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Young Palestinians frustrated and have no future

Two decades on from the second intifada, Palestinians who grew up in the shadow of the uprising find themselves surrounded by physical and political barriers with little hope for the future.

In Jenin refugee camp, in the north of the occupied West Bank, the walls are plastered with posters showing young Palestinian men wearing keffiyeh scarfs around their necks and clutching AK-47 assault rifles.

Whether killed by Israeli forces or jailed, their images have faded over the years.

“When I walk through the camp, I try to reconcile my memory with what I see today,” said Nidal Naghnaghyeh Turkeman, 48, who spent 17 years in prison for his role in the uprising.

Nidal fought in the ranks of the main Palestinian faction Fatah in the first intifada (1987 to 1993) which preceded a brief optimistic period when the Oslo peace accords brought ephemeral hope of a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But by the turn of the century disillusionment had set in and the second intifada broke out after right-wing Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied east Jerusalem on September 28, 2000.

The move was seen as a provocation by Palestinians and violent clashes between them and Israeli forces followed.

The second intifada lasted five years, during which Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinians and Palestinian militants launched suicide attacks inside Israel.

Israel reoccupied much of the West Bank and began building a separation barrier deep inside the West Bank, cutting off many Palestinian communities from their land.

Jenin refugee camp was caught up in the fighting and in 2002 was besieged by Israeli forces for more than a month.

Turkeman, who lost two brothers in the fighting, was jailed for his role in an attack shortly after the siege which killed six Israelis.

‘Emigration or fighting’

While reminders of the uprising can be seen on the streets of Jenin, such as a former fighter selling grapes in a wheelchair, daily life has changed significantly over the past two decades.

Israel built the West Bank security barrier – which Palestinians call the ‘apartheid wall’ – deep inside Palestinian territory, claiming it was necessary to prevent attacks. Palestinians point out that it separates them from Jerusalem and allows Israel to grab huge swathes of their land.

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In Gaza, the Islamist group Hamas took power and the impoverished and densely-populated coastal enclave has been under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007.

In December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, going against international consensus that the city’s status can only be defined as part of a peace accord. Israel illegally occupied the Palestinian eastern half of the city in 1967.

Turkeman’s twin daughters, Yara and Sara, were born just weeks before the siege of Jenin and saw little of their father growing up.

“At the start we rejected him. We couldn’t find a place for him in our hearts,” said Sara, an 18-year-old studying IT at university.

Despite having no memories of the second intifada, the twins say their father is still viewed as a hero by young Palestinians in Jenin.

“Today, we are still in the intifada, there are attacks every day, people wounded and nothing has been solved,” said Sara, her sister nodding her head in agreement.

“There is no future here, the only two options are emigration or fighting.”

(Source: The New Arab)

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