London, 28th October 2021
For immediate release
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. However, we know that not everyone shares our view on the value of listening to different perspectives and narratives on this issue and this has sometimes led to erroneous information being circulated about us, so we wanted to address any questions or, indeed concerns, this may have caused.
1. Is SNS pro-Palestine or pro-Israel?
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.
2. Which solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does SNS advocate?
SNS works to bring young people together to have difficult conversations about Israel-Palestine by creating safe spaces for them to do so. We are an education charity and as such, we do not advocate for any particular solution; we foster critical thinking by exploring a number of solutions including one state, two states, ideas of confederacy and other models which reflect the diverse views of Palestinians and Israelis.
3. Where are SNS’s speakers from?
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.
4. Why does SNS believe in ‘open discussion’?
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.
5. Does SNS foster activism?
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 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.
6. Is SNS funded by the British Government?
We have always been transparent about the fact that, in the past, we have received funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), starting in 2009 under the Labour Government. We receive funding on the basis of having already developed our own programme, and there has never been any governmental input or interference.
7. Is SNS funded by the Palestinan Authority or Israeli Government?
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.
If we haven’t answered any more specific questions you have, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via DM on social media and we’ll respond to you.