MENARY Monitor – Edition 137
December 10, 2023
Politics and Political Engagement
The Observer newspaper reported providing insights into the world of angry armed youth in the occupied West Bank. The report quotes analysts and officials stating that these young individuals are markedly different from their predecessors. The report claims that armed Palestinian youth in the West Bank also differ from their counterparts in Hamas in Gaza. The report highlights the escalating confrontations between Palestinian youth and the Israeli army in the West Bank. The Observer conducted interviews with ten armed youth in the cities of Nablus and Jenin in the West Bank, claiming it was sufficient to understand the new wave of armed activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. All the interviewed youths stated that their ultimate goal is to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. H.A. Hillier, of Carnegie, believes that ideology played a minor role in the decision of West Bank youth to bear arms. There is a notable shift in the perspective of the new generation of Palestinian youth in the West Bank compared to the views of previous generations regarding resistance operations. Among the changes is the use of social media by “splinter” factions, like the group called the “Black Den,” in their struggle against Israel. The report suggests that several analysts speak of the current youth’s disappointment with the older Palestinian politicians, perceived as “collaborators” with Israel, leaving a void filled by armed groups. Political commentator and analyst in Ramallah, Noor Odeh, states that these youth speak a language not spoken by the older leaders, using satire and humor, adding that they are a generation tired of everyone, frustrated, and disillusioned.
Jordanian youth have launched an initiative named “Jordanians with Palestine” to support the stance of Jordan, its leadership, and people on the Palestinian cause. The initiative aims to combat rumors circulating on social media, dispel doubts about Jordan’s consistent stance on the Palestinian issue, and clarify facts based on international law. The youth declared the launch of a digital campaign with the hashtag #JordanSupportsPalestine, sharing videos and tweets condemning Israel’s plans to displace Palestinians to Jordan and crafting a document denouncing Israeli crimes against Gaza, translated into various languages. The document reaffirms Jordanian support for Palestine, the defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Hashemite custodianship over Islamic and Christian sanctities in Jerusalem. It also expresses solidarity with Palestinians. The initiative underscores unwavering support for Jordan’s leadership in defending Palestine, highlighting the historical significance of the Hashemite leadership’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.
On November 25, Al-Wasatiya Youth Center in Irbid, Jordan, organized a dialogue session on “Youth Political Participation,” attended by 30 young men and women. Qusay Al-Zoubi from the Ministry of Political Development emphasized the importance of enhancing political and democratic awareness among youth, preparing them to build their future, and involving various societal groups, especially young people, in fostering an informed democratic culture. He highlighted examples of youth engagement in political and democratic practices within centers, schools, and student parliaments, stressing the need for youth to actively participate in politics, engage in positive dialogue, accept others’ opinions, and contribute to developing democratic concepts. Al-Zoubi underscored that the foundation of political life lies in youth participation in various dialogical programs, making them integral to the decision-making process.
A delegation from the Aden Youth Consultations Group (AYC) presented its updated youth vision for halting the war and achieving peace to Edward Jackson, the Director of the UN Envoy’s Office in Aden. The group discussed the importance of youth involvement in the political process, particularly in upcoming political negotiations and peace-building stages. The discussions covered crucial issues concerning youth amid rapid changes, aligning with the group’s foundational and updated visions. This activity follows the group’s intensive training on UN peacebuilding mechanisms and negotiation skills, contributing a youthful perspective to shaping Yemen’s peace trajectory. The group, building on its updated vision and feedback, plans to develop a comprehensive peace map considering political developments, with a focus on political events and ongoing readings.
Dr. Mahmoud Hussein, President of the Union of Egyptian Youth Abroad, met with Minister of Immigration Saha Elgendy to enhance collaboration. They discussed the Union’s activities, preparations for upcoming presidential elections for Egyptians abroad, and ways to facilitate their participation. He emphasized the union’s efforts in mobilizing members globally for the elections, aiming to portray Egypt positively. The Board of Directors, comprising 3,000 young Egyptians worldwide, seeks to serve the community within legal frameworks.
