Thursday, June 23, 2011

Palestinian youth and the healing arts

Youth in Gaza and Jenin break out in artistic resistance that threatens Israel's master narrative.

Mark LeVine

"....The spring of Arab revolutions

If the openness and intellectual maturity of 20-year old actors from the Jenin refugee camp is inspiring, the resilience and audacity of their peers in Gaza borders on astonishing. Even regular viewers of Al-Jazeera would have a hard time understanding the levels of destruction Gazans have lived with for at least a decade. Returning after a several years absence, I felt like I'd stumbled into a giant archaeological dig, only above ground. Each new layer of rubble has added its sad archive to the one below it.

Yet perhaps even more than in Jenin and other West Bank cities, young people in Gaza are erupting in the kind of creative resistance that threatens not just Israel's master narrative of the occupation, but Hamas's violent hold on the Strip as well.

There is a saying making its way around Palestinian circles: "The Palestinian winter gave birth to the Arab spring." For me, the first hint of that spring occurred when a new movement, "Gaza Youth Breaks Out," put out their now (in)famous manifesto in December of 2010, right around the time the protests in Tunisia erupted. As I explained in my column devoted to GYBO, the manifesto began with a scream: ""F*** Hamas. F*** Israel. F*** Fatah. F*** UN. F*** UNWRA. F*** USA!" (the verb is spelled out, and was written originally in English because the Arabic equivalent does not have anything close to the power and anger of the English word). It ends by declaring "We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of these feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore."

From Juliano to Vittorio

The GYBO manifesto was, to my mind, the first salvo in a generational war for independence that pushed its way into world consciousness with the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt. An act of extreme will by young people who have nothing left to lose, its poetic metre and naked eloquence are a work of art as powerful as the theatrical ouvre of the Jenin Freedom Theatre (not surprisingly, the manifesto is widely appreciated by JFT members).....

Gazans live, in the words of GYBO founder Osama Shomar, in a double, triple occupation, or even more - thus the multiple curses of the manifesto's opening line. A female blogger and co-founder of GYBO explains it this way: "It feels like it's not even our country anymore. A policeman put a gun at my head and threatened to shoot me. I couldn't imagine, is this guy a Palestinian like me? He couldn't be Palestinian and do this."

But it's not just Hamas that is a threat to the attempts by GYBO to build a new culture of resistance and unity. Equally as dangerous is the hijacking of the youth movement by various outside forces. "We're more known, but we're getting weaker. Suddenly everyone is throwing money at us. We didn't take money from anyone when GYBO started but now NGO people with access to money and fancy meals are coming in, and once you get into that orbit and you have the ngo-ification of resistance, it's game over."...."

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