On Wednesday, 29 March, the Mirail Struggle Committee invited the Collectif Palestine Vaincra to lead a discussion and presentation at the University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès in Toulouse, France about the resistance of Palestinian youth, historically and at present. This marks the third time that Palestine solidarity events have been organized as part of the student mobilization against the Macron government’s anti-worker “pension reforms.” This speaks to a growing interest in international solidarity and anti-imperialism among the social movement. Last week, the Collectif organized a screening of “Fedayin: Georges Abdallah’s Fight,” reviewing the history and struggle of the Lebanese Arab communist activist imprisoned in France since 1984.
The Collectif — a member organization of the Samidoun Network — began its intervention by recalling that Palestine is facing settler colonialism supported by Western imperialist powers. Resisting the Israeli occupation is a legitimate right and must be defended as an anti-colonial principle. As scholar Bikrum Gill points out, delegitimizing the Palestinian people’s methods of resistance is “premised upon re-inscribing Palestinians as inherently non-sovereign beings who can only be recognized as disempowered dependent objects to be acted upon, either by Israeli colonial violence, or white imperial protectors.” The presentation also highlighted that resistance, including armed resistance, is a right upheld by Resolution A / RES / 37/43 of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1982. At the same time, in the United States, Canada and the European Union, the Palestinian resistance and its supporters continue to confront repression and criminalization. In particular, the lists of “terrorist” organizations scandalously equate most of the Palestinian political parties with groups such as Al Qaeda or Daesh and aim to isolate them from international solidarity.
The presentation next underlined the central role of the Palestinian youth within the resistance since the beginning of Zionist colonization. Historically, students have played an important role, for example through the development of the GUPS (General Union of Palestinian Students) in the 1970s. In the article The Palestinian student movement and the dialectic of Palestinian liberation and class struggle, academics Lena Meari and Rula Abu Duhou recall that GUPS’ primary role was “preparing Arab youth for national liberation, and mobilising Palestinian students to engage in it. GUPS became the incubator and producer of political and military leaders and cadres for the Palestinian revolution. This was reflected in the vital role GUPS members played in confronting the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when GUPS called on its student members to take part in the battle, and thousands of its members moved to Lebanon and resisted the invasion.”
Today’s Palestinian youth were born after the Oslo Accords of 1993, the accords that aimed to endorse the theft of the majority of Palestine and created the Palestinian Authority, a corrupt puppet entity based on its maintenance of “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation. Thirty years later, the situation has never been so catastrophic for the Palestinian people, with an increasing level of dispossession and colonial violence. 30 years after Oslo, the new generation massively rejects the illusions embodied by this so-called “peace process” – in reality a process that aims to enforce the surrender of the Palestinian people in the face of the occupation. This mass rejection is exemplified in the emergence of today’s resistance trends among Palestinian youth.
In the spaces of mobilization and organization of Palestinian youth inside occupied Palestine, Birzeit University plays a special role. Located in the West Bank of occupied Palestine, it is a major Palestinian campus and an important place of politicization with the presence of student organizations representing the entire Palestinian political spectrum. Faced with this reality, the Israeli occupation routinely and violently suppresses the students. In particular, the Israeli occupation criminalizes student organizations by designating them as terrorist or illegal. For example, the leftist student organization, the Progressive Democratic Student Pole, was listed as an “illegal organization” in 2020. This means that even participating in a meeting, rally or a dabkeh dance can be used as a pretext for arrest or imprisonment. Every year, hundreds of students are arrested by the occupation forces, sometimes within the campus itself. Today, more than 80 students from Birzeit University are imprisoned, often in administrative detention; that is, without charge or trial for up to six months at a time, indefinitely renewable — at times for years on end. The Collectif highlighted the #FreePalestinianStudents campaign which brings together more than 300 organizations around the world to build international solidarity with the Palestinian student movement and demands the release of all unjustly imprisoned Palestinian students.
The Collectif further highlighted the evolution of the political situation in occupied Palestine with a significant numerical increase in resistance actions over the past year. They are the fruit of organizations of young Palestinians not linked to traditional political parties or bridging factional lines, who are fed up with the situation and want to resist colonial violence, for example the Lions’ Den in Nablus. As Palestinian researcher Abu-Jildeh points out, “the newly formed group represents a new generation of young Palestinians who are fed up with colonialism and its Palestinian collaborators. It is a non-hierarchical and non-partisan group. The rise of these groups does not only demonstrate the dissatisfaction with the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of the various political parties but also a move toward reigniting the sense of Palestinian unity and state of resistance experienced during the events of May 2021.”
Faced with the emergence of these new resistance forces, the occupation forces have murdered more than 90 Palestinians this year in an effort to suppress this growing phenomenon. Despite the massacres and the exacerbation of colonial violence, this reflects a flagrant security failure. On the contrary, there is massive support from the population for these different groups. 68% of Palestinians support the formation of such groups, such as the Lions’ Den, and 87% believe the PA has no right to arrest their members, according to the Palestinian Center for Survey and Policy Research in March 2023. On many occasions, we could observe this phenomenon of mass support which is called Al Hadena al Sha’bya – the popular incubator or cradle, that is to say the deep cohesion and unity between the Palestinian people and their resistance. “When the Palestinian Authority calls for people to come out into the streets, no one goes…When 18-year-old young men called for people to come out into the streets at 1:30 a.m., the whole country came out in the streets, ” said Samidoun‘s coordinator in Palestine .
The Collectf also emphasized that Palestinian youth are not only mobilizing inside occupied Palestine. Because of Zionist colonization and its consequences, millions of Palestinians today live in refugee camps in neighboring countries and also in exile, including a growing number in Europe. The youth in the diaspora plays an important role in building this popular support for the resistance, and acting in defense of their right of return. For example, the March for the Return and Liberation of Palestine organized last October in Brussels by the Masar Badil movement is one of the most important street expressions of this international popular incubator of the resistance.
The conference concluded with emphasizing the responsibility of internationals, particularly in the imperial core, to build a movement of solidarity with the youth and all the Palestinian people who are fighting for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea. In particular, we must mobilize against all forms of cooperation between France and Israel, like the twinning of Toulouse with Tel Aviv. We must not only refuse and reject the Zionist crimes carried out in our name, but we must also affirm that international solidarity is mutual aid in a common struggle, fundamentally anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist.