Are Youth the Key to Palestinian Peace?

By Masoud Kafah

While the peace process between Israel and Palestine is often conducted at a state level, some groups are working with youth at a grassroots level to build peace.

Forward Thinking runs forums in conflict zones to promote a more inclusive peace process, and held forums in Gaza recently.

"Forward Thinking essentially deals with mediation, and promoting political dialogue, with the view of trying to resolve differences," said Forward Thinking co-founder and director Oliver McTernan.

"Our principles are not to visit a country, or get engaged in a country, unless we are invited to do so,” he said, “and then once we are invited to do so by credible partners in any country then our goal would be to let those partners set the agenda for the discussion."

The mediator’s sessions in Gaza focused on the role of youth in peacebuilding. More than half of the Palestinian population is under 24 years old, but youth often feel politically marginalized.

"Youth are the biggest category that suffers from the years of division," said Mamoun Swidan, Palestinian Authority Presidential Adviser for Youth.

"They have a lot of issues and worries, dreams and ambitions,” he said. “The focus should be on youth."

"It discussed lots of issues; such as youth, employment, parties, and political participation," said Amani Al Faleet, Islamic University of Gaza student.

"It also discussed important points about how we - Palestinians - could consolidate peace and reconciliation between parties."

"It was quite good to discuss different opinions and issues that people may feel ashamed to discuss in the Gaza Strip," said Tahani Abu Dagga, Former Palestinian Culture Minister.

There is hope that a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians can revitalize the peace process.

"This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination..." - Robert F. Kennedy

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