New Project Coordinator for “Politics without Borders”

Welcome Tobias!

Since mid-July, Tobias Pietsch is the new Coordinator of the „Politics without Borders“ project in the WBC. Tobias has been committed to the work of the WBC for over 10 years. His involvement began in 2008 as a volunteer at the WBC, and since then he has engaged with this project, as well as with the region in general. He has been a member of the board of the WBC Support Association in Germany for many years, and supported the volunteers in Jerusalem. Throughout his work as a tour guide at Alsharq, he has become acquainted with almost every corner of Israel and Palestine. Tobi has gotten to know not only the places, but also the people that make these countries so special. We are more than happy to have Tobi as our project coordinator at the WBC, and expect with confidence the challenges that we will face together.

DE:

Herzlich Willkommen Tobias!

Seit Mitte Juli ist Tobias der neue Koordinator des Projekts „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ im WBC. Tobias ist bereits seit über 10 Jahren in die Arbeit rund um das WBC involviert. Sein Weg begann 2008 als Zivildienstleistender im WBC und seitdem hat ihn das Projekt, aber auch die Region allgemein nicht mehr losgelassen. Er war danach viele Jahre Mitglied im Fördervereinsvorstand des WBZ e.V. und betreute seinerseits die Zivildienstleistenden, später dann FSJler*innen. Durch seine Arbeit als Reiseleiter bei alsharq kennt er inzwischen wohl fast jede Ecke in Israel und Palästina. Er kennt aber vor allem nicht nur die Orte, sondern allen voran die Menschen, die diese Länder so besonders machen. Wir können uns mehr als glücklich schätzen, Tobias nun als Projektkoordinator im WBC zu haben und blicken mit Zuversicht auf die kommenden Herausforderungen, die wir gemeinsam angehen wollen.

Farewell of Judith

EN:

Thank you for everything, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, project coordinator since 2016, has left the WBC after three eventful years. Judith has navigated the „Politics without Borders“ project through exciting and challenging times. She has always been devoted to introducing young people with the WBC, and to explain the various narratives that parallel each other and allow for a mutual understanding. Judith has always been our anchor, and has left an important mark on the WBC. We would like to thank her for everything!

 

DE:

Danke für Alles, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, Projektkoordinatorin seit 2016, hat nach drei ereignisreichen Jahren das WBC verlassen. Judith hat das Projekt „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ sicher durch aufregende Zeiten geführt. Sie hat sich immer die Zeit genommen junge Menschen an das WBC heranzuführen und die unterschiedlichen Narrative die dort aufeinander prallen verständlich zu erklären. Judith war unser Fels in der Brandung, sie hat das WBC geprägt und wir möchten uns bei ihr für alles bedanken!

 

Ver.di Delegation visits the WBC

On July 17th we hosted a delegation of 11 members of Ver.di, the German United Services Trade Union. The delegation members were introduced to the Willy Brandt Center’s work and activities, and were then invited to a Q&A session on Palestinian and Israeli politics, economy and society.

The visiting participants were particularly interested by the overview on the various political parties, elections and economic situation in Palestine, as well as the education system and vocal trainings for young adults. Discussing the roles and challenges of trade unions in both countries, the conversation also touched on divides and ongoing debates in Israeli society. Finally, there was an analysis of the Israeli elections in April, with the intention of providing an outlook on the upcoming elections in September.

Report: New chairman and new alliances in Israeli Labor and Meretz party

Following the poor results in April’s parliament elections, both Israeli Labor and Meretz Party voted for new chairmen to lead the parties. Amir Peretz received 47% of the votes and will lead the party for the second time. Peretz lead the party from 2005 to 2007 and served as Minister of Defense, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environmental Protection. Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, who joined the Labor after the social protests in 2011, received 27% and 26% respectively.

Just before the Labor party, Meretz party committee has elected Horowitz, with 81% of the committee members participating in the vote. Horowitz is an Israeli journalist, a Haaretz columnist, and a politician who has served as a two-term Knesset member for Meretz in the past. Horowitz succeeds Tamar Zandberg and is supported by Ilan Gilon.

Peretz and Horowitz held talks on the question of joining their lists to run together for the upcoming elections in September. They debated joint challenges and how to fight for social justice, peace and equality, finally deciding to run separately. Peretz is running the Labor Party together with Orly Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher party. Meretz joined Ehud Barak’s Democratic Union, including Stav Shaffir, who has switched camps. Latest polls indicate Labor-Gesher could win 5 seats, the Democratic Union is expected to win 7 seats, while Likud and Blue and White both could win 30 seats in the Knesset.

WBC joined 50th anniversary of Jusos’ “turn to the left” Congress in Munich, Germany – July 5-7, 2019

In 1969, German Young Socialists decided during their federal congress in Munich to turn to the left, and became an independent youth organization of the Social Democratic Party. 50 years later, the present generation of young activists celebrated this historical step, which continues to influence the organization’s DNA. Activists and former and current coordinators contributed to the three-day congress.

In a “then and now” talk, former project coordinator Christopher Paesen, discussed with Judith Höffkes their experiences at the WBC in different points of time. Political team member Nilli Marderer and project manager Tobias Pietsch gave a workshop on the beliefs of Socialist Zionism, based on the notions formulated by Moshe Hess. Sitting under a Bavarian chestnut tree, Judith offered a Q&A session concerning current issues in Israel and Palestine, and attracted the interest of numerous participants.

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.