On the weekend of the 6-7 of February 2009, we held the year’s second youth seminar. This time, 87 youth attended the two-day seminar (yet again our largest seminar ever!!), which put an emphasis on the war in Gaza and its implications on the youth’s identity, on their communities and on social change. The groups took part in a lecture on ‘Human Rights in Time of War’ with speakers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which was to be the basis for work in the specific groups. The purposes of the seminar were threefold: 1) to expose youth to alternative information concerning the bloodshed in Gaza; 2) to let the youth express their thoughts and feelings in relation to the war in the bi-national setting; 3) to analyze and question the role of bi-national youth partnership in the context of wars, violent clashes and/or high tension between the two communities.
It is important to mention that the seminar took place a few days before the national elections, and therefore the discussions were much influenced by the electoral atmosphere that surrounded the encounter. As already mentioned, the last elections could easily be defined by the space taken by racist discourses, directed towards the Palestinian population of Israel. ‘Israel Beytenu’, the third largest party after the elections, ran a campaign which focused on the Arabs’ ‘loyalty’ to the country which reflected on the general discourse concerning Arab-Jewish relations. In the course of the seminar, youth discussed much their thoughts and feelings in the context of the elections. Many of the Palestinian youth talked about how the combination of the bloodshed during the war on Gaza with the racist and violent election campaign arose in them fears as to their existence within Israel and doubts as to the potential of bi-national partnership. Also within the Jewish youth, voices relating to the ever growing difficulty of holding ‘different’ opinions were heard, leading to confusion as to their position vis-à-vis mainstream society.