Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-Mar-07
Palestinian "unity government" leading soon to new crisis with Israel

Web Log - March, 2007

Palestinian "unity government" leading soon to new crisis with Israel

As the young generation of Palestinians become increasingly "lost and desperate," and the "most radical, the most accepting of violence and the most despairing," their leadership is moving ahead with a "unity government" that will only disillusion them even more.

A widely anticipated Sunday meeting between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert ended up as being nothing more than a mutual exchange of unacceptable demands.

Abbas demanded that various roadblocks and guarded crossings in the West Bank be opened, to allow free travel. That's not going to happen because the Israelis are afraid (with justification) that freeing travel would permit more suicide bombings in Israel.

Olmert demanded that the new unity government recognize Israel and renounce violence. That's not going to happen because the Palestinians are afraid (with justification) would make a major concession to Israel with nothing in return.

The context is the aftermath of the signing of the Mecca peace agreement last month between Fatah and Hamas. This agreement, which included the first steps toward a unity government, appears to have succeeded in ending the Palestinians' civil war, at least for the time being.

The unity government has not yet been fully formed, but there is an upcoming Arab League summit meeting, planned for March 28. At that point, the Palestinians' new "unity government" will be represented at the meeting by delegates from both Hamas and Fatah. If the unity government does not recognize Israel or renounce violence -- which it almost certainly won't -- then Israel will not recognize it, and that will, I assume, trigger a major new political disagreement.

These machinations by old men from Hamas and Fatah are just the fumblings of dinosaurs from the point of view of the young, college-age generations of Palestinians. To these kids, many of whom own stashes of guns, missiles and ammunition for use against Israelis or other Palestinians, the Palestinians are wasting their time negotiating with Israel.

That's the conclusion of a New York Times survey of Palestinian youth, whom their parents call them "the lost generation of Palestine":

"They are the children of the second intifada that began in 2000, growing up in a territory riven by infighting, seared by violence, occupied by Israel, largely cut off from the world and segmented by barriers and checkpoints.

To hear these young people talk is to listen in on budding nihilism and a loss of hope."

The article emphasizes how dramatically things have changed since the 1980s and 1990s:

"While generations of young Palestinians have grown up stateless, seething at Israel as the visible agent of oppression, this generation is uniquely stymied.

Israeli checkpoints, barriers and closures, installed to protect Israelis from Palestinian suicide bombers, have lowered these young people's horizons, shrunk their notion of Palestine and taken away virtually any informal interaction with outsiders, let alone with ordinary Israelis. The security measures have become even tighter since the election to power a year ago of the Islamist group Hamas, which preaches eternal "resistance" to Israeli occupation and rejects Israel's right to permanent existence on this land."

During most of the 1980s and '90s, as many as 150,000 Palestinians came into Israel daily to work, study and shop. While they were not treated as equals, many learned Hebrew and established relationships.

Now, the only Israelis whom Palestinians see are armed - soldiers and settlers. The West Bank is cut into three parts by checkpoints; Gazan men under 30 are virtually unable to leave their tiny, poor and overcrowded territory. Few talk of peace, only of a lifetime of "resistance."

It's tempting to believe that the young Palestinians' bitterness is CAUSED by Israeli actions, and that if Israel would only mend its ways, then young Palestinians would be happy.

But Generational Dynamics tells us that that isn't true. This kind of bitterness is caused by generational changes.

You can see it in London, where young Muslims have plenty of opportunities and no checkpoints preventing them from traveling. But a Muslim cell still blew up several London subway cars in July 2005.

Putting this into a larger generational framework, this is the kind of thing that happens in a civil war fault line situation, where two identity groups (differing by religion, ethnicity, color or language, for example) occupy the same physical land. After a crisis war, in this case the 1948-49 genocidal war between Arabs and Jews, there is often a period of mutual agreement, with the objective of never having such a horrible war again. In particular, if one of the groups is dominant, then it often guarantees that the less dominant group will always have adequate food, jobs, homes, and so forth. Once again, the objective is to prevent any such war from recurring.

As the decades go by, two things happen: First, both populations grow, to the extent that the dominant group has increasing difficulty meeting its guarantee of adquate of food, jobs and homes. And second, younger generations in both groups, with no personal memories of the horrors of the crisis war, develop increasingly negative attitudes towards the other group.

What Generational Dynamics shows is that once 3 or 4 generations pass since the last crisis war, the non-dominant group is going to feel the same bitterness towards the dominant group.

You may ask, "But what about cases where two groups have a civil war, and then they don't have another civil war 3 or 4 generations later. Doesn't that disprove what you're saying?"

That in fact does sometimes happen. The American Civil War is a good example. And it's worth remembering that the American civil war was not a war between blacks and whites; it was a war between Northern people and Southern people.

The key difference is not that there are different ethnic, racial or religious groups; the most important difference is whether social status is fixed at birth.

In America, and in other free capitalist countries, a couple will accept their own poverty if they believe that their children can break free and do well. (I'm ignoring Mexican immigrants in that statement.) But in the Mideast, or in countries like China, the Phillipines or Latin America, for example, your children will be just as poor as you are, with few exceptions.

What America has done, whether by genius or by luck, is to have created a true "melting pot," where birth does not limit your future.

Even the European countries have not succeeded as well as we have. European Muslims complain bitterly that they're confined to ghettoes, restricted to inferior jobs, and consigned to poverty -- simply because they were born Muslims. By contrast, there have never been any particular limitations on American Muslims, although that changed a little after the 1980s Iranian hostage crisis, and a bit more after 9/11.

But for Palestinian youth, there is no such freedom. Generational Dynamics tells us that the Mideast is heading for a major new war between Palestinians and Jews, and that nothing can be done to stop it. (14-Mar-07) Permanent Link
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