Economics and Entrepreneurship
Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, the economic boycott campaign against Israel has gained popularity among Tunisian youth. The campaign focuses on raising awareness about all brands that pay taxes to countries militarily supporting Israel, including those openly endorsing direct support for the Israeli military. Tunisians actively share images and information on social media about companies to be boycotted, expressing hope for the sustainability of the boycott beyond a temporary measure. Sales of products from boycotted companies have noticeably declined, prompting these companies to offer significant discounts and tempting promotions to boost sales. Meanwhile, franchise owners of global brands, such as fast-food outlets, soft drinks, sportswear, and others, have urged consumers to understand that most ingredients are locally sourced, emphasizing that their livelihoods could be affected by the boycott. However, economists and experts have clarified through social media and news outlets that although franchise owners may not directly send profits to Israel, the annual franchise fee paid to the parent company contributes to the overall profits, including a portion for the local company holding the franchise.
The Jordanian Center for Labor Rights, known as “Workers’ House,” released its annual report, spotlighting challenges in the Jordanian labor market. The report reveals a decline in the national economy’s capacity to generate jobs, with persistently high unemployment rates, reaching an unprecedented 47% among the youth. Factors contributing to this include an annual influx of new job seekers, economic conditions, insufficient investment, and a lack of programs aiding the transition from education to employment. Long-term unemployment affects 65.5 percent of job seekers, disproportionately impacting women at 72.3 percent. The report also highlights issues such as excessive working hours, low monthly earnings, and non-implementation of a raised minimum wage, emphasizing the need for improved working conditions and fair wages in compliance with labor laws and constitutional obligations.
Lebanon introduced a national online learning platform, “Forastech,” offering affordable and accessible digital skills education for young people. Developed under the PROSPECTS Program with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the platform is endorsed by global tech leaders like Microsoft, LinkedIn, and AWS. Certificates from these industry giants aim to enhance skills and provide access to specialized job opportunities. UNICEF and the World Bank launched Forastech to empower Lebanese youth aged 17-32 from diverse backgrounds, addressing the talent gap and developing digital skillsets. The initiative garnered support from Prime Minister Najib Mikati, emphasizing the importance of investing in youth capabilities for Lebanon’s lasting wealth. The platform, implemented by Forward MENA, collaborates with various ministries to cater to vulnerable youth, offering career guidance, job-matching, and free training courses with the goal of supporting 5,000 eligible youth and providing meaningful career opportunities.
Street vendors have returned to the frontage of markets and streets in Casablanca, Morocco, after the authorities’ decision to ban them. A debate has surfaced regarding the fate of these street vendors who will be deprived of practicing their activities. Opinions vary between those favoring the decision to clear the streets of street vendors and those questioning alternative employment opportunities for them amid widespread unemployment. Mohamed Zahabi, the Secretary-General of Entrepreneurship and Professions, believes that organizing street vendors could have been addressed before their numbers became significant. He suggests establishing model markets to accommodate street vendors, providing industrial zones for them, and proposing tax exemptions, emphasizing the need to diversify the activities of street vendors and provide solutions for them. Former president of the National Agricultural Association, Mohamed El Hakch, argues that street vending serves as a refuge for many young people and women in cities and rural areas, especially with a national unemployment rate of 13.5%, according to the High Commission for Planning. The Economic and Social Council notes that the number of street vendors is increasing at a pace the authorities cannot regulate, considering that unemployment, migration from rural areas, and education system imbalances contribute to the expansion of street vending. The council emphasizes that while street vending provides an outlet for national production and employs a large number of poorly qualified workers, its spread exacerbates fragility in the job market, poses unfair competition to the official sector, and causes the state to lose significant tax revenues.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has called on the European Union to provide assistance in addressing irregular migration issues, highlighting the urgency as young lives are lost in the Mediterranean. Speaking at the Conference of Labor Ministers from Sahel and Sahara Countries in Tripoli, Dbeibah emphasized the need for international collaboration, stating that the migration crisis is a shared concern. The conference, attended by representatives from the UN, EU, and various nations, aims to strengthen cooperation on labor-related challenges and discuss topics such as labor market regulation, economic partnerships, border security, and irregular migration.
