Successful youth conference held despite mounting arrests
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Successful youth conference held despite mounting arrests

Stop the Wall held its first West-Bank-wide youth conference this month. This conference, a product of two years of youth organizing and planning, took place under the creeping shadow of repression that is being exacted on activists and communities fighting against the Wall. However, even with the arrest of key organizers Mohammed Othman and Jamal Juma’, the conference went ahead with fruitful discussions on grassroots resistance, boycott and the role of the youth in the national struggle.

On the 18 – 19 of December, some 90 youth from across the West Bank traveled to Jenin for the conference. They were joined by members of Palestinian NGOs and organizations from the ’48 and the West Bank as well as academics and activists. Proceedings began the introductions and tribute to the martyrs that have fallen in the struggle against the Wall as well as those that are currently jailed.

The conference launched with youth presenting key statistics about the Wall and settlements, tracing the ways in which Occupation policy is geared toward expelling Palestinians from their land.

Throughout the two days of the conference, discussion and working papers generally centered around three central topics: popular resistance, boycott and the role of the youth.

Popular resistance figured strongly into the conference. Several popular committee members laid out the history of this resistance, focusing on the Great Revolt of 1936- 1939 and the First Intifada as key historical moments where this resistance developed. Also discussed was the history of the popular committees and their role in mobilizing communities.

Youth also considered ways in which to develop the popular resistance further in the current political situation. Individuals from Jayyus, al-Ma’sara and Ni’lin all shared experiences they have had and obstacles they have faced organizing and participating in their local protest movements. Participants pointed out the limits of the current organizational structures and methods of protest, exploring ways in which grassroots resistance could be expanded outside of the “Friday protest” strategy, both in terms of creating more friction and incorporating a wider array of social groups.

The boycott and anti-normalization campaign was another topic of discussion, and members of the BNC spoke about current developments and strategies in the national and international boycott movement. It was stressed that BDS is not only an important tool internationally, but also can play a crucial role on the national stage because it is not limited to certain groups, but can be taken up by the people as a whole.

Finally, participants of the conference considered issues particular to the youth. Some speakers talked generally about problems of unemployment caused by Israeli policies, education, and the role of youth in social and political issues. Others shared their experiences as Palestinian youth living in the ’48 and the diaspora, in particular the problems arising for the diaspora community since the signing of the Oslo Agreement.

Voluntary work is central in any discussion of youth experience, and during the conference the history and culture of voluntary worked in Palestine was examined. Participants also looked at ways in which to encourage voluntary work, looking to contemporary models in the ’48 which are important in building community and a shared sense of purpose.

In the end, youth divided into three groups taking up the issues of the resistance to the Wall and settlements, boycott and normalization, and voluntary work. In these smaller groups, they discussed particular opportunities and challenges in before reassembling and laying out plans and responsibilities for the coming work.