Pales­tinian youth see lit­tle hope in up­com­ing sum­mit

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY BEN LYNFIELD

IN THE town of Anata, bor­der­ing Jerusalem in the Judean desert hills, Pales­tinian youths can sum­mon scant en­thu­si­asm for the up­com­ing Mid­dle East peace con­fer­ence in An­napo­lis, Mary­land.

“We are like birds in a cage,” says Ah­mad Dawahik, 19, who was re­leased from prison eight months ago.

What is tak­ing place around their home town does not in­spire faith in Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’s dec­la­ra­tions that Pales­tini­ans may be on the brink of a his­toric op­por­tu­nity to gain in­de­pen­dence.

In a val­ley be­neath the town, Is­rael is com­plet­ing a con­tro­ver­sial high­way with a five-me­tre-high wall in the mid­dle to sep­a­rate Is­raeli and Pales­tinian traffic, with the lat­ter hav­ing no ex­its to Jerusalem. There are also plans to ex­pand the nearby Alon set­tle­ment on land ex­pro­pri­ated from Anata res­i­dents.

The grey con­crete sep­a­ra­tion bar­rier, which Is­rael says is es­sen­tial to thwart sui­cide bomb­ings, al­ready sep­a­rates most of the town’s res­i­dents from Jerusalem, once their em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic main­stay.

Mr Dawahik is wor­ried about where his fam­ily’s next meal is com­ing from. “We have no liveli­hood, no work, no noth­ing,” says the teenager, who was jailed for eight months for throw­ing stones at sol­diers.

He claims the sol­diers were fir­ing tear gas to­wards school­child­ren. “They were shoot­ing tear gas at small chil­dren. We can bear tear gas, but the small chil­dren can­not.”

The court also handed his fa­ther a NIS 10,000 (£1,250) fine.

Mr Dawahik’s 13-year-old brother Muawiya was killed in 2000 while throw­ing stones at Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces at the Al-Aksa mosque on Jerusalem’s Tem­ple Mount at the start of the sec­ond in­tifada.

“He was shot in the chest and died on the spot,” he said.

But hav­ing what Pales­tini­ans view as a mar­tyr in the fam­ily does not put bread on the ta­ble. His fa­ther is dis­abled and he has four younger sis­ters. When he does get a day’s work, the pay is only NIS 40 (£5) for 12 hours of lift­ing ce­ment blocks, he says.

“I am re­spon­si­ble for my fam­ily but there is no chance to sup­port them,” he says. He ap­plied for a per­mit to be able to work in Is­rael, but was re­fused be­cause of his con­vic­tion for stonethrow­ing, he says.

“Whether it is An­napo­lis or any­thing else, there is no chance to lift the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tinian peo­ple,” Mr Dawahik says.

“Amer­ica and Is­rael are broth­ers so there will be pos­i­tive things for Is­rael but there will be noth­ing to ad­vance Pales­tinian in­ter­ests. It would be bet­ter if Abu Mazen [Mr Ab­bas] does not go to this meet­ing,” he adds.

Mr Dawahik’s friend, Ihab Shawamre, 18, man­ager of a lo­cal rap group, dis­agrees.

“I have a lit­tle bit of hope for this meet­ing, God will­ing it will im­prove things. There is a small chance that Abu Mazen can do some­thing,” says Mr Shawamre. His brother Ni­dal’s house has been de­mol­ished re­peat­edly by the Is­raeli army for be­ing built with­out a per­mit — and re­built re­peat­edly with the help of the Is­rael Com­mit­tee Against Home De­mo­li­tions.

A fresh de­mo­li­tion or­der was is­sued two weeks ago, Mr Shawamre says. Asked what ba­sis he has for his hopes, Mr Shawamre re­sponds: “I am an op­ti­mist by na­ture.”

PHOTO: BEN LYNFIELD

Dawahik ( left) and Shawamre on the rub­ble of Shawamre’s brother’s house

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