Key facts

  • Capital city: Jerusalem
  • Land area: 6,020 sq. km
  • Population: 4,803,269
  • Population density: 797.885 per sq. km
  • Gross domestic product (GDP): 15,561,000,000 USD 
  • Gross domestic product per capita (GDP per capita): 3,239.731 USD
  • Gini index: 34.400
  • Average life expectancy: 74.053 years
    • Average female life expectancy: 75.755 years
    • Average male life expectancy: 72.416 years
  • Infant mortality rate: 1.660%
    • Infant female mortality rate: 1.520%
    • Infant male mortality rate: 1.800%
  • Adult literacy rate: 97.514%
    • Adult female literacy rate:  96.202%
    • Adult male literacy rate: 98.794%

This data was last updated on 16/01/2022 and has been collated from the World Bank’s Open Data database. To submit any queries or corrections regarding this data, including any questions about how to use this data, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Understanding Palestine’s turbulent history as a target of historic ‘divide and rule’ is integral to comprehensively understanding more current attitudes held by the country’s youth. Historic trauma shapes and frames the attitudes of young Palestinians towards their prospects. Palestine has been subjected to consecutive colonial powers for centuries and is presently under Israeli occupation as defined by UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 242 (1967).

Of course, colonial activity in Palestine predates 1967; significant early Zionist activity occurred following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI. Britain’s official control over Palestine lasted between 1918 and 1948. As such, the UK stamped its legacy on Palestinian history, politics, economics and territorial sovereignty with its Balfour Declaration signed in 1917. To this day, English is widely spoken in Palestine and there is a struggle between secular and Islamic law between the West Bank and Gaza, respectively.

Through the Balfour Declaration, Britain supported ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’, the manifestation of an idea previously circulated by prominent Zionists, notably Theodor Herzl in his book Der Judenstaat. The book states that historically persecuted, disparate Jewish groups should not be excluded from any sense of united national identity.

Following the Balfour Declaration, waves of migrants entered historic Palestine and occupied the land. Over time, Zionist groups favoured a partition plan passed through UNSC Resolution 181 (1947). This culminated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War which resulted in the establishment of what Israel recognises as the first State of Israel according to the boundaries defined by UNSC Resolution 194 (1948).

Resolution 194 grants Israel less territory compared with the more recent Resolution 242; therefore, Resolution 242 is the preferred point of reference for many Israeli statespeople defining their territorial boundaries in accordance with a more favourable interpretation of international law.

Whilst many Israelis consider the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to be their War of Independence, many Arabs refer to it as al-Nakba (النكبة‎ in Arabic, or “The Disaster” in English). Due to the escalating violence between Palestinians and Zionists, the majority of Arab Palestinians fled their homes in search of safety in neighbouring countries.

Many Palestinians still reside in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Conditions in these camps are dire: recent reports by MSF state that COVID-19 has spread throughout Jordan’s largest refugee camp due to its densely populated nature.

The traumatic memory of forced exodus is contested by Israeli state historians who largely insist that Palestinians departed under the orders of invading Arab state armies. The observance of the Nakba every year on 15th May allows Palestinians all over the globe to express their unified trauma through a collective focus on their ‘right of return’. Therefore, the forced displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians has redefined the Palestinian community, particularly as remembrance of the Nakba serves as a common thread linking those scattered between Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the diaspora.

Despite the above, more recent projects, such as The Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, have highlighted how placing significance on an anniversary of dispossession can prove problematic insofar as this creates a sense of identity ingrained in opposition to Israel. The trauma of Israeli occupation is thus inescapably embedded in evolving Palestinian identities.

Of course, Palestinian identity is not solely defined by Israeli oppression and has a profound history that can be traced back beyond the Ottoman age. A minority of Palestinian Arabs remained within the borders of the present-day Israeli state, and these comprise approximately one-fifth of the country’s current population. Palestinian Arabs based in Israel are significantly underrepresented and excluded from Israel’s political processes; Amnesty International expresses particular reservations towards the downgrading of the status of the Arabic language in Israeli national law. Furthermore, Israel recently  declared itself as a wholly Jewish state in spite of its significant Arab Muslim population.

Indigenous Palestinians continue to live as second-class citizens compared to non-Arab Israelis. Palestinians residing in Israel’s 1948 borders are, however, regarded as a group distinct in rights and identity from their kin in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Their ‘right of return’, as stipulated by the UN, allows the so-called “1948 Palestinians” to ‘return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours … at the earliest practicable date’, as well as affording them the right to ‘compensation […] for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property’. Nonetheless, so-called “1948 Palestinians” face discrimination of their own.

