Palestine: A grassroots petition calls for reconciliation
June 7, 2013
In an innovative effort to end the internal division that is devastating Palestinian society, a mass petition calling for reconciliation was delivered to Fatah and Hamas leadership in April. The petition was launched by ex-detainee and youth groups called ‘Palestine Above All,’ with the support of Mustakbalna, Interpeace’s programme in Palestine. 9,195 signatures were collected from all sectors of Palestinian society, conveying the people’s demand for an urgent implementation of national reconciliation under the slogan: ‘Occupation and division are two sides of the same coin.’
A need for trust and unity
Since the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, tensions steadily built up between the two major political forces, Fatah and Hamas, which have been unable to uphold a unity government. The internal division has caused serious a deterioration of the political, social, economic and cultural situation in Palestine. The Palestinian people are the main victims of this political deadlock and the broad range of signatories to the petition as well as the large and enthusiastic coverage of its delivery in the local media reflect the strong will among the population to achieve unity and to call on political leadership for an urgent implementation of a national reconciliation.
Emerging grassroots activism
Mustakbalna, which means ‘Our Future’ in Arabic, has been working to build trust and enable dialogue between the dominant political parties Fatah and Hamas. Mustakbalna’s advocacy work is carried out through working groups of key-actors of Palestinian society, namely ex-detainees and youth. The petition comes as a welcome sign of the emergence of grassroots activism in favour of reconciliation among the political leadership.
A broad support
Among the 9,195 signatures which were delivered simultaneously to the Presidency Office in the West Bank and to the Prime Minister’s Office in Gaza are those of Members of Parliament, representatives of all political parties and of civil society, as well as youth, ex-detainees and various activists from all Palestinian governorates, both in Gaza and the West Bank along with support from the diaspora. Mustakbalna considers this a major step towards actions that are driven by the people in attempt to change the current split into reconciliation and unity.
Strengthening the culture of dialogue
Addressing political demands to the authorities in the form of a petition is indeed an innovative procedure in the Palestinian context. In view of Mustakbalna’s long-term objectives, it is a landmark event on the path to strengthening the culture of dialogue within Palestine and developing a common vision for the future. That is why youth and ex-detainees constitute particularly important groups, not just because they make up a sizable portion of the population, but because they are the positive agents of change – today and tomorrow.
Ex-detainees are a key pressure group that transcends political affiliation and is highly respected in Palestinian society. It is also very encouraging to see young people contribute to carrying through initiatives such as this petition, as they are potential future leaders and decision-makers.