Geopolitics

The Oslo Generation: Palestinians, Educated And Full Of Rage

Born around the time of the 1993 Oslo Accords that were supposed to usher in Middle East peace, these young people are well-informed, disillusioned and very, very angry.

Palestinian protesters during clashes near Ramallah on Oct. 14
Palestinian protesters during clashes near Ramallah on Oct. 14
Piotr Smolar

RAMALLAH â€" The Halabi family home, with its wrought iron gate bordered with flowers and shrubs, looks impressive and spacious. But there's no furniture left inside except for two mattresses in a corner and some plastic chairs. The occupants decided to evacuate in a rush, because Israel has promised to demolish it.

For now, the family welcomes guests in the empty rooms of their house in Surda, near Ramallah. One after another, cousins, friends and neighbors come to offer their condolences for the death of 19-year-old Muhannad Halabi, who was shot and killed by Israeli police after stabbing two Israelis to death in Jerusalem's Old City on Oct. 3.

Muhannad Halabi was a law student at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. A few days before he launched the attack, he attended a ceremony in memory of a young man killed by Israeli troops near Hebron. "After what I've seen today, I’m confident that this university will bring up a generation that will follow in his footsteps," he wrote that evening in a Facebook post.

His fits of anger were evident on his Facebook page. His most recent posts had focused mostly on the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, located in East Jerusalem and known to the Jews as Temple Mount. The most recent Jewish holidays saw almost daily violence between Israeli soldiers and rioters who were barricaded inside the mosque to prevent Jewish extremist groups from visiting the site. "Anger, anger and more anger," Halabi wrote. "Wake up and save al-Aqsa. Let the revolution erupt!"

His father, 51-year-old Shafiq Halabi, says he had no idea that his son was filled with so much rage, that he could be driven to kill people. "I didn't think he had all of these things inside him, that he was capable of that," he says sadly. "It's a very active and emotional generation. As parents, we cannot control them. They see the daily attacks committed by the Israeli settlers and soldiers. My son died because of the occupation and because of their crimes."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has escalated again over the last two weeks, except that something's different this time. For years, there was the illusion of a status quo. There was no obvious political progress. Meanwhile, on hill after hill, settlers were encroaching on Palestinian territories, trampling on international law. In the West Bank, a renewed anger was burgeoning among young people, the so-called Oslo generation.

Aged between 16 and 25, this generation was born around the time when Israelis and Palestinians signed the 1993 Oslo Accords in Washington, paving the way for peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. But there have been so many renunciations, lies, violence and wars in Gaza since then. Making matters worse is the archaic Palestinian political system that lacks legitimacy because there are no elections. These young people have found other ways to express themselves, on social media and through violence. They share videos of Israeli military brutality and of clashes at al-Aqsa.

Defending human sacrifice

Anan R. is 22 and lives in Birzeit, north of Ramallah. He introduces himself as a "peace militant" and talks eloquently â€" and anonymously â€" about his generation. "It has nothing to do with that of the Second Intifada of the 2000s," he says. "The current generation has one advantage: knowledge. We're no longer ignorant. We have access to academic work on our history, to infinite sources of information. We understand better and better Israeli media and we're very reactive."

Anan relies on Facebook a lot, "given the lack of any reliable news sources in Palestine." He hopes to become an engineer and has traveled extensively in both Israel and the United States. He understands those who choose violent action. "In history, human sacrifice has always been the way people have obtained their rights."

Many experts are observing these rioters with a mindset that's stuck in the past. They imagine invisible strings controlling their movements, operated by Palestinian puppeteers with dark intentions. Israeli leaders believe the primary responsibility lies with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who has continued to play the game of security coordination with Israel. But this approach dismisses a crucial element that Palestinian activist and politician Mustafa Barghouti identifies.

Palestinian protesters near Ramallah on Oct.12 â€" Photo: Shadi Hatem/APA Images/ZUMA

"The street has its own dynamic," Barghouti says. "The Israelis thought they could subdue this new generation, but it's turning out to be among the most patriotic and audacious. It looks like the youth of the Arab Spring or of Greece. As a result, our old structures are in complete disarray or in denial."

In the courtyard of Birzeit University, hundreds of students are gathered, answering calls from student unions. Professors and many young women, dressed with veils or in Western clothes, listen to the enthusiastic speeches interspersed with patriotic chants. There's a call for unity, for resistance and for overcoming the age-old divisions among different groups.

Apart from the crowd, Moumin Mousameh is chatting with his friends who, like him, are studying to become engineers. The diminutive 18-year-old wearing white Hugo Boss glasses looks perfectly harmless, but what comes out of his mouth is a little terrifying. "I don't believe in pacifist resistance," he says. "Oslo meant the loss of our lands. What was taken by force must be retaken by force. He who attacked must be attacked."

He lives in Tulkarem, in the northern set. Every day, he takes a shuttle to the university â€" a journey that normally takes an hour. But lately, Israeli restrictions on the roads mean it takes him twice as long. Asked whether he'd personally fight, he says, "Of course. I'm ready to sacrifice myself. My mother would be proud."

He believes there is no difference between attacking a soldier and a civilian. "Even civilians serve in the army as reservists," he says. "Women too." Asked if he's ever met an Israeli, he says, "Yes, one. Well, it was actually a Jew from Syria."

Strangers in the same land

Most of the students say they've never met any Israelis. "And I don't want to meet any," adds Ossaid Qaddoni, 18. "When they've left the land occupied since 1967 (and the Six-Day War), then we'll talk. No, wait. The Jews should go back where they came from, to Europe and the United States." The son of a electrician father and a pharmacist mother, Qaddoni wants to become an computer engineer. He supports the stabbings "because it's a wake-up call for all of us."

Outside Ramallah's northern exit, near the checkpoint, hundreds of young people fight every day with Israeli troops, not far from a gas station. Many of these kids come after school with their school bags still on their backs. There are also veiled girls.

Rami Mesleh, a 19-year-old literature student, came to bear witness. But his mother is on the phone, pleading with him to return home and stay out of trouble. "I listen to her, but not always," he says smiling, before launching into everything that's wrong with the Israeli occupation. "Our main problem is the roads. We're under siege, surrounded by colonies. There are barricades between villages. And then, we're not allowed to go to al-Aqsa because we don't have authorization."

Neither he nor the other students ever mention the need for a Palestinian state.

In their family house in Surda, the Halabis are expecting the soldiers to return at any time. Only one person here questions the assassin's "sacrifice" â€" 19-year-old Muhannad Younes, a neighborhood friend who works as a barber while studying video production. He often used to smoke or drink a soda with Muhannad Halabi. He came to pay his respects to the family, but not to condone the attack.

"What he did was unacceptable," he says. "There will be collective punishment from the Israelis, and Palestine won't be any freer. Those who are ready to commit such actions are the exception. Most of us aren't interested in politics. We're more interested in the Western way of life."

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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