Such displacement and dispossession caused by the events of 1948 mark the triggering of the current Palestinian refugee crisis, arguably the largest, longest lasting and most severe of its kind, comparable only to the recent Syrian refugee crisis. Displaced Palestinians travelled to neighbouring countries in hope of rebuilding the homes they lost. Not all were successful; oftentimes, they faced a second exodus upon migration as host countries rejected an overwhelming influx of Palestinians. This, too, resembles the recent stigma faced by refugees fleeing conflict in Syria today.

Continued rejection from some Arab nations disenfranchises many Palestinians and disperses them further throughout the diaspora, highlighting the role that other Arab nations play in formulating Palestinian youth identity. The so-called “Palestine Question” consequently galvanises Arab regional opinion in opposition to Zionism. Indeed, the question fuels expressed concern from the Arab League, an intergovernmental institution created in 1945 with the very intent of resolving disputes among its members.

In 1959, two years following Israel’s retreat from the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt’s army took control of the Gaza Strip, thus formally annexing it and abolishing the failed All-Palestine Government… this followed the interests of Egypt rather than those of the Palestinians, creating a renewed Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The West Bank was similarly annexed by Jordan in 1950, granting citizenship rights to Palestinians and doubling Jordan’s population size.

Egyptian and Jordanian authority over Palestinian territories contributed towards the further fragmentation of an already divided Palestinian identity and governance. This exposed Egyptian and Jordanian state attitudes towards the Palestinian cause and, more specifically, towards Palestinian unity. Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah I, outwardly opposed a unified Palestinian government after the Palestinian National Charter was signed in 1964.

The fragmentation of a unified Palestinian identity due to Egyptian and Jordanian control over Palestinian territory must not be understated when studying the attitudes of young Palestinians. From an institutional standpoint, this fragmentation has resulted in Palestinians being represented by an increased variety of national identities. One focus group participant from our Arab Youth Survey, who identified as a female of Palestinian heritage expressed procedural complications arising from her several identity documents, none of which afford the individual with Palestinian nationality. The participant is a Jerusalemite and can therefore only be afforded an Israeli identification (ID) card as well as a temporary Jordanian passport.

As political representation continues to fragment among Palestinians, the right of return for Palestinians becomes an increasingly “existential” demand defended by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), an organisation founded in 1964. The Six Day War of June 1967 transpired due to renewed Arab-Israeli tensions and ended disastrously for Arab states; Israel gained full authority over territorial Palestine whilst the defeated Arab nations were left crippled and under-resourced.

Gaza (under Egyptian protection since 1949) and the West Bank (where Jordanian administration held sway since 1949) both fell under Israeli military control. Furthermore, Israel gained territorial control of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights, both of which are strategic locations; the former for its proximity to the Suez Canal and the latter for its aerial military advantage.

For the international community, Israeli military dominance in 1967 secured the foundation for an enlarged “Jewish state” as inscribed by a 2018 Israeli constitutional law. As for the Palestinians, the occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank by Israel was referred to as the Naksa (Arabic for the “Setback”) due to its demographic effect on Palestinians who were pushed deeper into the diaspora. This gives Israel dominion over any sense of contiguity and harmony within Palestinian ambitions for self-governance. As a result, the Naksa is commemorated every 5th June and is regarded as a key milestone, alongside the Nakba, in the formation of a symbolic expression of collective trauma.


Emphasising ‘the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war’, the UNSC ordered the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories to allow some sense of Palestinian self-autonomy. Israel refused to negotiate with the PLO and sought to discredit them by officially designating the PLO as a terrorist organisation – that is, up until 1993. The PLO was specifically accused of involvement in several terrorist attacks occurring in the 1970s, including the Coastal Road massacre killing 37 Israeli nationals.

Egypt later signed its first Arab peace treaty with Israel in 1979 following the first Camp David Accords (known as Camp David I). The accords resulted in Israel withdrawing from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and was hence pursued with immediate Egyptian national interest at the expense of Palestinian efforts to boycott Israel.

In spite of Camp David I, the cycle of Palestinian attacks continued to be disproportionately met with Israeli aerial bombardments – particularly throughout Lebanese villages and refugee camps – and these escalations of violence continued until 1982. At this point, Israel invaded Lebanon seeking to eliminate the PLO. Meanwhile, Egypt signed another peace treaty with Israel in 1982, breaking the renewed total Arab boycott of Israel and continuing to fracture the international support system on which the PLO relies. To state that various generations Palestinian youths have lived through various cycles of conflict would subsequently be an understatement.

