Palestinian Children and Adolescents during and after the Intifada
There are at least two factors which distinguish Palestinian youth experience in the Intifada from youth experience with politically violent conditions in other parts of the world. The first is the prominent role that they performed in the generation and the maintenance of the uprising. It has not been common historically far children and adolescents to be such active and leading participants in political conflict. Instead, children have typically been considered mare as passive recipients of the trauma of war.2 Second, it has not been common far children and adolescents to be so heavily engaged in conflict of the intensity and duration that occurred during the Intifada. This is particularly the case in the many very densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, especially the refugee camps, where the stress and trauma of conflict continued an a frequent, often daily basis, far aver five years.
There are several possible explanations far the heavy involvement of the young sectors of Palestinian society during the Intifada.8, 12, 13, 27 Demographically, half of the population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was under 14 years old or younger during the Intifada. Further, these youth were barn during the Israeli occupation and had personal experiences with same of the mast hostile and intrusive elements of the occupation. Also, much of the conflict, particularly in the camps, occurred around the schools which necessarily involved children, and through the direct recruitment of young people into the resistance by the Islamic groups, as well as by the deteriorating economic conditions.

Patterns of Intifada Involvement

Statistical reports of Palestinian youth experience in the Intifada have concentrated typically on the incidents of death and injuries. Estimates vary, but there is a consensus that hundreds of youth lost their lives and that scores of thousands were injured during the conflict. Although there have been anecdotal accounts and findings from small research samples relative to rates of youth participation in the uprising, there has not been a comprehensive assessment of youth participation or forms of victimization. Our interest'" was to assess the degree to which youth were involved in the uprising, both in terms of how many engaged themselves in the struggle and how prevalent was the trauma they experienced in the struggle.6
As Table 1 indicates, the four most common experiences were participating in demonstrations, throwing stones, being harassed by soldiers, and being beaten by soldiers. A clear majority of 9th-grade and university male students reported experiencing each of these four events. Participation was less common among females, but a substantial portion of females had also experienced the four major events. Being shot at or arrested by Israeli authorities were the least common, even though between one-fifth and one-half of 9th-grade and university males reported these two events.
The prevalence of involvement in the uprising among children and adolescents is underscored by the finding that over 90 percent of the male respondents and 70 percent of the female respondents reported experiencing at least one event. Those with most experiences were from the Gaza refugee camps, with their overcrowding and poverty, but the findings nevertheless reveal no differences in patterns of Intifada experience based on social class standing within this population.

Intifada Involvement and Social and Psychological Well-Being

As to the strength or long-term nature of consequences to children and adolescents from their participation in the Intifada, the clear trend across a number of studies is that participation in the struggle had some negative consequences, particularly on psychological and emotional functioning.3, 10, 16, 22, 24, 25Our study adds to this understanding by providing an assessment of whether or not these and other consequences maintained themselves in the one to two years following the formal end of the Intifada.
Consistent with past work on psychosocial consequences of involvement, we found higher levels of depression and social withdrawal (9th-grade girls), higher levels of antisocial behavior (all groups), and higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression (university males) associated with Intifada experience. We also found lower levels of educational aspirations and time spent on homework (university males), decreased religiosity (university males and females), and greater association with deviant peers (university females). Finally, there was evidence of effects of Intifada experience on some aspects of the parenting relationship: lower-quality communication (university males), less supervision (university females), and higher intrusive (psychological) control by parents (university males and females). Some patterns in these findings are worth noting. First, most of the significant correlations were found in the data from the university samples (adolescents during the movement). This could reflect their greater overall involvement in the struggle, their higher level of maturity, compared to children, in understanding the meaning of the struggle, and their current experience as young adults with the disappointments and difficulties associated with conditions since the Intifada.
Second, although there were a number of significant correlations between Intifada experience and social and psychological functioning, there were no effects of involvement on personal and traditional values for education, marriage, and family, or on the overall quality of relationships with peers, teachers and parents. The growing research literature on children who experience political violence reveals a variety of resilient mechanisms. A general absence of expected effects of trauma can be explained by such factors as children habituating to conflict, the psychological meanings attached to the conflict, social support from family and community, and the degree of ideological commitment to the conflict.7, 21
In sum, the survey data show some evidence of deterioration in child and adolescent experience in the years immediately following the Intifada. The tendency to engage in minor forms of antisocial behavior (using tobacco and alcohol, stealing, and running away from home) was consistently related to Intifada experience for all sex and age groups. It is likely that the more the youth participated in the struggle, the stronger their sense of development of personal autonomy, which may have resulted in a determination not to conform to some societal norms. The heightened levels of internalized problems in 9th-grade girls (depression, social withdrawal) may reflect the tension experienced by young girls who felt the freedom to express their defiance against the occupation during the Intifada, but now have no real option for continued expression, given their continuing secluded status in the patriarchal family system.9 The older females (now college students) may find such expression through their participation in higher education.14 Otherwise, correlations between Intifada involvement and youth characteristics and behaviors were neither strong nor consistent across the age and sex groups, and it is noteworthy that the tendency to antisocial behavior did not extend to overall relationships with peers, teachers, and parents.
Had our survey indexed other forms of trauma - such as curfews; house raids and demolitions; torture; and witnessing harassment, killing, or deportation of family members26 - and had we surveyed youth who had been hospitalized for severe physicaP7 or emotional problems, we may well have found more pervasive negative psychological and social effects. But as for the general population who attend school, experience in the conflict does not appear to have had generalized negative consequences one to two years following the end of the Intifada.

