March 15th – Who speaks for Palestinians?

This is a Guest Post by Shlomo Yosef

With the revolutions gripping the Arab world the youth of Palestine have picked March 15th the first day of Arab Spring to launch their grassroot march to end the division between Palestinians and demand their own state.

The organising committee of this demonstration comes from a diverse background and are all young passionate Palestinians. They have as their central communication structure an Arabic facebook page under the title – Night put an end to the occupation (google translate). This page at the time of writing has just under 15,000 members and gives marches instructions on banners, non violent action, how to combat tear gas and a carefully constructed list of demands:

• fully sovereign Palestinian state on the borders of the fourth of June 1967, and its capital Jerusalem

• the right of return and compensation for refugees

• the right to self-determination

• the release of all Palestinian and Arab prisoners from Israeli jails.

• compensate the Palestinians for years of occupation.

The discussion on the group is of Palestinians discussing the best way to achieve their aims – where best to protest and how to do so non violently and stopping other hijacking their agenda.

There is however another group, an English language facebook page operating under the name ‘End the Divison (One people against Zionism)’. From its title it is far more confrontational in nature and its demands are far more radical:

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

Now this English language facebook page is of course the one that has been picked up by the Guardian and has under 2,000 members. Its membership is mainly international. While there are of course many different groups who will be marching on March 15th which message the media decides to report will often determine how the protest is interpreted both within the region and in the wider international community.

I urge everyone to look at the careful messaging on the Arabic page, look at the demands and look at the slogans that people will carry on March 15th itself. The Palestinian protest is different from the others across the Arab world due to their liminal situation – listening to what the youth are actually calling for is vital in considering how to respond.

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