The effects of Egypt’s historic peace with Israel perpetuate until this day, with President el-Sisi renewing peace with Israel following the Arab Spring. This effort saw a security collaboration over the Sinai Peninsula between Egypt and Israel likely resulting from the overspill of ISIS terrorism from Sinai and into the Israeli state.

While the Arab-Israeli conflict established its theatre of war, the domestic relationship between Israelis and Palestinians took its own form. As the PLO gained momentum and recognition throughout the MENA region, Palestinians inside the occupied territories slowly transitioned from embodying a tacit nature to that of a renewed revolutionary spirit.

We believe that three major changes transformed Palestinian society, eventually motivating its mobilisation against the Israeli government. Firstly, Israel opened its domestic labour market to Palestinians living within the occupied territories, particularly in the agricultural and construction sectors. A large majority of the Palestinian workforce relied on Israeli-based opportunities for their residual income. Despite the efforts of economic disengagement with Israel during and following the First Intifada (1987-1993), divestment from Israel exposed the increased vulnerability of the Palestinian economy as well as the economy’s dependence on Israel. At the same time, organised strikes among Palestinian workers led to huge financial losses for Israel.

With regards the second major factor of transformation: Israel began its ongoing process of land confiscation, demolition and reconstruction. The Israeli government denied Palestinian claims over Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, instead declaring land parcels as Israeli territory and distributing them among Israeli officials with intent to develop these areas into Jewish settlements. The psychological effect of this on Palestinians with an exponentially deteriorating sense of self-autonomy is evident through regular clashes with so-called “settlers” in the occupied West Bank.

The third paradigm shift was the creation and implementation of Palestinian higher education institutions. This paved the way for a new social class – a grassroots Palestinian elite, one with an intimate connection to the struggles of smalltown and refugee Palestinians. We believe these three factors galvanised a new air of political thought igniting a more confrontational stance against Israel amongst the Palestinian people, especially Palestinian youths.

In December 1987, a mass uprising occurred in the Palestinian territories which galvanised many Palestinian youths. Organised demonstrations and rallies took place all with the goal of ending Israeli occupation and expansion.

The goals of the First Intifada – as well as its locus of authority, the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) – sought to achieve both political and economic disengagement from Israel. While the protestors were primarily unarmed and nonviolent, Israel initiated a much harsher response. Young Palestinians were beaten, imprisoned and killed, houses belonging to elders were bulldozed, curfews were enforced, and crops were destroyed.

Within Palestinian society, the social, economic and political consequences of the First Intifada were significant. Many Palestinians experienced a loss in traditional respect for elders, with younger generations feeling disconnected from what they perceived to be the compromising demeanour of previous generations. Palestinians also reported lower levels of tolerance towards power-holding families who became a second target in the intifada, signifying the classist elements of Palestinian resistance.

Power-holding Palestinians are often resented for being compelled to enter strategic relationships with Israeli state institutions; these relationships are often characterised as submittal towards Israeli state occupation, thus undermining the goals and visions of the boycott movement.

Consequently, Palestinian survey respondents from our Arab Youth Survey illustrated divergent attitudes. One notable difference can be seen in the priorities that younger Palestinians hold towards their immediate futures compared to those held by their older counterparts. Palestinian youths generally aspire towards political independence and resistance, whereas older Palestinians tend to favour personal career development and salary increases. We understand this distinction not as a result of a learned “pessimism” among older generations towards their political representatives, but rather as a result of changing life priorities that naturally occur from having a family or consolidating higher living expenses.

For many youths, the First Intifada of 1987-1993 provoked disillusionment against the PLO as the organisation failed to support an emerging political identity that challenged its authority. We believe that loyalties among young Palestinians shifted away from the PLO and towards Islamist alternative groups, particularly the Islamic Resistance Group, or Hamas.

The First Intifada fractured Palestinian political support, particularly between the West Bank and the densely populated Gaza Strip. The latter can be contrasted according to its majority support for Hamas, perhaps resulting from Gaza’s more dire living conditions. At present, Hamas controls the PLC, occupying 74 of 132 representative seats since the last election in 2006.

The escalation of the First Intifada reflected the crisis of representation among Palestinian authorities which occurred due to the highly diverse lived experiences of the PLO and Palestinians. In fact, one of the primary tactics used by the Israeli army to crush the movement was to disrupt the flow of traffic and communications in the West Bank. This policy has been maintained with the building of highways, the erection of the border wall, and other infrastructural practices that have physically fragmented the West Bank.

