I was walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, along the Via Dolorosa as it happens and as I came around a corner there were three Palestinian youths, lined up against the wall and two Israeli Soldiers confronting them. I have no idea how the incident began but I stopped to see what was happening and made it clear that I was watching. The soldiers checked their I.D. and spoke to them for a while – before taking them away to question them further. It’s not an uncommon sight, and for each incident I don’t of course know the details of how the incident began or what had happened. Often though it seems to begin just with soldiers confronting particular young people. However the incident did remind me of the plight of young Palestinians in Jerusalem, they go out in the morning and can find that their day is totally turned upside down by just such an encounter.
In Bethlehem you don’t see incidents like this. As most of Bethlehem is area “A” under Palestinian control there are no Israeli soldiers on the streets, but you do get “snatches” when an armoured landrover or two suddenly comes out from behind the wall – isolates a young person and then bundles them into the vehicle. Then there are also the night raids, where Israeli soldiers call at a Palestinian home in the middle of the night and arrest a young person taking them away for questioning. Some are then charged, others detained without charge and still others released. Being released can be the worst for young Palestinians as it is sometimes taken by others that it means they the young person has provided useful information to the authorities, they can be branded as informers.
In Gaza its different again. There are still some Israeli raids into Gaza but they are unusual compared to the West Bank, but as the demonstrations over the last little while in the area close to the border wall have illustrated – young people in Gaza too face their dangers. The numbers killed and injured over the last two weeks are shocking. Clearly some Gaza youth get recruited into the military wing of Hamas, and then face other dangers again.
Whether from East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza, young Palestinians face many difficulties in everyday life. Is it to wonder that some of them turn to violence? It doesn’t justify it, and I don’t condone it however it does in part explain it.