Gaza and Youth Work : Any Connection?


Over the last few days I’ve been struggling to write something that connected the unfolding tragedy in Gaza to the politics of Youth Work. This line of thought was set in motion by a chance conversation with a group of young Palestinians. However in doing so I’ve gone beyond what is comfortably appropriate for a blog contribution. So, if I finish up writing something worthwhile, I’ll post it on the Critical Thoughts page. However, in the piece I’m writing, I touch on the illusory notion of political ‘balance’ and thus in the interests of alternative readings of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict the following links are worth exploring.

clipped from:

If Gaza falls . . – Sarah Roy

Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt.

On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza…….

clipped from:

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state’s legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question………

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

clipped from:

Statement distributed by the Manchester and Sheffield Anarchist Federation groups on the conflict in Gaza, in solidarity with the victims of the conflict, and for internationalism.

One thing is absolutely clear about the current situation in Gaza: the Israeli state is committing atrocities which must end immediately. With hundreds dead and thousands wounded, it has become increasingly clear that the aim of the military operation, which has been in the planning stages since the signing of the original ceasefire in June, is to break Hamas completely. The attack follows the crippling blockade throughout the supposed ‘ceasefire’, which has destroyed the livelihoods of Gazans, ruined the civilian infrastructure and created a humanitarian disaster which anyone with an ounce of humanity would seek an end to.

But that’s not all there is to say about the situation…………


The question haunting the piece I am writing is ‘to what extent are youth workers engaging in awkward and contradictory conversations with young people about Gaza?’ How far are they trying to comprehend for themselves what is unfolding before their eyes? What’s your sense of what’s happening on the ground?

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Another question might be to what extent are youth workers engaging in awkward and contradictory conversations with young people about Israel?’

  2. Point taken. I was intending no more than the question of Gaza raises questions for all those concerned, be they Israeli, Palestinian or otherwise. Its consequences have an international significance. We should all be bothered.

  3. I have been chatting with young people about this issue during detached sessions… I remember when I was a teenager, my grasp of the news (and especially international news) was very shaky, despite being interested in politics. So I am not suprised that some of the young people I’ve talked with have only vaguely heard about the conflict, and many do not know where Israel or Gaza are, or anything about the history. It is a challenge to my own knowledge to try to explain any of this, and makes me aware of huge gaps in my own knowledge.

  4. Tania – thanks for bringing the issue down to earth. It’s easy to forget in the midst of so much coverage of the Gaza situation that many young people remain distant from what’s going on. So too, as you say, we will often need ourselves to find out more about what’s going on. However my experience is that, contrary to your desire to find out more, many workers seek refuge, both in young people’s apparent lack of interest and their own ignorance, rationalising that this means that they can conveniently wash their hands of any engagement with the political issues.

    Any social educator worth their salt sees the collective lack of knowledge you describe as a challenge and an opportunity. And, of course, I know this is how you view affairs.


  5. Yes, I think issues like this are essential for youth workers to raise. However, on an aside point – the original AF statement referenced puts forward an argument that is not just “internationalist” (a position claimed by many groups on the left with differing proposals regarding Israel and Palestine) but one that proposes that both the Palestinian and Israeli working-class should avoid being dragged into the conflict – namely it argues that Hamas (and Fatah or the Israeli government) are bourgeois and should not be supported. Now, whether one agrees with this position or not, how on earth can these types of issues be dealt with in a youth work setting?

  6. Leam

    How on earth indeed? I would have a crack at it, but without, I suspect, using the notion of ‘bourgeois’. When asked something along the lines of,” Tony, all this Gaza stuff, what can you do? Hamas, the Israelis, they’re the same, hate one another”, I’d suggest there was something in what they were saying, but….

    Leave aside the problems of how Israel had been created and the blockade of Gaza[ for the sake of the argument we’ll pretend we’ve chatted a little bit about the history before], neither Hamas nor the Israeli government are under proper manners to their people. They do not ask consistently at every turn of their people, ‘what do you think we should do next?’ Once elected they assume they know best and when they act, they demand blind obedience. Neither Hamas nor Israel recognise that a democratic government stands for the will of the people and is always committed to keeping them fully in the picture and refuses to manipulate its people in order to keep power.

    This reality makes life difficult for ordinary people, especially when in the middle of armed conflict. I’d say to the young people I’m not sure what I’d do.If I was in Gaza, part of me would want to run away because I don’t agree with Hamas, part of me would want to stay and fight for the liberation of the place where I lived, part of me would not want to be seen as a coward and part of me would be afraid of Hamas. And this confusion is down to the fact that together with my friends and neighbours we know we’re not in control of our lives, but we want to be.

    At which point I’d shut up for sure. That’s all off the top of my head. And I don’t need to get it all beautifully right, do I? If I’ve rung any bells, it will come up again a few nights later or whenever and we’ll chat again….and I’ll have thought some more.

    And to say that in lots of youth work settings it would be nigh impossible to have such a discussion at all.

    Hope this makes a bit of sense even it’s way off the mark. Next time, ask an easy one!

    Best Wishes


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