The widespread participation of Palestinian civilians in the First Intifada, as well as the empathy it conjured in the international media sphere, led to a change in the public narrative of the conflict in Palestine: popular footage exposed the imbalance between a fully equipped Israeli army against Palestinian children throwing stones at them and sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, provoking new debate and challenging previously held colonial assumptions about Arabs in general. Accordingly, more international interlocutors demanded intervention in the conflict as the dispute “matured”.

By September 1993, the PLO changed its policy, expressing receptivity to a possible peace agreement with the Israeli Labor Party. These negotiations, known as the first Oslo Accords (Oslo I), occurred in secret and linked PLO officials to dovish Israeli academics. The First Intifada had now ended. It was also during this time that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) – an interim government established by Oslo I – began its oversight of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho.

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres was controversially awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for facilitating Oslo I. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was also awarded a peace prize for his role in the negotiations. Although the accords signified a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, its aftermath is marked by failure and further divisiveness among Palestinians. Much of this divisiveness was reflected in responses from Arab Youth Survey focus group participants from Palestine who expressed a sense of underrepresentation in Palestine’s political sphere.

Nonetheless, a newfound Hamas demonstrated strong opposition to the Oslo Accords as Hamas believed that the accords compromised Palestinian independence through compelling Palestinians to recognise Israel. In return, Oslo I also proposed that the US and Israel no longer identify the PLO as a terrorist organisation. In fact, one of the outcomes of the accords was the US acquiring the role of main international broker in the conflict, replacing the traditional role of the UN.

Internationally, the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East involving the UN, EU, US and Russia insisted that Hamas renounce violence, accept the Oslo Accords and recognise Israel, threatening isolation if Hamas acted contrary to these demands. Hamas’ refusal shortly halted negotiations, and its increased aggression led to civil strife within the Palestinian territories.

Following suit, Palestinian grassroots sentiments scrutinised the intentions of PLO leaders who they feared would not only compromise their right of return from their lives in exile but would also do so in a manner that prioritised the preservation of the PLO’s own power and influence.

With the Camp David Accords of 2000 (Camp David II), all hopes of peace proved elusive. Many Palestinians questioned Israel’s sincerity in implementing peace as Israel continued to expand into Palestinian territory, thus disregarding the grandiose promises of Oslo I. Evidently, progress between Israel and the Palestinians had been stifled as negotiations ended in distrust and tension.

In Palestine, rock-throwing and localised scrimmages spiralled into protests and altercations between young Palestinian civilians and Israeli police, marking the beginning of the Second Intifada. By its end, Israel countered by constructing the large wall that not only separates Israeli territory and East Jerusalem from the present-day West Bank, but also divides different parts of the West Bank into separate enclaves.

The Second Intifada held numerous consequences both for Palestinian youths and for international politics. First and foremost, it showcased the failure of the first Oslo Accords as well as Israel’s resistance to progressively cede the sovereignty of the Palestinian territories to the PLO. The Second Intifada also exposed the ways in which Israel profited from the economic narrative that the Oslo Accords maintained, developing an increasingly extractive relationship with the Palestinian territories and its young demographic.

Internationally, the aftermath of the Second Intifada saw the proposition of the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 by Saudi King Abdullah. The proposition sought the retreat of Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories, a solution for the Palestinian “refugee problem” in accordance with UNSC Resolution 194, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state; in return, Arab states would recognise and establish relations with the State of Israel, considering the conflict resolved.

The PLO endorsed the terms of the Arab Peace Initiative, but Hamas resisted the initiative because it implied recognition of the state of Israel. Ariel Sharon’s government dismantled all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and unilaterally withdrew from the area; while the Israeli right decried this as a willing surrender, Hamas characterised Sharon’s decision as a result of a Hamas resistance that forced the Israelis to retreat.

In 2007, Hamas launched an attack on its own territory flouting the PA and effectively superseding its control over Gaza. The violent crossover into Israel triggered the latter’s intervention; “tit-for-tat” measures ensued, and the severity of conflict escalated, resulting in cross-border rocket fire. Shortly after, Israeli forces took siege over Gaza, a position it maintained until 2009.

The ongoing enmity between Hamas and the PA not only hampers general governance among Palestinians, but additionally divides political thought across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Division in support and vision for the Palestinians undermines any potential for the consolidation of full consensus concerning the “Palestine question”.

