FAQs about SNS' work, mission and goals

The work we do at Solutions Not Sides involves bringing together British teenagers from all walks of life and creating ‘safe spaces’ to make difficult conversations about Israel-Palestine not just possible but positive. We get asked by lots of teachers, schools and young people about our work, what our focus is on, who we are and what we hope to achieve - so here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions we get. If you have a more specific question, please reach out to us at [email protected].

We engage with a wide range of organisations and include members of the British Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in our team and on our trustee and community advisory boards, as well as having a Palestinian and an Israeli Coordinator and over 100 young Palestinians and Israelis who have volunteered as speakers in our programme. We value positive engagement and support from both Muslim and Jewish community representative organisations, though we do not endorse any political positions these organisations may take on Israel-Palestine.

We have always been transparent about the fact that we have received funding in the past from the UK Department of Communities and Local Government (now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities). This started in 2009 under the Labour Government, and we haven't received funding from the government since 2021. We receive funding on the basis of having already developed our own programme, and there has never been any governmental input or interference. 

We have also received some funding from local councils in some parts of the country. Other SNS funding comes mainly from grants by trusts and foundations and contributions from schools. 

SNS has never received support or funding from or had any links with the Israeli Government, or the Palestinian Authority (nor indeed any other foreign governmental body). Our programme has been and will always remain independent of any government influence.

We have never and will never have employees who are actively serving in the Israeli Defence Forces, the Palestinian National Security Forces or anyone from the security services of any country, including the United Kingdom.

No. SNS delves into the historical narratives, examines power structures, and analyses the needs of Palestinians and Israelis separately. Please refer to our programme principles for more information.

No. SNS provides an opportunity for students in British schools to listen to ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to try to understand how to help them find a better future rather than using their situation as a symbol for posturing about other issues, be they far-right, far-left, groups that claim to be acting in the name of Judaism, Christianity, Islam or anything else. We want to create a culture of political literacy across the UK that embraces diversity, complexity, nuance, and an informed approach to political decision-making. We are also developing peace-building and mediation skills in young people using the Israel-Palestine situation as a mechanism.

SNS works with any school that we are able to in our target areas - mostly state schools but also Muslim, Jewish and Christian. Our target areas are selected because the number of Anti-Muslim and Antisemitic attacks in those areas are higher than average. We also work with Muslim, Christian and Jewish youth groups, as these communities often express an interest in learning more about the situation in Israel-Palestine. We work only with people who expressly invite us from these groups. Our only restriction on participation in relation to our duty of care is with regards to the age of the students we work with and does not refer to a specific community.

No. SNS encourages exploration and discussion about well-known potential solutions such as one-state, two-state and confederacy, but it does not promote any solution over and above another. We encourage students to think creatively and discuss the pros and cons of any of these solutions and attempt to come up with alternatives based on the needs and interests presented by the Israeli and Palestinian speakers. We encourage students to think for themselves about what a win-win outcome could look like, and we speak about Palestinian, and Israeli, needs - including al-Nakba, Israeli Independence and refugees, to self-determination and safety & security for all. SNS supports an outcome to the conflict which ends the suffering of peoples on both sides, satisfies their national aspirations, and ensures peace, equality and security for the region. Most importantly, SNS teaches that we should listen to the people who are most affected by the situation, rather than imposing our own views from afar.

Our speakers come from Palestinian and Israeli civil society organisations who are actively working to foster cross-community relationships in various ways - from developing and strengthening democracy and anti-occupation work, to  interfaith dialogue, youth work, and more. All of our speakers have signed up to a declaration of principles, found on our website, which is based around values of equality, non-violence and the rejection of hatred. Human rights are a vital part of learning about the overall situation in Israel-Palestine. The first-hand experiences of Palestinians living under occupation without their freedom and the first-hand experiences of Israelis living through periods of intensified violence and attacks upon their homes are part of this story. It is a situation that is not one-dimensional, nor are comparisons between narratives and experiences necessary or helpful. We take our responsibility as educators seriously, and that involves ensuring that young people have as full a picture as possible, thus allowing them to make up their own minds. 

We believe that avoiding talking about politics leads to a lack of understanding of it, and that instead young people should be equipped to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic. At times, British students, who want to express their views on a subject they care about deeply, are being shut down and accused of supporting terrorism or apartheid, or blamed for the decisions of Israeli and Palestinian political leaders. We disagree with closing down conversations, accusing people of ‘extremism’ just because they are passionate about this issue, or framing the issue in simplistic ways, for example, in terms of a struggle between ‘moderate majorities vs. extremists’ or ‘Jews vs. Muslims’.  Our mission is to create safe spaces for respectful disagreement, critical thinking and empathy, and to give the chance for British young people to talk directly with their Palestinian and Israeli peers. Over ten years of experience shows us that teenagers have the desire to learn and the appetite to challenge and be challenged, and we are proud that our programme gives a unique safe space to allow them to do just that. 

