Assembly Speaker, Monday 22 January – Solutions Not Sides.
On Monday, our assembly speakers were from an organisation called Solutions Not Sides.
The first speaker, Celia (an ex CSG student) explained the work the organisation does in delivering non-partisan education on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She outlined how the Israel-Palestine conflict polarises students in schools and universities across Europe, with aggressive campaigning often alienating and intimidating students, and shutting down constructive dialogue on the issue. The Solutions Not Sides Programme, which has been formulated with the input of both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as senior members of Jewish and Muslim communities, is designed to prepare students to make a positive, solutions-focused contribution to debates on Israel-Palestine.
SNS brings together speakers from both Israel and Palestine to talk about a non-violent peaceful approach to the conflict, and the fact that both sides are united in their desire to achieve this will hopefully mean they will come to a solution much more quickly.
Celia introduced us to:
Amal who talked about her experience as a young Palestinian woman living in East Jerusalem: aged 29, with two Masters and hoping to study PhD. From 1967 onwards, East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israeli forces. Although currently living in East Jerusalem, Amal has also lived in West Jerusalem and she commented on the huge disparity in terms of living conditions, with East being much worse in terms of services and infrastructure differing massively as a result of the occupation. She told us that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are subject to inequality in terms of their citizenship - only being allowed the status of non-permanent citizenship that can be revoked at any time. Amal has had some personal experiences of the conflict - her dad was imprisoned by Israeli forces twice in her lifetime; the second she remembers vividly. She was aged 12, and woke up in the middle of the night to being poked by a soldier’s rifle. Amal told us that whilst doing her masters she met and became very close friends with a Jewish/Israeli man. In 2014, a picture of Amal and her friend was unknowingly taken by a journalist while they were out for lunch together at a cafe, as the sight of a Jewish man and an Arab women is something quite rare. She went on to receive a lot of media attention because of that photo. What she wants for herself and her country is the freedom to have these friendships and go to his son’s bar mitzvah and invite him to her family celebrations without it being something out of the norm.
The next speaker was Jauhid a young Israeli Jew who lives in Tel Aviv, and has worked in the Israeli parliament. She too believes that the two sides must work together to peacefully find a solution. She told us that her first understanding of the conflict was in 2000 aged 10 when there were bomb attacks on the Israeli national holiday of Purim. She felt upset by what had happened but was told by her mother that she must still attend the celebration and live her life as normal as possible. It was then that she realised that a key part of her identity is the conflict. She explained that it is mandatory to join the army after high school in Israel. Even though it was in direct contrast to her wish to promote peace, she decided to embrace her role in the army in order to spread awareness of the dangers of violent action and educate others as to what it means to be a soldier in a conflict such as this. Being in the army enabled her to really understand the situation and it underlined for her the need for a peaceful solution. After this experience, she travelled around Africa and spent some time doing volunteer work, before she realised that she was trying to escape the problems of her own country by attempting to help those in others. She decided that it was her responsibility to be an activist in Israel itself, to try and educate people on the details of the conflict and to promote a non-violent solution, with a lack of hatred for the opposition.
When asked about the difference between the younger and older generations in terms of finding a solution to the conflict, both speakers felt that more and more young people are increasingly moving towards a peaceful means of resolving this very old and very complex conflict. Both Amal and Jauhid commented on the fact that the youth in both countries is generally tired of running from the problem, fighting with no gains, and hoping for someone else to solve it for them. What can students like us do to help?
To be inquisitive, ask questions and come to views on the situation only after becoming properly informed, and above all, to support the movement for Solutions not Sides.
Miriam - Senior Prefect