Regarding international backing, the “liability” of Hamas’ presence serves as a convenient pretext for nations seeking to justify their increased strategic ties with Israel, as affirmed by former US President Donald Trump’s decision in 2017 to migrate the US Embassy for Israel from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem. This move was highly controversial and aided the Israeli government in its colonisation of the occupied part of Jerusalem belonging to Palestinians according to international law. Trump also cut funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2018; this funding used to provide financial subsidies for the Palestinians, although current President Joe Biden has vowed for the restoration of this aid.

Palestine’s historically steadfast support from Arab nations continues to show signs of erosion. By the end of 2020, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the UAE all agreed to establish diplomatic and economic relationships with Israel. These decisions led to drastic cuts in Arab funding for Palestinian refugees; UNRWA funding from the UAE decreased from 51.8 million USD in 2018 to just one million USD in 2020.

Of course, there have been some more positive, relatively recent developments for Palestinian youths. On 29th November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) accepted the State of Palestine as a “non-member observer state”, meaning that 138 UN member states officially recognised Palestine as an independent and sovereign nation, further institutionalising Palestinian ambitions for full independence. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas did, however, encounter substantial resistance in achieving this strategic milestone, namely being accused of conforming to the standard practices of institutions like the UN that are steeped in colonial history. This further highlights the fractured nature of the Palestinian resistance, as well as the dilemmas faced by advocates of Palestinian rights when strategically working with historically “problematic” institutions.


Palestinian youths still suffer from the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the landlocked status of the West Bank, and international disputes over access to water. Agricultural produce (namely olives, citrus, dates and cereals) is key to the Palestinian economy and provide employment for up to 90 percent of the population. Yet, Israel’s erection of a border wall evidently compromises what should be simple to acquire field-to-market transport.

Especially impacted is the economy of the northern West Bank. Over 40 percent of all agricultural and private-sector establishments in the West Bank are in this region and, according to reports, damage to private land and property as a direct result of the border wall totalled to over 725 million USD.

Our Arab Youth Survey focus group participants from Palestine expressed that public funds and investments are shifting away from agriculture and being redirected towards security. They also allege that Israeli checkpoints and restrictive Israeli-only roads in the West Bank lengthen travel times and restrict logistics between Palestinian families, in turn eroding economic productivity.

According to a British parliamentary report, the increased restrictions and presence imposed by Israel in the West Bank had led to a 29% decline in Palestinian exports between the years 2000 and 2002.

In the Gaza Strip, repeated military clashes between Hamas and Israeli soldiers have degraded infrastructure; the Israeli-imposed blockade has also sent Gaza’s economy into freefall. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD):

“Between 2007 and 2018, the regional Palestinian economy in Gaza grew by less than 5%, and its share in the Palestinian economy decreased from 31% to 18% in 2018. As a result, GDP per capita shrank by 27% and unemployment increased by 49%”.

The Israeli shekel remains the most widely used currency in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This is a result of first Oslo Accords and allows Israel to maintain economic sovereignty over the Palestinian territories, favouring a model of Palestinian development based on dependency towards Israel, particularly for Palestine’s young, working population.

Much of the PA’s income derives from remittances earned by Palestinians residing in other Arab nations and in Israel. The Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have been a sizable source of remittances despite the Gulf War of 1991 affecting financial flows from Kuwait to Palestine.

On the other hand, Israel’s control over the Palestinian economy has forced a great deal of these foreign monies to be directly or indirectly transferred to Israel in the form of taxes, fees and the purchase of products. Nevertheless, flows of foreign funds have diminished since the 1980s.

Despite constant hardships and political restrictions, Palestinians apocryphally remain the most educated group in the Middle East besides Israel itself, with a literacy rate of 97.4 percent in 2019, which is one of the highest in the world despite Palestine’s low GDP output.

As such, the PA areas boast several globally respected universities including the Islamic University in Gaza, An-Najah University in Nablus and the renowned Birzeit University which maintains multiple international partnerships. As of 2019, the Palestinian territories have over 207,000 students enrolled in postsecondary institutions.

Despite generally high average education levels, modern Palestinian society stratifies into various social and demographic divisions. There remains a small portion of the old social class, including prominent families and those who continue to own land (although this ownership pales in comparison to the amount of land owned by Palestinians before 1948). We understand that the merchant class, from small shop owners to established businessmen, evidently follows in prominence.

