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Youth Conference in Sweden

Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) took part in a YOUTH ACTION PLAN (YAP) Conference in SWEDEN on July 31 – August 6.  YAP called on the European Union `to use the human rights clause [of the European Union-Israel Association Agreement] to suspend its trade agreement with Israel until gross violations of human rights have ceased.’

The Church of Sweden, the Diocese of Lund, sponsored this conference for Palestinian and Swedish youth.  Forty-one youth, aged 17 to 29 years, participated. “Training for Transformation and Overcoming Violence by International Law and Human Rights” was the title for the conference.

Nonviolent resistance is an effective means adopted by many churches in the world. It emphasizes the rights of human beings in an accepted and recognized form. The WCC has announced this year 2001-2010 as the “Decade to Overcome Violence.” 

In Sorda Hoka, Swedish and Palestinian youth worked side by side to adopt appropriate strategies to be used in the peaceful struggle for Palestinian human rights. No Israeli Jews took part in this conference due to the Palestinian position not to meet  with Israeli Jews abroad. Normalization is banned from a Palestinian persepctive because it gives the false impression that both sides are living in an agreeable situation. 

In one of the resolutions the position on racism is taken to “Co-operate with existing Israeli Human Rights organizations and Palestinian organizations within Israel to counteract racism and daily life discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.” The Palestinians shoiuld enjoy equal rights in independence and freedom according to international law and the Geneva fourth Convention.

The Palestinian participants described the daily suffering of the Palestinian people living in the Palestinian territories. According to some members, the term conflict shouldn't be applied to the Palestinian/ Israeli struggle because the word conflict is normally used between two countries. However, the word occupation presents better the Palestinian cause and refers directly to the current situation. The Palestinian cause is not an internal issue inside the state of Israel. For this reason Israel refuses international observers to monitor. It's rather a colonial country occupying another nation and land.

Among the problems discussed in the conference is the role of the media in presenting the Palestinian cause. Palestinians are frequently depicted as terrorists seeking to destroy the state of Israel. However, the conference focused on the building of a Palestinian civil society and the necessity to protect it even during the difficult struggle for freedom.  Swedish and international members took the responsibility to publicize the human side of the Palestinian cause. For some people in Sweden or in other parts of Europe it is very difficult to understand why the Palestinians are struggling to the point of death for their human rights.

'Training for Transformation” has given the Palestinian participants an ability to understand and respect another’s culture.  They also seek a mutual respect of Palestinian people and traditions.  According to the Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire, “no fundamental changes can be achieved unless people themselves participate in the transformation of their own lives.  Therefore education and training becomes fundamental to the success for justice, peace and reconciliation.”

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