How does the future look in the eyes of Palestine’s youth?

Seminar examined prospects, outlooks of youth in Palestine, showcased film

The Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University, in cooperation with Shashat Women Cinema, held a seminar entitled “The Reality and Future of Palestinian Youth – A Case Study of Shashat Women’s Cinema’s 10thWomen’s Film Festival,” on March 26, 2018. 

The seminar, facilitated by Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies Wasim Abu Fasheh, included a screening of the documentary “What’s Tomorrow,” and a presentation of the results of a study on the reality of Palestinian youth, which was based, in part, on the tenth Shashat Women’s Film Festival. 

The results were presented across two papers. The first, by Ahmad Haneti, was entitled “Toward Youth Ownership of Youth Decision,” and the second paper, by Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies Rami Salameh, was entitled “The Pain of Realization, the Will to Speak, and the Pursuit of Change.” 

Salameh, who reviewed the critical concepts that he explored in the paper, said that a change in the status quo can only be affected by empowering the other. “Youth opinions are not general impressions, but they are the result of a deep understanding of the experienced context. They are not reflections of preexisting knowledge. They are, instead, the effect of pain, expressed existentially,” Salameh said. 

Haneti discussed the role of political parties and institutions within the Palestinian society, noting that youth affiliation has drastically decreased compared to prior years. The festival, he added, emphasized the importance of diverse cultural activity and interaction with different social segments of the society, adding that Palestinian youth must form an independent movement that is beholden to no organization or agency. 

The community-driven “What’s Tomorrow” initiative comprised two stages. The first stage included the production of four documentary films by Palestinian female directors, which were showcased in 22 cities, towns, and refugee camps during a 90-show tour. Each show was followed by a discussion facilitated by community members. 

The shows were held in cooperation with eight universities and colleges; two schools; and 14 youth, cultural, and social organizations in the West Bank and Gaza. The initiative also produced a documentary, the above-mentioned “What’s Tomorrow” film, which included excerpts and shots from discussions held at The Arab American University, the University of Gaza, the Yafa Cultural Center, and Al-Najda Association. 

Director of Shashat Women Cinema Alia Arasoughly noted that the second stage of the initiative revolved around critiquing and analyzing the discussion spurred by the four films. The study comprised over 3,000 surveys and questionnaires submitted by more than half of the 7,000 viewers. 

Yasmeen Abu Ghazaleh, a student in the Faculty of Law and Administration at Birzeit University, said that the films expressed Palestinian reality. “The Palestinian youths’ outlook was negative, due to the impact of our reality and the Israeli Occupation. What struck me as interesting was the level of awareness present among Palestinian youth,” Abu Ghazaleh added. 

Professor of Media at Birzeit University Mo’iz Karaji highlighted the ability of Palestinian youth to accurately identify their reality, saying, “The extent to which those young men and women are capable of recognizing the issues entrenched in their reality and the Palestinian context is truly astonishing. They are, however, unable to pinpoint or locate a solution that allows them to establish an alternative reality.” 

“What’s Tomorrow” is a community cinematic initiative that was held over two years (2016 – 2017). The initiative was supported by the European Endowment for Democracy, the National Endowment for Democracy, and CFD – The Feminist Peace Organization.