Despite harsh occupation conditions, the data indicates that Palestine’s middle class has grown in the last few decades. This could be the result of a general trend in global development. Palestinian social strata therefore rests upon a blue-collar and agricultural working class. This group is not to be confused with the historical fellaheen (فلاحين meaning “agricultural labourers” in Arabic); while the fellaheen traditionally occupied the largest class in Palestine, many traded their agricultural land to join the Palestinian workforce in Israel due to relatively more desperate circumstances.

For many young Palestinians, the “elephant in the room” in the Palestinian political economy remains the country’s relationship of dependency towards Israel. Israel features dominantly in Palestinian day-to-day living, and many celebrities and youth role models have been embroidered in this ethical dilemma. One such case concerns actress Scarlett Johansson’s role as the face of Israeli beverage company SodaStream, a company criticised for exploiting Palestinian workers in occupied territories. According to the Guardian:

“Scarlett Johansson, a former Oxfam ambassador, has questioned the charity’s position on political boycotts of Israel and told the Observer that she has no regrets over her decision to promote SodaStream, a company headquartered in Israel, with a controversial factory in a settlement on the West Bank”.

Similarly, several recent development initiatives carried out by the PA have been criticised for implicitly relying on the Israeli economy. A sector of Al Fatah, best exemplified by Mohammed Dahlan, has sought a deeper neoliberal turn aimed at increasing the role of the private sector in the Palestinian territories in a political trend known locally as Fayyadism (after the name of the former Prime Minister of the PA, Salam Fayyad). Projects in line with this political current have been criticised for being divisive, normalising relations with Israel and being dependent on Israel’s economic sector.

Critics have also argued that Fayyadism complies with Netanyahu’s idea of “economic peace”, which undermines Palestinian independence in favour of economic and political dependence on Israel. The smart city of Rawabi, a paradigmatic Fayyadist project, has been denounced for essentially serving as a hub for the Israeli tech sector to outsource some of its activities.

Human rights

Since 1967, the State of Israel has exerted dominion over the quality of life of the Palestinians. Israeli officials determine Palestinians’ freedom of movement as well as their imports and exports quantities. They also decide upon the development of new “settlements” in Palestine and when to further confiscate Palestinian land.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are condemned by international institutions and deemed illegal according to international law. The occupying neighbourhoods are viewed by the PA as an obstacle for the development of a truly independent and contiguous Palestinian state. As of 2019, there were a recorded 131 settlements recognised by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, as well as approximately 110 settlements built without the permission of the Israeli government, counting a total population of more than 620,000 Israeli settlers. These figures include outposts in the West Bank and the 11 neighbourhoods of the West Bank that were illegally annexed to the Jerusalem municipality in 1967.

The situation in Hebron is an especially violent case. Many Israeli settlers have occupied residences in the city, building barricades and bringing Israeli soldiers with them, also creating numerous checkpoints across the city, mostly around the Cave of the Patriarchs – a historic religious site of touristic interest.

Despite the presence of international peacekeepers in these areas, clashes and conflicts are frequent, particularly during religious festivities. The overall situation has provoked the displacement of the commercial centre of Hebron to the outskirts of the city, therefore impacting Palestine’s economy.

The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three distinct areas: A, B and C. Comprising some 18 percent of the West Bank, the PA has authority over most affairs within area A, including security affairs. Area B constitutes roughly 21 percent of the West Bank; in the area, education, health and economics are administered by the PA – however, Israel controls border security in both areas A and B.

Area C is the largest zone in the West Bank – comprising approximately 61 percent of the region – and there, Israel retains almost absolute control over law enforcement, planning and construction. Two cities with the highest poverty rates in the West Bank – Jericho and Hebron – are also situated within area C.

Although the second Oslo Accords (Oslo II) instructed dominion over areas A and B to be transferred to area C, with full sovereignty of area C in turn being transferred to the PA by 1999, this has yet to occur after more than two decades.

Another key Israeli policy in the West Bank concerns forced demolitions as a means of displacing Palestinian families. Israel demolishes structures in the West Bank alleging several reasons, most often referring to building permissions. As of 2021, the UN has counted over 7,000 demolished structures and more than 11,000 displaced people; most of these demolitions have taken place in area C (the largest area of the West Bank) as well as in East Jerusalem.

Our Arab Youth Survey focus group participants from Palestine reported that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has served as a pretext for increased monitoring from Israeli forces both inside and outside of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Circumstances are particularly dire in the Gaza Strip, a zone inhabited by many refugees from the 1948 war. Population density is estimated at over 5,300 people per km2, one of the highest density rates in the world.

