The following is a guest posting by KABOBfriend Samar – who would like to share her experience attending the first conference of the Palestinian Youth Network with the KABOBcommunity. Enjoy!
I was invited to a conference sponsored by a new France-based organization called the Palestinian Youth Network (PYN). At first I did not know what was the vision or the political affiliation of this organization, but the fact that I was going to meet with 120 Palestinians from different regions was exciting and so I decided to participate.
I arrived in France late in the evening of November 22nd to find the conference’s participants taking part in an impromptu celebration of Palestinian folkloric song and dance. I was super excited and introduced myself to everyone there – singing and dancing along with my brothers and sisters in Diaspora. Needless to say, the evening was inspirational.
The next day the work started. A conference agenda was distributed to everyone to familiarize them with the upcoming activities. It was packed with different lectures and workshops. It was overwhelming, as the activities started at 9AM and continued till 9PM. We had different lectures on various topics such as the refugees’ status and camps’ conditions, the Palestinians living in the land occupied in 1948, Palestinians right to return, the role of the Arab countries and the situation in Palestine, occupation and its effect on the new generation, one state/two states solutions, human rights violations, and international law.
We also participated in different workshops on various topics such as dialogue, leadership training, media communication, advocacy, and lobbying. Later, we were divided into small groups to discuss the Palestinian community’s activities in the countries we represent – during which participants shared ideas, knowledge, and experiences.
The motive behind establishing the PYN and organizing this conference was to connect Palestinians living in Palestine and the Diaspora, raise awareness on important issues of Palestine and to help Palestinians living under occupation. The organization recognizes the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as being the sole representative of the Palestinian People, as well as the importance of restructuring the PLO and reactivating its institutions in Palestine and the Diaspora. It also emphasizes the Palestinian National principals and rights, foremost among them the right of return and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital.
The conference ended by commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people with a peaceful demonstration in Paris, supporting the struggle of Palestinians. French and international organizations in solidarity with the Palestinians, as well as important Palestinian figures and the General Union of Palestinian Students in France, participated in the demonstration.
I arrived back in the United States on November, 30th inspired and reinvigorated to delve into the work we promised to do – which is mainly to raise awareness on the Palestinian cause and continue building the network of Palestinian youth. I have to say that this was by far the best experience I have had. I built relationships with amazing Palestinians all over the world. I also got the chance to listen to the lives my brothers and sisters are leading in the occupied territories.
All was well until last Monday. Less than 10 days after the conference had ended, the General Coordinator of the PYN, Seif, was detained by the Israeli occupation forces while entering the occupied Palestinian territories via the Allenby (Al-Karama) Bridge. During the detainment, he was extensively asked about the PYN and his participation at the conference. He was released after 7 hours of interrogation and being thoroughly searched. Even though Seif has been detained before, the press release stated that ” Saif Abu Kishek;s detention comes as a result of his participation in the second annual conference, the founding conference of the Palestinian Youth Network (PYN).
After finding out that Saif was detained, I was extremely shocked and could not believe that he got arrested. I was frustrated when I knew the reason behind his detainment, which is his participation in a peaceful conference that was comprised of Palestinian youth. I felt like even though the conference was held for educational and networking purposes, still Israel felt the need to arrest Seif.
This incident is another example of Israel violating another basic human right, depriving Saif of the right of movement even though he had the proper documentation to enter his homeland. One should keep in mind that this is happening in a place which claims to be one of the most democratic states in the Middle East.