Juso-Leadership visit @ WBC – April 16-17, 2019

The Chairperson and international Secretary of Jusos, Kevin Kühnert and International Secretary Leo von Galen visited the region on the 16th and 17th of April in order to discuss the political cooperation of the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem. The leaders of our partner organisations Young Fatah, Young Labour and Young Meretz stressed during the passionate talks the importance and relevance of the cooperation. Especially in the aftermath of the national elections in Israel and the dramatic loss of the Israeli left, solidarity between young progressive actors who seek a better future and a two-state solution is more important than ever. In our upcoming projects and delegations this summer, we hope to promote these talks and our work for strengthening the political and social left in Israel, Palestine and Germany.

Click here to watch Kevin Kühnert and project coordinator Judith Höffkes discuss the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem.

WBC at the Jusos Federal Congress (Bundeskongress) – November 30 – December 2, 2018

From Judith Höffkes‘ speech at the Jusos Federal Congress:

When I stood on this stage two years ago, at the Congress in Dresden 2016, I looked to the past and focused my speech on the proud history of our project in its 20th anniversary. However, in the last two years of my work, I have tried to shape the Willy Brandt Center for the future.

In doing so, I came to both negative and positive conclusions: On the one hand, the political situation in Israel and Palestine often seems even worse than we could imagine here in Germany. On the other hand, we do indeed have partners and activists at the Willy Brandt Center who represent our values of double solidarity and who, due to our work, meet with the other side of the conflict and listen to their narratives.

Our partners are qualified and motivated, and want to remain in their countries to fight for a peaceful solution for the region. In this regard, the Willy Brandt Center is the only project that offers a place for young progressive activists from both sides. We should indeed be proud of that.

It is a tough challenge nowadays for young Palestinians to act in cooperation with Israelis and to be engaged in a dialogue with the other side of the conflict. Therefore, I am especially happy to announce a new generation of young Fatah activists in our political team. This success is a sign of hope for the future and is a result of our persistence and the sustainable approach of our partnership.

Furthermore, all of our partner organizations are currently engaged in intense processes aimed at shaping the political content for the upcoming year at the Willy Brandt Center. This dedication should motivate us to continue with energy and joy our engagement to double solidarity with young progressive activists.

Study Visit of Hans Böckler Foundation (HBS) – August 31-September 9, 2018

Work relations and the struggle for workers’ rights have had a fundamental effect on the shaping of both Israeli and Palestinian societies, and the relations between the two. These include an estimated 100000 Palestinians from the West Bank who currently work in Israel, as well as the fact that the German and Israeli trade unions have laid the foundations for the establishment of German-Israeli diplomatic relations in the late 1950s.
These are just a few of the issues the young trade union activists from the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung discussed during their delegation to Israel and Palestine. The Willy Brandt Center wishes to raise the awareness towards the role of trade unions and further strengthen relations between them. For this reason, we were delighted to welcome the Hans Böckler Stiftung, who over the course of 10 days visited many of our partner organisations such as Histadrut, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Israel, HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed, German Embassy Tel Aviv, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and many more.

WBC Political Summer Camp – August 6-12, 2018

“You always need to step out of your comfort-zone to understand other ones’ needs — a safe space in the middle of nowhere brings the group together and makes it possible to work intensely — We have more in common than things that separate us”

From the 6th to the 12th of August, comrades from the partner organisations of the WBC came together in a remote area of Edersee in the north of Hessen to a first of its kind WBC Political Summer Camp. More than 50 young activists from Israel, Palestine and Germany came together to meet, get to know each other and learn more about their individual backgrounds and societies – and the conflict.

The general topic of the Summer Camp was “Community Organising”, aiming to explore the idea of organising within and around a community and political organisations, through socialist and social-democratic perspectives and topics.

During a week of discussions within the Working Groups on Education, Gender Equality and Workers’ Rights, the participants had the chance to share and reflect on their societies and work within their movements. There was something that each and every one of us learnt during this week: There is not only one perspective, and only if you make yourself free from your prejudices and former experiences, are you able to learn and accept the perspectives of others and work together.