In 2017, Gazan residents reported a high poverty rate of 56 percent: this increases over time as Israeli border closures prevent Palestinian youths from finding employment within Israel. As a result, unemployment is an extensive issue and Gazans express an overwhelming sense of isolation from the global political economy.

Access to technology in the Gaza Strip is also highly restricted as a result of the blockade and the economic framework developed through Oslo I. Whilst Palestinian communication services have been progressively privatised, this infrastructure is substantially Israeli-owned and thus represents another dimension of institutionalised occupation. For us, limited access to technology in the Gaza Strip ultimately resulted in difficulties finding local-based Gazans to participate in our survey.

Nonetheless, water pollution caused by saltwater contamination in Gaza’s aquifer endangers public health and safety. As of 2019, 96.2% of household water in the Gaza Strip is non-potable. Simultaneously, the 2018 infant mortality rate for the Gaza Strip was a staggering 22.7 deaths per 1,000 births, and we believe that this is partly catalysed by policies associated with the blockade, such as reduced access to health infrastructure, and its various consequences for water contamination.

Furthermore, Gaza’s only natural water source – a river stretching from the Hebron hills to the Mediterranean Sea – flows only seasonally and is polluted by over-pumping and wastewater contamination.

The West Bank, on the other hand, houses a slightly lower population density. Some residents who are sources close to ARAB report experiencing a somewhat better quality of life compared to those of Palestinian youths in the Gaza Strip, with some limited access to healthcare and higher employment prospects. Ultimately, the quality of life in the occupied territories is bleak compared with Israel.

From an institutional standpoint, the difference in quality of life and access to services between Palestinians and Israelis has been understood as the result of a regime of apartheid, as the Israeli human rights association B’Tselem described in a report in 2021. Although this characterisation of Israeli policies towards Palestinians was already well-established, particularly in academic circles, the report sparked controversy in the media and Israeli officials were swift to deny the claims.

Focus group feedback

As mentioned in the previous subsection, we believe that Palestine’s main government body, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), carries the burden of a democratic deficit as elections occur every 15 years and the two dominant parties in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Fatah and Hamas, respectively) are polarised in attitude, approach and support. None of our Arab Youth Survey respondents from Palestine who voted in the 2006 elections expressed that they would change their vote in the upcoming 2021 elections.

Polarised attitudes among Palestinians contrasts with results from Arab Youth Survey respondents from Morocco and Libya: 25% of respondents from these countries reported that they would vote for a different party in their next national elections. 75% of Palestinian survey respondents therefore hold a “very unfavourable” regard of political representation in Palestine. These views are largely consistent across gender and age groups.

Our research also finds that the PLC’s recent regulations regarding enrolment conditions for standing in any upcoming elections exclude younger and working-class Palestinians: those seeking to register to a party and stand for election must provide a down payment of several thousands of dollars and equally quit all formal employment that they may hold. Those seeking to stand for election must also be at least 28 years of age. This reinforces the overrepresentation of older, bourgeois politicians in Palestine who can afford to sacrifice their jobs in pursuit of political representation.

Women in Palestinian government circles barely satisfy their representative quotas: the PLO recently increased the quota for women in Palestinian legislature to ‘26%, not the promised 30%’. Hanan Asharawi, formerly the PLO Executive Committee’s only female committee member, recently resigned from the government due to being side-lined and excluded from the country’s executive processes which she characterises as male-dominated:

“All these [above] factors accumulated and led to my decision. I wanted to have new people, young men, and women to activate the PLO and its bodies”.

Ashrawi’s statement emphasises the limitations of the PLO who have failed to embrace a diverse representation of the Palestinian people, especially young, working-class women. Her resignation reflects the fractured attitudes of Palestinians towards political representation in their country.

During our Arab Youth Survey focus group discussion, one female Palestinian under the age of 35 cited Hanan Ashrawi as a personal inspiration for her life and work. This participant then expressed her scepticism towards representative quotas in the PLO, stating that society needs to be educated and adapted from the grassroots level to naturally include women in decision-making processes – that is, without retrospectively complying to problematic quotas as a “quick fix”. One issue highlighted with representative quotas was the temptation for politicians to employ female family members in order to satisfy representative quotas, in turn reinforcing nepotist culture at the executive level.

Surprisingly, despite a reported lack of political representation experienced by young female Palestinians, our results equally show that Palestinians broadly believe in their own ability to impact their immediate futures. However, older and employed Palestinians view their future potentials more favourably than their younger and unemployed counterparts.

Our survey additionally reveals that Palestinians of 35 years of age and under prioritise political liberation and self-determination over their personal career opportunities as they progress into their futures. Conversely, Palestinians over the age of 35 look forward to personal and professional progression above a strictly political sense of emancipation.

