Digital culture of contention of Palestinian Youth in the West Bank

By Mariam Abdul-Dayyem
Submitted to Session P4892 (Children, Youth, and Media in Middle Eastern Conflict Zones, 2017 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Palestinian youth in the West Bank have been born into a conflict zone where they experience isolation, lack of freedom and political repression. In this context, youth in the occupied territories are increasingly utilising virtual space as a way to escape their lived realities of oppression. This paper asks whether such dependence on the virtual space reinforces Palestinian youth’s entrapment or provides them with any real space for resistance and emancipation. Palestinian youth’s use of the internet is unique and full of tensions and contradictions worthy of further exploration. The adoption of digital repertoires by Palestinian youth has evolved slowly and was not initially a means for collective action. Therefore, it is important to track this development and application of the use of tactics and repertoires of contention from traditional to digital means and examine how they coexist, compete with, and complement each other. This conundrum over Palestinian youth’s use of the internet is illuminated by the relatively mundane uses of social media practices by Palestinian youth in the West Bank. Designating practices that are personal and apolitical contributes to our understanding of the Palestinian youth’s use of social media spaces as a political space of daily resistance that James Scott (1985) describes as ‘the weapon of the weak’. A qualitative approach, utilizing semi-structured in-depth interviews with youth, including among them, activists, journalists and students, will shed light on this digital culture of contention among Palestinian youth and its intricate meanings. This study will illuminate how digital culture has been incorporated into the Palestinian struggle by highlighting how digital tools have been adopted by youth and have been added to the traditional repertoires of Palestinian resistance. Additionally, this paper will address the factors that have enhanced and affected that digital culture on the one hand, and how that culture shapes Palestinian society and social change, on the other hand.