The first, but also the only disappointment, was when we realised on arrival, that the lake (Edersee) was almost completely dry, so there would be no swimming in between the working groups…
Nevertheless, there were enough things to do: as well as the workshops, there was time for singing, dancing, doing sports, playing games – and sometimes time just to have a beer and a chat.

In the reality we live in, meeting activists from different backgrounds is not by any means easy to organise, and the result was astonishing and empowering. The week was a great mixture of learning – inside and outside of the workshops, having fun, making friends and ended with a lot of planning to meet again, to continue working together and dreaming of a socialist world. And eventually, during the week, we even managed to find a lake with water!

The Summer Camp felt like the start of something new and it is our goal to take the spirit from this week, take it back to our movements and create more of these kinds of spaces within the framework of the Willy Brandt Center.

For more information and to support this kind of a project in the future, write to SummerCamp18@willybrandtcenter.org

Trilateral women-camp in Givat Haviva: Report from Juso-participant – April 13-14, 2018

As part of a regular special exchange between young women social-democratic activists from Germany, Palestine and Israel, a Juso Women Delegation, travelled to the region in April to learn and exchange ideas with their counterparts in the Willy Brandt Center. As part of this exchange, the activists met each other for a joint seminar in Givat Haviva. One of the Juso-participants share their experience with us, in the following report.

On Friday noon, we travelled in a mini bus from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Givat Haviva, between Haifa and Tel Aviv, where we met the participants from our partner organisations. This was an opportunity for an intercultural and political exchange with women from our Israeli and Palestinian partner organisations.

We checked in together at the Kibbutz and afterwards played some get together games in a larger seminar room. Just after that, we began with the first workshop phase which was a self-reflection: we were asked to visually outline the women in our families who had the most influence in our lives and made us what we are today. Then, we shared our family stories, especially those about women, in small groups. This activity helped us to learn how multi-facetted women’s roles within a family can be. Finally, we had a joint dinner and finished the evening in a relaxing atmosphere with some wine and other drinks. The Palestinian participants had to leave as they had to go to a family event.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we started with a detailed reflection about the past few days. As a next step, together with the Israeli participants, we started with some warm-up plays to get to know each other better. One of the Israeli participants provided us with information about what had happened the night before in Syria: the United States, Great Britain and France had bombed several buildings in Syria. She also told us that it was also possible to hear the bombing in several nearby Israeli villages and that it would not be possible to pass the border between Israel and Syria at the moment. Then we continued with a World Café containing three stations: The conflict today, feminist narratives and narratives on the conflict. In my group we discussed about how the Middle East Conflict had been dealt with at school and how the discourse about the conflict is perceived in Israel. The Israeli activist in our discussion group, who lives in Jerusalem, says that she, compared to most Palestinians, can block out this conflict to some extent in her everyday life.

We also discussed why this conflict is present all around the world and why we as Germans are so intensely interested in this topic, even though we are not affected by it. Our Israeli comrade also mentioned that her grandmother, living in Frankfurt /Main, has the impression that many German left-wingers would generally be against Israel and she therefore did not consider herself as a left-winger. She also told us about her time in the army and that her partner (whom she got to know there) was stationed in the Gaza Strip. Later, we focused on Feminist narratives and talked about prostitution. This involved discussing whether prostitution should be legalized (like in Germany) or not (like in Israel). After the workshop, we said goodbye to our partners and continued our trip with the minibus to Tel Aviv.

Delegation Hans Böckler Foundation, September 2-10, 2017

We were happy to welcome our partners from the Hans Böckler Foundation for the 3rd time to facilitate a delegation for young scholars and student activists. Under the title “Amorphous borders? Conflicts, borders and boundaries within and between the Israeli and Palestinian society”, we facilitated a number of international encounters, political talks and tours and discussion rounds to give an impression of the complexity of our region.

Although 9 days are never enough to answer all the questions, we enjoyed furthering the knowledge of the group during meetings with German diplomats, discussions with trade unions from both sides and tours, and gatherings with activists. We can’t wait to continue our talks and our partnership with the upcoming delegation next year!