Palestinians based outside of Palestine express greater personal autonomy regarding their futures compared with Palestinians based within Palestine. This further emphasises the extent to which Palestinians within the Palestinian state are excluded from their political processes. Older Palestinians also view judicial and human rights institutions in Palestine more favourably than younger Palestinians, but still view existing women’s opportunities in their country less favourably compared with younger Palestinians.

It should be noted that female Palestinians view women’s opportunities in their country less favourably than their male counterparts. This is likely due not only to underrepresentation in the PLC, but also to gender-based oppression faced both within in Palestinian society and under daily Israeli occupation.

Israeli checkpoints pose unique risks for women; bureaucracy can be an issue for pregnant women seeking medical attention and can equally pose difficulties for women and girls travelling between Palestinian cities for what should be regular sexual health check-ups.

Additionally, Human Rights Watch reports that Israeli checkpoints in occupied Palestinian territory too often disrupt judicial processes:

“[S]poradically […] judges, lawyers, plaintiffs, and defendants were unable to cross checkpoints and reach courthouses”.

Logistical disruptions caused by Israeli checkpoints have subsequently resulted in an increased inaccessibility to justice procedures:

“[I]n 2004 PA courts convicted only one person of rape in Gaza and convicted no one in the West Bank. Only 27 individuals were serving sentences for rape in 2005”.

Unsurprisingly, 57% of our Arab Youth Survey respondents from Palestine view judicial institutions in their country “very unfavourably”. Some effort has been made to reduce the risks faced by women and girls resulting from judicial failure: Mahmoud Abbas has, for example, raised the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18, a trend observed in other Arab countries. Nonetheless, existing research finds “15% of [Palestinian] girls between 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18 and 1% are married before the age of 15”.

Other issues experienced by women and girls remain as, unsurprisingly, females are more likely to be subjected to sexual violence at Israeli checkpoints than males. These statistics are particularly concerning given that children make up nearly half of Palestine’s total population, the latter of which totals to approximately 4.8 million.

Israeli authorities have arrested over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners since 2015. Of those who experience physical violence and imprisonment at Israeli checkpoints, Palestinian men outnumber women and male political prisoners also suffer sexual torture at the hands of Israeli authorities.

Focus group participants from Palestine express that their daily lives are politicised; simple activities such as going for a walk can quickly expose Palestinian youths to encounters with Israeli officials at checkpoints.

This politicised reality appears to result in a different lived experience between Palestinian males and females. For instance, one Palestinian female focus group participant under the age of 35 expressed that she does not feel safe when leaving the house after 9pm due to fear of sexual violence.

When asked which symbol best represents the future to them, young Palestinian survey respondents mentioned political figures such as Angela Merkel (answered by a female respondent under 35) and Yasser Arafat (answered by a male respondent under 35). Thus, whether they intend to or not, Palestinian youths live a highly politicised reality and often fear for their own freedom and safety.

Finally, during the recent coronavirus pandemic, harsh measures from Israeli and Palestinian bureaucrats have increasingly translated to a toughening of digital regulations for Palestinians quarantining at home. The toughest of these laws include the monitoring and countering of pro-Palestine content on Facebook, a cyber law like the US Patriot Act that provides Israeli officials legal immunity from monitoring, intercepting and acquiring data from Palestinian internet users, as well as a prohibition against photographing and documenting Israeli soldiers exercising authority in the public sphere.

Our Arab Youth Survey respondents from Palestine nonetheless report a favourable perception of the impact of innovation development on their futures despite problematic technology and surveillance laws in the country.

In summary, Palestinian youths live a more politicised experience compared to youths from relatively more “stable” Arab nations such as Morocco. This is unsurprising due to the uniquely turbulent nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In spite of their trials and tribulations, young Palestinians still indicate an ability to influence their futures but demand greater political representation that includes younger female Palestinians in the executive process.

Palestine also lacks disabled and non-neurotypical representation among its elite circles. Indeed, there appears to be some stigma and complications associated with recognising some forms of mental “disabilities”, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that many Palestinians likely experience as a result of life in occupation.

‘Palestine has some of the highest rates of mental illness in the world’, yet Palestine’s Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Samah Jabr, believes that ‘PTSD is a western concept’. Dr Jabar does not represent the views of the entire Palestinian medical community, but her perspective does highlight some of the cultural nuances at play when attempting to identify neurodiverse behaviour in Arab countries.


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