The Buffering Effect of Family, School, and Religion

Our next analysis was designed to extend the research on the sources of resilience in youth who experience political violence by focusing on the one consistent negative effect of Intifada involvement: antisocial behavior (e.g., smoking, drinking alcohol, stealing, and running away from home).16, 21, 22, 24, 25 We explored the extent to which integration in three social institutions that are particularly salient to Palestinian culture ¬family, religion, and education - buffered the effects of experience with political violence.4 In every case, the strength of the association between Intifada involvement and antisocial behavior was significantly contingent on integration in these social institutions. For example, for university females who reported high-quality relationships with their mothers, there was no correlation between involvement and antisocial behavior. For 9th-grade and university students reporting high levels of responsive parenting (e.g., acceptance, monitoring) and low levels of negative parenting (psychological control), there was no correlation between Intifada involvement and antisocial behavior. Yet for those reporting low levels of responsive parenting (and high levels of negative parenting), the correlations between involvement and antisocial behavior were significantly positive.
For university males and females, enjoying school significantly reduces the risk of antisocial behavior. For university students, religious observance (thinking about Allah, praying, and attending mosque) buffers the negative effects of the trauma associated with the Intifada. Apparently, integration into the value-rich social institutions of family, religion, and education have served to protect youth from some of the hazards of involvement in and exposure to political violence.

Ideological Commitment

Responses to the opening interview question to "tell what the Intifada was" included an unequivocal identification with the national struggle for relief from the perceived abuses of the occupation as the guiding motivation for the movement as a whole, and as the motivation for individual involvement in the face of personalized trauma. Naturally, the articulation of these motivations has benefited from maturation and hindsight as these individuals have progressed into young adulthood in the three years between the interviews and the end of the Intifada. Yet, the same passion and commitment are clearly evident in present-day adolescents' expressed sentiments and actions as the struggle continues.
The narratives from the interviews focused on the historical, political, cultural, and psychological implications of the occupation, and the insistence of the young people on assisting to remove these. One young man said, "The Intifada was a public reaction against the Israeli hardness and inhuman actions against Palestinians, especially killing, harsh circumstances, bad economic situations, and other actions. I can't describe them exactly [the actions]. To them we were subhuman."l1
In addition to the historical consciousness of antagonism toward the occupation, individual involvement seemed also to be crystallized by specific traumatic events. This included frequent experiences with house raids in which various family members were terrorized by beatings, the witnessing of beatings of women and children or, often, it was when someone known to the subject had been killed. For two of the young men it was a mutual friend who had been "martyred." One recalled, "He left big gaps in my life and also in the lives of my friends. I will never forget him, because he was my close friend."18 A young women said that the Intifada was essential because "we were suffering more and more under the occupation."15