Studie „From Social Justice to Peace – Gewerkschaftsarbeit über Grenzen hinweg“

Gewerkschaften vermitteln zwischen den Positionen von Arbeiter*innen und Arbeitgeber*innen und stärken die Rechte von Arbeiter*innen im Verhältnis zum Staat und im Beschäftigungsverhältnis. Somit sind sie kompetente Partner in der zivilen Konfliktbearbeitung, bei Aushandlungsprozessen und im Kampf für soziale Gerechtigkeit.

Die Studie „From Social Justice to Peace – chances for cross-border trade union cooperation“ wurde durch die Förderung der Stiftung Soziale Gesellschaft Nachhaltige Entwicklung der IG BAU möglich gemacht und präsentiert in kompakter Form die Entwicklung und den Stand von Gewerkschaftsarbeit in Israel und Palästina.
Verfasst von zwei Vertreterinnen der jeweiligen Gesellschaften stellt sie die Verbindung von Gewerkschaftsarbeit über Grenzen hinweg dar und zeigt das Kooperationspotential auf, um gemeinsam für eine friedliche, gerechte Entwicklung zu kämpfen.

Two Narratives-One Future: Annual Conference 2015

Review of our Annual Conference 2015 “ Two Narratives-One Future“

It were difficult times as activists and officials from Israel, Palestine, Germany and over the world gathered in Jerusalem for Willy Brandt Center’s Annual Conference. The headline “Two Narratives – One Future” was more current than ever before in 2015. Facing the outbreak of violent clashes and terrorist attacks in both Israel and Palestine it became very clear that there are huge differences between the perceptions of the recent events. This needed to be of course reflected within the agenda of the Annual Conference.
The trilateral organization team took a lot of effort to adapt the planned workshops and discussions to the current situation. After the informal Get-Together on Friday evening in the Willy Brandt Center the conference began on Saturday with an expert input on the developments on Temple Mount/Haram as Sharif. Afterwards the participants reflected on how different recent events are shown in the Israeli and Palestinian media and discussed reasons for it. In the end workshops about social struggles worldwide were held with the question how people in Israel and Palestine can relate to it and what can be learned for the own activism.

All photos by Yam Vignola

Facing the future together: 50 years of politcal youth exchange

Review of our event: Facing the future together – more than 50 years of political youth exchange
The history of political youth exchange between Germany and the Middle East dates back longer then the official establishment of the diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel 50 years ago. On occasion of this anniversary the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem hosted a BarCamp to take a closer look how the relations evolved that lead to the trilateral ties between young Israeli, Palestinian and German political activists. The BarCamp opened a space for direct and non-formal exchange. Therefore Willy Brandt Center invited representatives of three generations of political youth exchange: The generation of pioneers from the 60s and 70s, the generation of Oslo in the 80s and 90s and the generation of today enhancing an exchange of knowledge between all of them.
The generation of pioneers was impressively represented by Walter Haas a trade-unionist who came to Israel the first time in 1962. Because his visit happened before official relations were established it was very hard for him to travel. But despite the obstacles it was his fascination about socialist and collective ways of living together that made him travel anyways. He was willing to face the hard task to come as a representative of the people who committed the Holocaust to the jewish people. But the aim to build a better future gave him a continuous motivation to go on with his idea. Luckily he found partners that welcomed him and were willing to visit him in Germany. This visit and the return visit one year later laid the foundation for the political youth activities in the Middle East.
The generation of Oslo faced new challenges in their relation with each other. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians went after the war of 1967 into a new stage, since the occupation of the West-Bank began and the PLO was pushing from outside Palestine towards an independent state. This debate was reflected in Europe and Germany by a political division with people taking side for either the Israeli or the Palestinian cause. In the light of the upcoming Oslo agreements some key actors in the political youth movements like Harald Schrapers took an important step by creating the idea of double solidarity. A double solidarity with both the legitimate needs of the Israeli and the Palestinian people to live in an independent state, with an equal life in peace and security with the chance of economic prosperity. In times when real peace was very close this principle helped to engage a trilateral dialogue between Israelis, Palestinians and Germans.
For political activist that are representing political youth movements today like Johanna Uekermann and Uri Keidar the trilateral idea of the 90s became reality. It is a guiding idea to address the complicated situation we are facing in the Middle East today. Even though current developments make a direct exchange hard from time to time, activist of today are convinced of the added value the dialogue across the borders has. They see it as their task today more than ever before to bridge the gaps that are dividing people. Because if there is one lesson to learn from the past it is that real peace can be reached not by dividing people but only in a cooperation that unites people for the struggle for liberty and equality.

