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Palestinian Demonstrators Launch Peaceful Call for Unity

  • Luis Ramirez

The wave of protests sweeping much of the Arab world has now reached the Palestinian territories. But in the West Bank town of Ramallah, some protesters are choosing a different, nonviolent approach.

These protests are similar to those elsewhere in the Arab world. Except these protesters are not out to topple their leaders.

"I want to achieve freedom, justice for Palestinian people," said Najwan Berekdar, who is among the young activists organizing the demonstrations in Ramallah.

The protesters want an end to the division between the Fatah faction that runs the West Bank and the militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.

A divided leadership, the demonstrators believe, is hurting the chances of ending the Israeli occupation.

"Everything is now possible," said Palestinian newspaper columnist Muhannad Abdel Hamid. "This is the era of revolutions and in this era, the youth can change all the formulas that we thought would never change."

Instead of the bombing campaigns of the past, activists are using Facebook and other social media to attract those who otherwise might not be interested in uprisings.

Berekdar says social media have given Palestinian youth an alternative to violence. In the face of Israel's military might, she believes this could be more powerful.

"We have seen through our history that armed struggle did not really achieve anything so far," she said.

Demonstrations also have taken place in Gaza.

The Hamas leadership, however, is split between those who feel threatened by the prospect of sharing power with the moderate Fatah leaders, and those who see an opportunity to gain ground in the West Bank.

Israel does not welcome the prospect of a Palestinian unity government that includes the Iranian-backed Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Activist Najwan Berekdar wants elections in which all factions can participate.

"It's not the system that we want to fall, it's Israel," she said. "It's going to take a bit of time. We're not going to fight against our own people."