Formed in 2000, the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA) describes itself as a “communication and media-oriented Palestinian NGO established for Palestinian youth.” Claiming to be “non-political,” PYALARA is an officially registered NGO at the Palestinian Ministry of Interior Affairs and works closely with a wide network of Palestinian schools and colleges. It also works with the Palestinian Ministries of Education, Information, and Youth and Sports.
PYALARA’s objectives are to: “give a voice to Palestinian youngsters through specialized media focusing on youth”; “increase awareness among youth concerning issues pertaining to their rights”; “increase awareness concerning one’s roots and identity, environment and culture, as well as awareness pertaining to the situation of youth in other countries and the world at large”; “create a lively Palestinian youth culture”; and “encourage the development of one’s community and people.”
According to PYALARA, the Palestinian people are consistently victimized by Israeli oppression and injustice. Seeking “to prevent young Palestinians from becoming thoroughly frustrated as a result of the harsh conditions under which they are forced to live,” PYALARA encourages them “to express themselves through writing, talking, and other forms of communication in order to maintain a connection with the community.” The resulting written and verbal contributions appear in The Youth Times (TYT), the only Palestinian monthly newspaper for young people. Contributors range in age from 14 to 25. Established in 1997, TYT is a 24-page bilingual publication that distributes some 20,000 copies each month — many of them to schools run by the Palestinian Authority and by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. TYT is funded by CORDAID, the European Union, the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung/German Fund for Palestinian NGOs, and UNICEF.
Since December 2000, PYALARA has produced, with the support of UNICEF and the cooperation of Palestine TV, a weekly two-hour television program called “Alli Sowtak” (“Speak Up”), which is viewed by an average of 300,000 Palestinian children and teenagers. Each episode focuses on a major theme, such as education, children’s talents, health, and children’s awareness concerning their various rights.
PYALARA has established a “Program for the Well-Being of Youth,” which consists of three branches:
(a) Psychosocial Well-Being: “The ‘We Care Project’ was developed by PYALARA in response to the negative psychological impact the present-day political situation is having on Palestinian youth. The essence of this particular project is youth-to-youth counseling”
(b) Physical Well-Being: “One of the main objectives of the ‘Youth 4 Health Program’ is to improve the health of Palestinian families through raising awareness concerning health practices by resorting to the youth-to-youth approach”
(c) Socio-Political Well-Being: “The ‘Youth 4 Change Program’ aims at spreading awareness among Palestinian youth in underprivileged areas concerning how to become a ‘good citizen,’ concepts of democracy, youth rights and duties, etc.”
In 2002, PYALARA published an article about Abu Ali Mustafa, a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist leader who was killed by Israeli forces in 2001. The article called Mustafa “a political leader … whose history prides his nationalistic activism.” Describing Mustafa as “a human being who has a family that awaits his arrival every day,” the report added that “the Israelis could have turned to [him] to talk peace if peace were what they truly wanted.” (PYALARA did not mention that Mustafa was famous for his uncompromising refusal to engage with the Israelis.)
A section on the PYALARA website, entitled Dear World, tacitly justifies Palestinian suicide bombings: “The world talks a lot about the young Palestinians who have willingly sacrificed their lives in the name of their homeland and condemns their actions, but one has to remember that we are talking here about a new generation whose innocence was taken from them the minute they were born. The youth in question were raised amidst evil war crimes and exposed to the most terrible acts of violence, and as their ears were deafened by numerous explosions and their lungs filled by gas and smoke, they were expected to settle for ruins for playgrounds and missiles and spent bullets for toys. Tell me, in all honesty, who is to ‘blame’ for their actions?”
PYALARA maintains close ties to the Palestinian Authority. PYALARA’s Director, Hania Bitar, has a picture of Yasser Arafat displayed above her desk. She has been a candidate for the Palestinian Legislative Elections.
The Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation receives considerable funding from UNICEF, which considers the PYALARA “a major strategic partner in Palestine.” PYALARA also gets financial support from the International Red Cross and various European groups. Its current annual budget is approximately $144,000.
This profile is adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor.