By Abeer al-Natsheh*
El Escorial, Spain, April 30, 2011—I traveled with three other OneVoice Palestine (OVP) youth leaders, Roza Helou, Maher Abdo, and Feras Njoom, to El Escorial, a city 45 km (28 miles) outside Madrid, on April 10 to participate in the World Perspective Seminar, hosted by Concordia International Group.
Sixteen youth leaders from different countries and cultural backgrounds had the chance to analyze the international news media. The seminars, led by N. Jamil Majid, taught us to be more discerning, objective, and cautious in our approach to the information we receive. We saw how different media outlets from diverse parts of the world can cover the same news and talk about similar issues in different ways.
The skills we focused on are especially important in the context of the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as we should not believe anything we read or hear solely because we find it in the media. We should, however, analyze thoroughly, find numerous sources, and look deeply into the context of various articles and reports, paying careful attention to each sentence. This kind of media analysis will enable us to know what is going on around us and will inform our positions and actions.
In order to increase the benefit of this seminar, we will conduct training sessions for other OVP youth leaders, so that they can also analyze local media, evaluating and comparing it to international media.
At the seminar, I met youth activists from different countries, who introduced me to their culture, from food to drinks to music. This exchange enhanced the experience for everyone, giving us more knowledge and opening our eyes to new things.
It also led to networking opportunities, where we spread information about OneVoice and learned from the experiences of the other participants that came from across the world. We went into detail about our work and our professions, educating our peers and getting a clearer picture of how they view the conflict in the Middle East.
Meeting with OneVoice Israel (OVI) youth leaders outside of the region for a week gave us all the opportunity to discuss ideas and views more freely. We spoke about each other’s narratives, religion, culture, and ways of life, touching on many taboo issues.
We also brought OneVoice to a wider Spanish audience. Four OVP and three OVI youth leaders spoke about OneVoice in front of Suffolk University students in Madrid on April 12 and the other World Perspective Seminar participants. Most of the university students study political science or Middle East affairs, while others were students who had an interest in the topic.
The six youth leaders and I gave an overview of OneVoice, detailing current activities, discussing future plans, and the obstacles we face on the ground. After our presentation, we also answered questions from the audience.
The meeting went well and reminded me of the successful International Education Program (IEP) tour of the United Kingdom that I participated in during November 2008. The seminar coordinator expressed interest in holding more meetings like this, which might even lead to an IEP tour in Madrid.
I also met a Spaniard, who expressed interest in interviewing OneVoice youth leaders on his local radio. He also wanted to stock his bookstore with information about the region and the conflict.
Many ideas were planted in this seminar, but only follow up and support can make it grow and be fruitful.
*Abeer al-Natsheh is a senior OneVoice Palestine youth leader.