Young Palestinians Speak: Living Under Occupation

Young Palestinians Speak: Living Under Occupation

Anthony Robinson, Annemarie Young

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In Palestine today, a second generation of children and young people is growing up experiencing life under occupation. These are children who know only fear when they see an Israeli soldier or come across a roadblock. This book provides a platform for young people, from all over this occupied land, to speak in their own voices about the day-to-day experience of living under occupation.


A number of Palestinian kids and teens discuss their hopes and dreams and what it is like living in an occupied country. An introductory chapter explains the Occupied Territories, provides an overview of the history of the Palestinian land, and explores the impact of occupation on subjects such as human rights, citizenship, education, housing, land ownership, and the economy. The authors visited or held video conferences with participants from nine Palestinian cities and villages. Their meetings took place in schools, community centers, libraries, and homes. Robinson and Young devote a chapter to each city or village. Each chapter briefly examines the area's geographic makeup, history, and location, then provides a transcript of the conversation. The kids speak about school, aspirations, family life, safety, and the difficulties of living in the Occupied Territories. Many answers are typical of young people anywhere, but most touch on the experience of living under occupation. In addition, excerpts from some of the young people's writing are included. Photographs, maps, and art are interspersed throughout, enhancing the text. Beyond the initial information in each chapter, there is very little commentary from Robinson and Young; the voices of the Palestinian youths are what drive and shape this work. A time line of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is appended, as are references for films, websites, and books. A straightforward, compelling, and eye-opening look at life in Palestine for all nonfiction collections. Grade 7 and up.

Children, teens, and 20-somethings, from all over Gaza Strip and the West Bank, speak in their own voices about their daily experiences of living under occupation. After explaining what the occupation is and how it affects those living under it, the authors organize the book into chapters by the places they visited: Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Qattana, Sebastiya, Gaza, Beit Ur, and Hebron. In each, following some background information, the young people interviewed speak for themselves. Children from Ramallah express their fear of Israeli settlers who sometimes fire bullets at them. A common sentiment is expressed by 20-year-old Muath: It's not normal to be a prisoner in your country. Mohammed, 17, says: I hate seeing the Wall. It's wrong; it shouldn't be there. Checkpoints and walls are a constant in the lives of Palestinian youth. A 10-year-old in Nablus is one of many who express the fear he feels at the sight of an Israeli soldier. What readers will discover is that these young Palestinians want the same things young people want everywhere: a stable family life, the freedom to move about their country, and a safe and secure space in which to grow up. This is these young Palestinians' story; readers interested in the Israeli perspective will need to look elsewhere. A poignant, powerful, and insightful collection of voices seldom heard. 

There is no shortage of information published about the conflicts in the Middle East, but this book offers an uncommon perspective on Israeli-Palestinian relations. It tells the story of several Palestinian children living in the West Bank. The introduction explains the loss of Palestinian land in 1948, focusing especially on the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993 that continue to leave the final status of the West Bank in limbo. Poverty, lack of access to education, demolition and seizure of property, and abuses of civil rights by Israeli troops are just some of the broad themes discussed in interviews conducted with young people in nine different towns throughout Palestinian lands. Readers may be surprised at some of the mundane similarities between themselves and the subjects of the book, but the harsh realities of a place where military checkpoints and separation walls are everywhere are undeniable. Robinson and Young assert that if the problems of the Middle East are ever to be fully grasped empathy and understanding must start with young people.

Young Palestinians Speak: Living under Occupation (Interlink Books, 2017) is a collection of testimonies interspersed with historical information about Palestine and its fragmentation. The book is aimed at young adult readers, yet it overlaps the gap successfully enough to make it a compelling and harrowing read for adults as well. With children expressing simple wishes for safety and, more poignantly, to live as opposed to merely survive or exist, it is impossible to close the book without pondering how the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the ramifications of Israeli colonialism. Young Palestinians Speak: Living under Occupation shows how these young people are living with constant fluctuations between deprivation and dreams. Despite the many political obstacles, the Palestinian children quoted by the authors portray a remarkable volume of the latter, as there is no limit to their imaginations, or boundaries on what their hearts desire. Robinson and Young have produced a book which not only describes Palestinian reality through the voices of the younger generation, but also touches the reader in a special manner, in particular the realization that Palestine is- and always will be- exactly what Palestinians want it to be.

Many books have been written about Palestine but few from the perspective of young adults. None have been so bold as to attempt letting young Palestinian adults tell their own story. This book is unique. Though full of facts and useful information, these are presented through the lens and words of young adults who bring to life and speak to people of their age group, those who live entirely different lives and would not otherwise be able to begin to imagine the reality of life under occupation. Different aspects of the occupation are covered in this book helping the reader form a comprehensive picture of the situation that Palestinians under occupation have to endure. Coming in the wake of the 50th anniversary of the brutal Israeli occupation over Palestinian lands, this book will move hearts and minds and will educate a new generation of English readers to the tragedy of Palestine and what Palestinians living under occupation have to endure.
--Raja Shehadeh, author of the Orwell Prize-Winning Palestinian Walks

About the Author

Anthony Robinson is a full-time writer of books for, about and with children, as well as a former teacher. He was born in Australia but now lives in Cambridge, UK, when not travelling for his writing. The main focus of his attention is writing that gives a voice to the voiceless, particularly children. This was the driver for the widely acclaimed and award-winning Refugee Diaries series (Frances Lincoln, 2008-2010), and Street Children (Frances Lincoln, 2014). In addition to giving a voice to young Palestinians, Young Palestinians Speak aims to redress the reporting imbalance surrounding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Annemarie Young is a writer and series editor of non-fiction for older children, and of fiction for young readers. She was a publisher for twenty years at Cambridge University Press before turning to writing. Her first non-fiction project, with Anthony Robinson, was the widely acclaimed and award-winning 
Refugee Diaries, of which she is series editor (Frances Lincoln, 2008-2010). Young Palestinians Speak is their latest joint project. She is also the author of two books written with Michael Rosen, What is Humanism? and Who Are Refugees and Migrants (Wayland, 2015 and 2016).

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