On October 18, the number of civilians killed in the West Bank reached 62 since October 7th, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. This was reported after a young man from Beit Rima succumbed to critical injuries inflicted by Israeli forces’ live ammunition in the village of Al-Nabi Saleh. Local sources reported clashes with Israeli forces in Al-Nabi Saleh, resulting in two young men being shot, with one later pronounced dead. Another young man was shot during confrontations in the Aida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. The clashes involved live ammunition, tear gas, and sound bombs, leading to injuries and hospitalizations. Additionally, a child was shot with live ammunition during the Israeli forces’ suppression of a protest in Beit Ummar.
Israeli occupation forces targeted a house in the Nour Shams refugee camp, east of Tulkarm, on the evening of October 19. Local sources reported that the occupation forces, continuing their aggression on the camp since early morning, besieged and shelled a house with a shell, preventing ambulance crews from reaching it. The same sources added that the occupation forces then proceeded to demolish the three-story Youth Club Center in the camp. Following these incidents, a peaceful demonstration began from the center of Tulkarm towards the Nour Shams camp, with participants demanding the lifting of the Israeli blockade on the camp and expressing solidarity with its residents.
In the West Bank, Palestinians, along with Israeli activists, accused an army unit called “Hills Youth” and settlers of detaining and torturing them, stripping them naked and urinating on two Palestinians, as reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Israeli soldiers and settlers detained three Palestinians, bound and stripped them, urinated on two, and extinguished lit cigarettes on their bodies. Meanwhile, soldiers arrested left-wing Israeli activists, threatening them with death. The Israelis were released after 3 hours, but the Palestinians were only released in the evening after being robbed and taken to a hospital in Ramallah. Witnesses, including Palestinians and Israeli activists, condemned the violent incident, drawing parallels to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The settlers, heavily armed, have a documented history of violence, blurring the line between them and soldiers, making it difficult to distinguish between the two.
In a surge of violent incidents, 23-year-old Palestinian Yazan Atef Sandiani was fatally shot in Jabal Hamouda, Nazareth, in late October. Sandiani was initially taken to the hospital in critical condition, but attempts to save his life were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, in Haifa, a 25-year-old man sustained serious injuries in a separate shooting. Medical teams from Magen David Adom provided initial treatment before transferring him to Rambam Hospital for further care. Police have initiated investigations into the two separate crimes, with no reported arrests. The incidents add to the escalating violence and organized crime in the Arab community, marked by a record-high toll of 199 Arab victims, including 15 women, since the beginning of the year.
Israeli forces have intensified their presence in Jenin and invaded Nablus, Hebron, and Jericho. On October 27, Israeli forces invaded several West Bank cities, resulting in killing a 24-year-old Palestinian from Janin Refugee Camp along with several injuries, as reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent. With that, the death toll of civilians in the West Bank since October 7 reached 110, with 1,900 injuries.
On November 11, the French newspaper Libération reports that the Palestinian territories, under the authority of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, have been stirred by a wave of anger against Israeli occupation brutality since October 7. Fueled by skyrocketing unemployment, inflation, and images of the Gaza bombardment reminiscent of the 1948 Nakba, even those previously skeptical of resistance now see freedom as non-negotiable. According to the report by special correspondent Laurence Defranoux, the concrete wall surrounding the West Bank has severely tightened its grip on Palestinian youth since October 7, with Israeli soldiers targeting anyone seeking information, subjecting them to hours of waiting before reopening roads. The impact of the October 7 attack by Hamas, though executed in Gaza, resonates significantly in the West Bank governed by Fatah, where 3 million people, two-thirds of whom are under 30, grapple with a 44% youth unemployment rate in 2019. The conflict in Gaza caused, within a month, a quarter of jobs lost in the West Bank, around 208,000 additional unemployed, amidst soaring living costs. The Israeli army strikes Jenin refugee camp, a stronghold of armed resistance in the West Bank, almost every night, resulting in about 30 deaths in two weeks.