Our education work - whether in classrooms, youth groups, or during our annual student leadership programming - is rooted in young people learning to listen to and discuss this topic with their peers (without having to agree or reconcile narratives) and in learning skills such as storytelling, non-violent communication, conflict resolution and dialogue. We discuss different forms of activism with the students and how to engage in activism that feels right to them and is pro-solution/anti-violence. We do not seek to shut down or impact anyone's activism. We encourage and hope to foster a positive, solutions-focused approach that avoids supporting one side to win against the other and has the human rights and security of all peoples of the region as the central concern, but there is no activism or advocacy component to our organisation for young people to be involved in.

Firstly, it is important to define what ‘extremism’, is, and is not. SNS sees anything that is attempting to promote a win-lose outcome for Israel-Palestine (i.e. either Israel wins and Palestine loses, or Palestine wins and Israel loses) as being an agenda that is right at the end of the spectrum of possible outcomes, and is therefore concerned about it from the perspective that it is maximalist and dangerous for those involved in the situation on the ground. Extremism is not feeling more affiliation with one side than the other, it is not holding strong views or believing passionately in the issue, and it is not advocating for the rights of a particular side.

SNS has worked with over 400 schools, and has over twelve years of positive feedback to show. However, we are sometimes subjected to disinformation campaigns from voices who are dedicated to undermining our work and actively promoting a win-lose outcome. The disinformation circulated is based on Islamophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories, often feeding into toxic anti-Israel and anti-Palestine rhetoric. Accusations often mirror each other, as we are considered anti-Palestine and anti-Israel by polar opposite groups. Rationally we must be one or the other, or in reality, neither.

For these groups, the Israel-Palestine issue is completely black and white - there is an aggressor and a victim, and therefore an approach of condemnation and blame is required to force the side in the wrong to change their behaviour. Conspiracy theories on one side include claims that SNS is pro-BDS, anti-Israel, antisemitic, and promoting support for terrorism. Conspiracy theories on the other side include claims that SNS is anti-BDS, anti-Palestine, promoting Zionism, normalising, and is funded by the Israeli government.

SNS is an education charity dedicated to fostering critical thinking about win-win solutions and humanising Palestinians and Israelis. We wholeheartedly reject these accusations. At SNS, because we are experts in conflict resolution, we understand and teach that in every situation that involves a clash of human needs and interests, it is never black and white. The complex power dynamics of this particular conflict are explored as part of our programme, and the focus of the programme is on learning to have discussions within a framework that insists on seeking ways to change the status quo in Palestine-Israel for the better. Through this process, young people learn valuable life skills, such as empathy, active listening, critical thinking, communication, and conflict resolution. As educationalists, we believe this is the kind of empowering opportunity we should be giving to young people on an issue like this - enabling them to fully understand it and make up their own minds.

All organisations working in this field - or any with disputed narratives, complex history, and a violent reality - will come under criticism. When we believe criticism being made is coming from a place of a win-lose outcome, or has antisemitic or Islamophobic motivations, we won’t engage with this criticism, as we would see these kinds of motivations as anathema to our mission and values. We respond to constructive criticism made in good faith with openness and transparency - if we think someone is making a valid, critical contribution to our work then we will consider implementing it. This is also a routine part of our annual curriculum and programme review, where we internally review our programmes, our curriculum, and invite community members from the UK, Israel and Palestine to contribute to reviewing what we offer to schools and communities. 

No. SNS has received no funding from OneVoice since becoming an independent charity, and even prior to that, all SNS funding was separately raised and held as restricted funds. We set up as an independent charity in 2019, and once we opened our business bank account in 2020, a small number of donations which had been sent to the OneVoice bank account were passed onto SNS since the separation, but SNS is not funded by OneVoice, nor do the two organisations share an office.

Disinformation campaigns have claimed that SNS is either a Zionist/pro-Israel or anti-Israel organisation, or a pro-Palestinian or anti-Palestinian, or is pushing other political agendas and positions. These claims are untrue. SNS is an education charity that teaches about political issues, but does not adopt or promote a position, instead allowing young people to make up their own minds based on critical thinking and a variety of views. This includes (but is not limited to) the following issues:

  • Zionism
  • Refugees
  • Borders and potential win-win solutions
  • Jerusalem
  • Occupation
  • Security
  • Palestinian Nakba
  • Israeli Independence
  • Settlements
  • UN resolutions and international law

Our values framework that all our speakers and team sign up to, and within which we deliver our programme is:

  • Non-violence
  • Equality for all
  • The rejection of hatred