Defiance and Deference

An interesting paradox became evident in my observations and interviews in Gaza having to do with divergent responses to distinct forms of authority. On the one hand, it was very clear in the interviews that these adolescents acted with deliberation, contempt, and disrespect in offensive and defensive fighting against what they determined was an illegitimate authority. As blatant and as frequent as this defiance was, however, adolescent behavior, particularly during the first two years of the Intifada, does not appear to have been chaotic, uncontrolled behavior fueled simply by unchecked passion. Instead, paradoxically, the defiance appeared to occur simultaneously with substantial deference to recognized, legitimate authority, such as Intifada leaders, teachers, and parents. Most described their participation in faction-specific organizational systems characterized by clear hierarchies of authority. One young man described, "There was an official. When we get a message from him we should carry out this message without any kind of objection."20 Although most of those interviewed described some situational tension between themselves and their parents relative to their involvement, none described serious or sustained conflict.
This observation that Intifada youth have maintained culturally prescribed deference to perceived legitimate authority - coupled with the survey findings of a lack of general decline in parent-child and teacher-child relations as a function of Intifada involvement - runs counter to one prevailing interpretation that the Intifada undermined adult authority in Palestinian society.23, 28 Some comments may help clarify this discrepancy. When we heard the observation, during our experience in the West Bank and Gaza over the past three years, that the Intifada disturbed authority boundaries between adults and youth, it was almost always expressed by adults, ¬parents or teachers. Youth have rarely identified a meaningful disruption in their respectful orientation to adults in their communities. This discrepancy in perspectives may in part be attributable therefore to differing views on the issue between the generations. It is a very common finding in social science research that members of the same family - whether it be husbands compared to wives, or parents compared to children - have very different opinions on the nature and quality of their relationships with each other.
This question of authority patterns and boundaries between adults and youth is a very important issue, not only for social science researchers interested in the effects of political activity and violence on youth and family development, but because family relationships are a central and vital component of Palestinian culture.
For the moment, the data we have collected and our experience through frequent and often-extended visits to four Palestinian universities and 88 secondary schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not support the interpretation that there has been a fundamental alteration in the level of respect and deference shown to adults by Palestinian youth. Instead, the extent to which these bonds have been maintained through years of intense conflict and trauma is one of our most remarkable findings, one that appears to underscore the strength and resilience of the personal, familial and religious values of Palestinian culture.

A Note of Caution for the Future

Politicized identity was probably never stronger than among Intifada youth, for during the formative stages of the development of their psychological and social identity, fighting for freedom from the occupation seemed, for many, to be life itself. Even for those who may not have participated physically in the confrontations as often as others, there was no escaping the reality that life consisted mainly of the struggle. Those interviewed in Gaza (most of whom were very active during the movement) uniformly expressed satisfaction that their efforts had been successful in significantly enhancing recognition and concern for them as Palestinians from the world at large. Many expressed a yearning for the days of the Intifada because it was a time when they felt they were central players in the great social cohesion that existed among all segments of their society (particularly during the first two years of the movement). Clearly, their involvement in the political fight taught them that they, individual young Palestinians, could make a difference.
Nevertheless, as impressive as it may be that children and adolescents can immerse themselves in social and political concerns, and derive so much personal validation from their efforts, one must wonder about the stability of an identity that is so strongly informed by political realities. How much of their personal strength of character and resilience to the trauma they experienced is now dependent on the long-term success of their efforts? This is a question that can only be answered over time. But, at least for those who still have exceptionally limited access to economic, educational, and social opportunities, such as in the refugee camps, there is already reason for concern. I have visited the West Bank and the Gaza Strip approximately every four months over the past three years, staying for weeks or months at a time. Although I continue to be impressed with the resilience I see, I have also noticed a clear decline in the overall sense of well-being of the youth and an increase in frustration, confusion, and pessimism about the future.
Not surprisingly, this trend appears to be related directly to the current political realities. On the one hand, as time goes by, evidence mounts that although the Intifada may have been successful at drawing attention to the plight of the Palestinians, it has not been successful in any real shift in the balance of power between Israel and Palestine. On the other hand, there is a rapidly growing sense of disappointment and of feeling betrayed by their own leaders. Whereas a year ago, many youtl1 would express patience and optimism about the future, they now express bitterness. Young adults from extremist groups have told me that if the Israeli occupation were to return they "would not oppose it"19 and would even "throw flowers at their feet." l Even more telling are those who, a year ago, aligned themselves clearly with Fatah but are now expressing disgust with what they perceive to be human-rights violations, corruption, and opulence by some members of the Palestinian Authority.


In summary, the research discussed here indicates that children and adolescents manifested unprecedented political involvement during the Intifada, and had unusually high exposure to stress and trauma. Now, some years after the formal end of the struggle, negative consequences can still be observed, mostly in heightened participation in some forms of deviant behavior. For those who are well integrated into the value-rich social institutions of family, education, and religion, this effect was not apparent. Further, there was no evidence of a general decline in quality of relationships with adults. Resilience to more widespread negative consequences might be attributable to the high levels of ideological commitment to the necessity and justice of the uprising and to the strength of cultural values. However, it remains to be seen how durable these and other buffers are in maintaining psychological and social competence in this generation of youth whose personal identities were formed in the trenches of a fight for a national identity that still seems to be conflicted and elusive .
• Based on three sources: an extensive 1994-1995 survey of Palestinian families in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip conducted by five social science researchers from Brigham Young University (Utah), among them is this writer. Seven-thousand 9th-grade students, who were seven when the Intifada started, and their families answered questionnaires. Second, the same questionnaires were given to 635 students, aged 20, from four West bank and Gaza Strip universities. They were 13 when the Intifada began. Third, hour-long interviews by the writer with 30 young adults-who were adolescents during the Intifada-in Gaza Strip refugee camps in 1996 and 1997.


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