In 2019, Iraq’s former Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, claimed that drugs were entering Iraq from “Argentina,” a statement widely mocked by Iraqis. Despite earlier admissions by officials that most drugs come from Iran, the term “Argentina” became a symbol for Iran’s role in Iraq’s drug trade. Interior Minister Abdul Amir al-Shammari acknowledged the problem, stating that drugs are still smuggled through weaknesses in the border with Iran. He revealed a recent drug seizure incident and admitted another passage at the Iraqi-Iranian border. Al-Shammari also noted that drugs are smuggled to Gulf countries, and criminal groups plan to smuggle drugs to Europe and back to the Gulf. This issue is known but not openly acknowledged due to Iran’s influence. The report by Akhbar Alaan highlights that over 50% of Iraqi youth are drug users, indicating that drugs is Iran’s weapon in Iraq.
Blinx, a new digital media hub, has been launched to cater to Middle Eastern youth, providing digital storytelling and news content across various screens and devices. The platform focuses on delivering fresh perspectives, aiming to reshape digital storytelling in the region with a vibrant and youthful approach. Blinx emphasizes authentic and diverse narratives, committed to producing inclusive and culturally relevant content spanning genres like entertainment, news, business, lifestyle, sports, and more. Blinx is dedicated to nurturing emerging talent, employing around 150 young professionals from the MENA region. The platform incorporates cutting-edge technology, including metaverse and reality studios, AI-enhanced tools, and advanced data analytics, to enhance user engagement. Blinx also pledges to uphold journalistic integrity by avoiding fake news and misinformation, focusing on empowering the creator economy and supporting causes important to Gen Z and Millennials in the region.
In response to widespread demands from content creators and social media users for an alternative to restricted platforms, the Jordanian social media application “Releaser” has emerged as a global platform committed to freedom of expression. The app’s management, in an exclusive statement to Sawalif, announced a strategic focus on supporting content creators, influencers, and users in conveying authentic perspectives without constraints. Releaser aims to be the first global Arabic platform of its kind, emphasizing freedom of expression and promoting Arab-Islamic content within the guidelines of social media. The platform has offered a reward of 1,000 Jordanian dinars for content creators and journalists, with a budget exceeding ten million Jordanian dinars allocated for marketing and supporting their content on Releaser. Launched in February 2023, Releaser is positioned as a professional platform for sharing official statements and news by companies, brands, and individuals, offering a unique social experience. The app is available in over 170 countries worldwide on both Google and Apple app stores.
A youth-led initiative, established in 2019, is empowering street art enthusiasts through innovative workshops, providing a stepping stone for emerging street artists and a unique platform for creative expression in Jordan. Dedicated to highlighting the vibrant world of youth street art and hip-hop in Jordan, the initiative seeks to celebrate diverse expressions often hidden by traditional cultural norms. Founders Alaeddin Rahmeh and Hannah Redekop aim to foster and uplift Jordan’s growing street art and hip-hop community as a catalyst for positive social change. Recent projects include street art workshops led by artist Yamen Hattab, offering participants an opportunity to delve into the fundamentals of street art and graffiti, explore color theory, sketching techniques, and scaling, and create their own wall murals.
The Directorate of Youth and Sports in Kafr El-Sheikh, Egypt, organized an awareness seminar on the role of social media in shaping political awareness among youth, with the participation of 40 young men and women from youth centers. The event focused on the impact of social media on youth and society. Dr. Mohamed Abu El-Saud, a lecturer at the Faculty of Education at Kafr El-Sheikh University, highlighted that social media affects human and family relationships, influencing the psychological state of its users. While it serves as a beneficial means for communication, advertising, and quick feedback, excessive use without a specific goal can be a time-wasting distraction, particularly for youth. Additionally, it can compromise privacy, negatively affect health, and contribute to the prevalence of social alienation among those who spend prolonged periods using it.
