Aftermath of car ramming attack on checkpoint in the West Bank

With no future back home, Palestinian youths turn to terror

Analysis: Frustrated, resentful and oppressed by the system, young Palestinians try to find some escapism on social media, where terror groups seek to recruit them; 'these are not nationalist attacks but attacks by those who have reached a dead-end in their lives,' says senior Palestinian official

Elior Levy |
Published: 12.06.21, 17:57
The recent wave of terror attacks naturally makes people think back to the wave of attacks back in 2015-2016.
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  • That wave, dubbed by some the "Intifada of the Individuals", saw mainly young Palestinians who, for a variety of reasons, decided that death is preferable to life and went out to die in a terror attack.
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    זירת הפיגוע
    זירת הפיגוע
    Aftermath of car ramming attack on checkpoint in the West Bank
    (Photo: Defense Ministry)
    Just as then, the recent attacks are perpetrated mostly by young men with no serious security background who set out to a not-so-complicated attack, making it more difficult for Israeli authorities to find them ahead of time.
    This analogy is not only examined by Israel, but also by the Palestinian Authority.
    The current state of affairs could just be written off as one attack inspiring the other. While this is a very simplistic explanation, it is part of the bigger picture.
    The only way to understand why a young Palestinian would decide to wake up one day and commit a terror attack is to examine the situation through his eyes and try to analyze his point of view.
    The objective of this article is not to justify the acts of these young terrorists, but to try to understand what is behind their radical decision to do so.
    This can be likened to a pair of pliers tightening their grip on Palestinian youths from two directions — Israel on one hand and the Palestinian Authority on the other.
    Let's start with the latter.
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    Palestinians walk in front of a currency exchange counter in the West Bank city of Ramallah
    Palestinians walk in front of a currency exchange counter in the West Bank city of Ramallah
    Palestinians walk in front of a currency exchange counter in the West Bank city of Ramallah
    (Photo: AFP)
    The average Palestinian youth has no financial security when he enters adulthood. One in four Palestinians with an academic degree is unemployed. The vast majority of young people who are employed (73%) work in an unorganized workplace where they are not entitled to social rights.
    Living in such great financial uncertainty does not help their mental stability and peace of mind. Imagine what would have happened in Israel, if this was the reality Israeli youths were thrust into upon finishing school.
    Those young people also suffer from political oppression. The Palestinian Authority has a very clear political glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching leadership roles. Do a little experiment with yourself and try to find the name of a prominent Palestinian leader in his 40s, go further and try to find one in his 30s. Even if you put in a lot of effort - you will not find one. This oppression leads to deep frustration among young people.
    In the absence of future prospects, these young people try to find some escapism on social media, where inciteful content by terror groups such as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad awaits them.
    The incitement, by the way, does not only target Israel but also the Palestinian Authority.
    The vast majority of youths will get upset and go on with their lives, but these terror organizations do not need to work too hard to find a few dozen hot-tempered youths to lead into utter despair and the decision to end their miserable lives with the highest rank they could achieve - a martyr.
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    Members of the Hamas military wing in Raffah in 2017
    Members of the Hamas military wing in Raffah in 2017
    Members of Hamas' military wing in Rafah in 2017
    (Photo: AFP)
    Throughout their lives, they imagine their posters plastered everywhere and the respect they will get, but only in death.
    "Your perception of the recent attacks is wrong," said a senior Palestinian official who is well acquainted with the world of security coordination.
    "These are not nationalist attacks but attacks by people who have reached a dead-end in their lives." The same official claimed that Israel also played a significant role in their decision.
    According to him, Israel must reach a situation that even in the absence of a peace process, it must make the Palestinians live with a sense of "minimal occupation".
    "90% of the arrests you make in Area A (West Bank areas under full military and political Palestinian Authority control) are young people who you could have called and summoned for questioning," he said. "Every entry of dozens of military jeeps angers these young people and they go out to confront them and for what? Just so you can release them after 3-4 months? Call them up for questioning, they'll get scared and show up on their own."
    The same official admitted that there are cases in which people are known to be plotting a large-scale terror attack and only their arrest can prevent this, but he said that IDF forces should only enter Area A in such cases.
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    פלסטינים מיידים אבנים על רכבי צה
    פלסטינים מיידים אבנים על רכבי צה
    Palestinians confronting IDF soldiers in Hebron
    (Photo: EPA)
    "I'm talking about cases which you can call 'ticking bombs,'" he said. He noted that these youths' anger grows when they see the IDF entering Area A aggressively and at the same time, Palestinian security forces rescuing Israeli civilians who enter the same region, just as happened last week when two Israelis were mobbed after accidentally driving into the middle of Ramallah.
    The official added that Israel needs to ease the Palestinian Authority's financial woes immediately by granting Palestinians additional work permits in Israel, arguing that this is the only way people can reach financial security — they want to keep it and make sure their families live peacefully and without security issues.
    In general, this approach, according to which financial welfare reduces the motivation to carry out terrorist attacks, is accepted within Israel's defense establishment, but it alone cannot resolve this issue.
    The Palestinian Authority also bears great responsibility for the population that is under its domain and must be the first to take action to improve their lives.
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