The Palestinian class of 2009, in their own words

Thu Jul 2, 2009 6:29am EDT
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By Douglas Hamilton

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Whether a just resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is close at hand or close to impossible is today -- as so often over the past two decades -- in the eye of the beholder.

Palestinian students about to graduate from high school in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in Israel where they are called Arab Israelis, paused during final exams this week to give the following snapshots of their views on the future.

Most were born in 1991, the year the Madrid Conference began a "peace process" that, 18 years on, has yet to yield the state desired by Palestinians or to settle other disputes with Israel.

Palestinians in the West Bank live under occupation in a poor but semi-autonomous region, ultimately controlled by the Israeli military. Arab Israelis complain of discrimination but have access to Israel's modern economy and welfare system.

In Gaza, ruled by Hamas Islamists who preach armed resistance to Israel, Palestinians live in a blockaded coastal enclave often described by sympathizers as an "open-air prison," to which Israel and Egypt have the keys.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- by Mustafa Abu Ganiyeh

Seven of 10 students were pessimistic about peace.

Three said peace was inevitable, however distant, because "we live in a modern, progressive world."   Continued...

<p>Arab Israeli student Neama Ibrahim, 18, poses in a classroom at the Abu Ghosh High School near Jerusalem June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside</p>