Photos: Tobias Pietsch


Facing the future together – 50 Jahre politischer Jugendaustausch

Rückblick auf unsere Veranstaltung: Facing the future together – mehr als 50 Jahre politischer Jugendaustausch
Der politische Jugendaustausch war Thema eines Barcamps des WBC anlässlich des 50. Jubiläums der diplomatischen Beziehungen zwischen Deutschland und Israel. Der 74-Jährige Walter Haas war gekommen, um von den Anfängen der Jugendbegegnungen zu erzählen, die lange vor dem Botschafteraustausch lagen.
In der zweiten Hälfte der fünfziger Jahren habe in der Bildungsarbeit der Solinger Gewerkschaftsjugend die Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung und der Einfluss von jüdischen Kollegen eine große Rolle gespielt, erinnerte sich Walter Haas. Die sozialistischen Kibbuzim und die von Fritz Naphtali entwickelte Gemeinwirtschaft, die in Israel mit seinem mächtigen Gewerkschaftsverband Histadrut in die Praxis umgesetzt wurden, hätten ihn fasziniert. „Uns schien vieles utopisch zu sein“, schilderte der aus dem Bergischen Land kommende Gewerkschafter den Ende Wunsch, nach Israel zu reisen. Doch man habe noch bis 1961 warten müssen, bis die Reise angetreten werden konnte. Es sei sehr schwierig gewesen, Visa zu bekommen. „Es gab keine direkte Verbindungen nach Israel“, erzählte Walter Haas. „Aber der Bundesstudentenring hatte die Möglichkeit, dass man mit einem Sonderzug von Köln nach Athen fahren konnten, zweieinhalb Tage.“ Weiter sei man mit einer alten DC 3 geflogen, in der es noch nicht einmal richtige Sitze gegeben habe.
In Tel Aviv hat sich die Gruppe der DBG-Jugend als erstes an die Histradrut gewandt, zu dem der DGB damals aber noch keine offiziellen Beziehungen hatte. „Wir mussten feststellen, an uns war man nicht interessiert. Innerhalb von Israel war 1961 eine ganz besondere Situation, der Eichmann-Prozess hat begonnen. Es gab in der Bevölkerung eine Mehrheit, die kein Interesse hatte, mit irgendetwas Deutschem in Kontakt zu treten.“ Letztlich habe die Gruppe um Walter Haas zwei Hauptamtliche der gewerkschaftsnahen Jugendorganisation Noar Oved gefunden, die bereit waren, mit dieser ersten Delegation der DBG-Jugend in Kontakt zu treten. „Diese beiden sind dafür sehr kritisiert worden.“
Bereits 1962 fand der erste Gegenbesuch statt, und zwar als privater Besuch. „Die Histadrut hat die Reise einer offiziellen Delegation verboten.“ Gemeinsam sei man von Solingen aus nach Berlin gefahren, wo soeben die Mauer errichten worden war, rief sich Walter Haas ins Gedächtnis. „Der Kern war gelegt für eine gegenseitige Begegnung, einen gegenseitigen Austausch“, sagte Haas, der später Bundessekretär der DGB-Jugend und DGB-Landesvorsitzender in NRW war.
In den anderen Gesprächskreisen des Barcamps, das mit Förderung des Auswärtigen Amtes und des Goethe-Instituts veranstaltet wurde, ging es um jüngere Aspekte des politischen Jugendaustauschs. Eine Gruppe sprach über die Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen den „Blauhemdorganisationen“ SJD – Die Falken, Noar Oved und Haschomer Hazair. In einer anderen Runde ging es um die wechselhafte Positionen der Jusos als linkem Richtungsverband zum Nahostkonflikt bis hin zur Gründung des WBC in 1996. Ein dritter Kreis diskutierte unter dem Motto „Facing the future together“ über die Zukunft des Austauschs zwischen deutschen, israelischen und palästinensischen Jugendlichen.

Fotos: Tobias Pietsch