Jordanian youth are advocating for the recognition of climate change as an agricultural risk and urging society to perceive addressing climate change as an opportunity for growth, not just a challenge. Over 200 Jordanian youth gathered for the 2023 Local Conference of Youth on Climate Change (LCOY) in Amman, on October 4, for three days, to discuss the impacts of climate change and promote sustainable, green growth. The conference produced the Youth Statement on climate change to be presented at COP28 in Dubai.
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s Innovation Center concluded the third batch of the “Clean Energy Youth” program, aimed at developing knowledge in clean and renewable energy, as well as entrepreneurship among young energy leaders. The participants showcased innovative projects during the first edition of the “Middle East and North Africa Solar Energy Conference.” Said Mohammed Al Tayer, CEO of the authority, emphasized their commitment to empowering youth, encouraging their involvement in clean and renewable energy, and fostering partnerships to accelerate the transition to carbon neutrality.
Youth climate delegates from across the MENA region are actively participating in COP28 in Dubai. Led by COP28 Youth Climate Champion Shamma Al Mazrui, the program welcomed 100 delegates to the conference. Among them is Emirati Hoor Ahli, a 19-year-old Youth Climate Delegate with experiences at previous COP edition. Mahmoud Saad Radaideh, a climate justice assistant from Jordan, emphasizes the urgent need for a drought management system in Jordan. Sara Badran from Lebanon discusses the impact of rising temperatures on Lebanon’s iconic cedar trees, and Houyame Hakmi from Morocco highlights the importance of environmental advocacy in shaping public policy. Oumar Cisse from Mauritania addresses desertification issues and advocates for reforestation efforts through innovative techniques like seedball technology.
The Arab Youth Center launched the event “Sustainability in Arab Culture,” in collaboration with the “Arab Youth Language Council,” during the COP 28 conference hosted by the UAE. The event showcased the ancient roots of environmental sustainability in Arab culture, culminating in current day practices and government projects. The event featured a youth discussion session, addressing the sustainability of Arab culture that has endured for thousands of years. It also explored the relationship between biodiversity and linguistic diversity, discussing endangered languages listed in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. The event concluded with the launch of the “Arab Glossary of Environmental Terms,” a collaboration between the Arab Youth Language Council, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center. The glossary aims to provide a scientifically and linguistically accurate reference for environmental terms in English and their Arabic equivalents. The first chapter, focusing on “Environmental Quality Terms,” was approved, with ongoing efforts to complete subsequent chapters.
The “Youth for Sustainability” platform, an initiative by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), announced the winner of the “Innovation for Climate” competition for the year 2023. The judging panel, consisting of a distinguished group of experts, awarded the 2023 competition prize to “INMA” for their project employing artificial intelligence to respond to energy demand. The project connects energy consumers, urging behavior change to avoid wastage and contribute to climate change mitigation. The panel praised the winning project for providing an innovative solution to a real problem, supporting sustainability in the energy sector, and highlighting the potential of combining gaming techniques and the Internet of Things for future qualitative solutions.
The Youth Center at COP28 is showcasing a diverse group of young farmers and their innovative projects focused on sustainable agricultural systems. Saeed Ahmed Al Remeithi, one of the youngest founders of organic farms in the UAE, presented “The Organic Farm,” emphasizing its comprehensive approach, incorporating meat, grains, and vegetables, along with recycling agricultural waste. The project aims to produce healthy organic food and promote awareness of sustainability. Manal Ahmed Al Kaabi’s “My Emirati Beekeepers” project focuses on premium honey production, while Haza Al Kutbi of Al Falaj Farm showcases modern agricultural practices for fig cultivation. Abdullah Suleiman Al Housani contributes with a hydroponic farming project, producing compost fertilizer from recycled waste. The Youth Center, operating under the Ministry of Culture and Youth, offers a platform for youth to exchange ideas on climate change, aligning with the UAE’s commitment to engage youth in finding innovative solutions and drawing global attention to climate issues.