26 February 2001

In relation to the November 2000 report of an international visit to the West Bank, the World Alliance of YMCAs states the following:

In 1998, the World Council of YMCAs resolved that the World Alliance of YMCAs should "give a high priority to studies, analysis, advocacy and action on justice and human rights violations related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict".

As one of the first steps of the World Alliance in response to the 1998 resolution, a visit was made by representatives of the Argentinian, Italian, Netherlands and Norwegian YMCA movements and a staff member of the World Alliance, who together wrote this report. The visit was co-ordinated by the World Alliance.

The report's findings speak for themselves. The conclusions and opinions expressed have not yet been considered by the Executive Committee of the World Alliance nor do they necessarily represent the views of individual National YMCA Movements.

The YMCA has had a continuous presence in Jerusalem since 1933 and on the West Bank since 1949. Successive World Councils of the YMCA in 1988, 1991 and 1998 have expressed concern about human rights violations related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the need for a greater understanding of the conflict in order to contribute to peace building efforts of others.

A report of international YMCA leaders in 1989 recommended as follows,

  • The World Alliance should recognise the right of Palestinians to self-determination and to an inde-pendent state in their own land, and the right to return to a region where both peoples - Israelis and Palestinians - can live in peaceful coexistence on an equal basis.
  • The World Alliance should recognise the right of Israel to exist as an independent state in defined and secure borders.
  • The World Alliance should condemn all terrorism within and outside the region.
  • The World Alliance accepted these recommendations and its position has not changed since.

    The November 2000 report presents a disturbing account of the conditions in which YMCA people and communities are living.

    Our great international movement has maintained a detached position on international issues since its formation in 1855. We are determined to maintain that detachment not only in relation to the Middle East but also across the whole world. The World Alliance has not been and is not anti Israeli and I regret any impression to the contrary that may have been given by statements on our behalf or by our recent publications.

    The World Alliance reaffirms that it is unequivocally committed to the cause of a peaceful, just and lasting settlement of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The World Alliance reiterates its understanding that Israelis and Palestinians must live in peaceful co-existence. It reaffirms its long held view that Israel has the right to exist within safe and secure borders. At the same time, the Palestinians have their right to a state and nationhood. The World Alliance believes that the peace that is required must be based on justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel and that both tasks must be undertaken in parallel.

    Attention should be focussed on the work of several YMCAs attending, in extreme circumstances, to the social and individual needs of young people of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel. YMCAs are providing to young people of each of the major faiths - Muslim, Jewish and Christian - job creation programmes, recreational activities, youth leadership programmes, educational programmes, trauma counselling, psychosocial counselling for the disabled, children's programmes and emergency support for families in need.

    Nicholas Nightingale
    Secretary General
    World Alliance of YMCAs

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