Palestine Has a New Generation of Pissed Off Kids
"Fuck Israel. Fuck Hamas. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA!"
These are the opening words to Gaza Youth Breaks Out's manifesto. More than half of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million population is under 18, and some are beginning to get a bit pissed off about the deal they're getting (as you can tell). GYBO activist Abu Yazan is part of the new wave of disgruntled Palestinians who feel let down by the efforts of their dissident representatives in the region—organizations like Hamas and Fatah. Essentially Abu Yazan and his young comrades feel like the two parties spend too long squabbling amongst themselves over political power and not enough time sticking it to Israel.
Involved with stirring up several of the major protests in Palestine this year, he was most recently arrested and held by Hamas in August. He tends to strive for a low profile, fleeing across the nearest border every so often when things get a bit testy, but he was kind enough to have a quick chat about the big, shitty mess Gaza's youth are currently wading through.
VICE: Hi Abu Yazan. Thanks for talking to us. How are you?
Abu Yazan: I'm currently in Egypt. I've been really busy. I haven't slept in four days.
What have you been busy with?
Well, we've been on a public hunger strike recently because there are Palestinians who have been in prison in Israel for over 30 years. The least we could do is show them some support and raise awareness. Israel is breaking international law by keeping these people behind bars for no reason, other than the fact that they’re Palestinian. They've been portraying them as terrorists, but the truth is so different.
You've been jailed before, most recently by Hamas. Do you not feel represented by Hamas or Fatah?
Well, Hamas and Fatah are totally corrupt. They were created to serve Palestine, but now it's totally different. All they look for is power and money, however, their history means they are still popular. If we take to the streets and ask for the end of Hamas then the alternative is Fatah, which is not a good choice.
An image from the Gaza Youth Breaks Out blog
Do you worry about your own safety when you speak out?
My safety is the last thing I think of, I have been arrested many times and I don’t care if I get arrested again when I go back to Gaza. When I get arrested it means that I am doing the right thing and I am scaring them.
How did Gaza Youth Breaks Out start?
GYBO is a youth movement created at the end of 2010. It was originally just five boys and three girls, but there are more of us now. Out of our own frustration we had to do something to change the situation imposed upon us. We published a manifesto that vented our anger with all Palestinian factions and Israel.
What sort of backgrounds do you have?
We’re all students. Most of us speak languages other than Arabic. We decided to break the wall of silence and to say whatever we want without taking into consideration the risk or the punishment that's waiting for us.
Protesters at the 15th March demonstrations
What happened after you published your manifesto?
We were the group that started the March 15th revolution in Gaza. Our goal is to end the division between other groups in Occupied Palestine—we have succeeded to some extent.
You mentioned that Palestinian prisoners get a bad rap.
All the news the world gets is unreliable and follows some agenda, so we’re going to create a new media center to tell the truth about life in Gaza. We’re also talking to revolutionaries in Egypt—studying for future plans for Palestine.
So you're attempting to coordinate with countries involved in the Arab Uprising, then?
Our main thing is to spread the word, but we're also talking to people in Libya to see what they think could be done to free Palestine.
OK. What is your opinion of the Israeli government right now?
A government that kills people on a daily basis and builds settlements whilst refusing all peace initiatives is a terrorist government. I have no hope if Netanyahu remains in power.
What about the people of Israel?
I think the people of Israel need to be more frank with their votes for peace. Whoever they've elected so far has shown they are against any peace.
What makes you most angry about your situation?
Everything. Factions that we voted for but never did what we wanted, the Israelis who are killing us every day, people who are refusing to speak out because of fear... One day people will step up and say no to everyone.
Will that be soon?
More people are waking up every day. I think the change is coming soon and success is guaranteed, it's just a matter of time.