Breaks Out (GYBO) emerged, yelling at the world a manifesto full of anger, throwing words at Israel, but also at their political leaders, and calling for change:
There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. […] What is our leitmotiv? Freedom. And for that, we know that we need the Palestinians and their leaders to unite against the Zionist Occupier. And that’s precisely why we call for action. Now. Not in 6 months, not in a year, not wait until another massacre strikes us.
The manifesto has immediately drawn the attention of Western media, which fueled most of pro Palestinian activists’ speeches against the GYBO group. While many accused them of giving reasons to Israel to maintain the siege on the little enclave by venting the way they did against the Palestinian political factions, some try to give a more balanced view:
@asa_wire I honestly think @GazaYBO did not realize the extent to which Hamas are covered in racist fashion in the Western media. I also think some in the Western solidarity movement are blind to the possibility that Gaza youth have legitimate complaints against Hamas.
Thrown in turmoil for lack of support from most of the activism spheres – where criticism of Palestinian factions as Hamas is almost considered as the step before collaboration – the movement resurfaced when we witnessed the first victories of the Arab revolutions.
On twitter, reactions were immediate:
@GazaYBO Mubarak is officially out and in celebration of that GYBO announces the 15th of March as the day of the revolution against division in Gaza!
Strengthened by the Palestine Papers episode that shed light on the PA's concessions – way beyond the acceptable for many Palestinians – the idea grew bigger. It then spread to the West Bank, where less organized groups joined the movement, calling the Palestinians to rally on March, 15th. A common page has been created on Facebook – initially in Arabic “الشعب يريد إنهاء الانقسام” then in English “The People want the End of Division” – that, unlike the previous move by Palestinian youth, gathered thousands of Palestinians and Arabs in a couple of weeks. Their demands made their way to Mondoweiss, which published the English translation of their call:
We call on the governments of the West Bank and Gaza to respond to the legitimate demands of the people:
1 – the release all political detainees in the prisons of the PA and Hamas
2 – the end of all forms of media campaigns against each others
3 – the resignation of the governments of Haniyeh and Fayyad to re-build a government of national unity agreed by all Palestinian factions representing the Palestinian people.
4 – the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization to contain all the Palestinian factions and get back to its initial aim: Palestine's freedom
5 – the announcement of the freeze of negotiations until the full compatibility between the various Palestinian factions on a political program
6 – the end of all forms of security coordination with the Zionist enemy
7 – the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously in the time chosen by all the factions
A first event in support of the Egyptian revolution took place in Ramallah on February, 5th, then several others followed. Thousands took the streets for one same reason; they’re not calling for the end of the regime, but they want “to bring the regime back to life, united in the Palestinian cause.”
Amira Sliman – protester: “I am here in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to see an end to the division. Because there is one nation and one people”
Palestinians chanting “The people want the end of the division”
The main political parties reacted more or less desperately; the PA called for anticipated elections in September and promised reforms and Cabinet reshuffle, Gaza government – suspecting the groups of serving foreign agendas – cracked down on any peaceful rally and confiscated personal equipments. Both keep on blaming the other for the current political split while officially claiming they are seeking reconciliation.
When asked about their motives, GYBO members replied:
In the West Bank, people are concerned with settlements and the wall. Here it's the siege. I tell people I'm from Gaza, not from Palestine, and that's very sad. We want the spirit of one people to come back.
Some go even further:
@jbaboun I'm excited to report THE end of division! It can be done. There should be elections without Fatah or Hamas or any other faction, I mean we seriously need to “refresh” everything here!
Organizers stay realistic; for the “March 15″ campaign to succeed, they need numbers and even if their demands sound legitimate, it’s a whole different story to make the political factions settle on a common program and overcome years of national divisions. One thing is sure, whether for Palestinians in the West Bank, or in Gaza, or even abroad, the recent events in the Arab world brought back a new hope in change and a collective consciousness that only unity will make them reach freedom.