Along with four of my high school mates, I have been working on organizing Palestine’s first local Model United Nations conference. It was going to be held in Ramallah this weekend. We wanted to offer many students in Palestine the opportunity to participate in a Model United Nations conference, for the first time, to understand and gain awareness of how the United Nations functions and how it deals with world issues.
But sadly, due to the rising threat of violence by Israeli settlers, we were forced to postpone it.
The first Palestinian Model United Nations Conference (PalMUN) was planned to be held over this weekend in Ramallah, starting on Friday, September 23rd; however, due to the current volatile situation in the West Bank caused by illegal Israeli settler violence in response to the Palestinian’s United Nations bid seeking full membership of Palestine, we have decided to postpone the conference until the 7th of October, 2011.
Israeli settler violence and terror against the Palestinians in the West Bank is on the rise. Settler terror against Palestinians have never stopped, but in this month there has been a big increase of incidents involving settlers burning mosques, burning crop fields, attacking villagers, and abducting children. You can read more about the spread of settler violence here on The Electronic Intifada.
Settlers have carried out many intentional hit-and-runs, burning of crops, attacking cars, abducting children, and burning mosques. The roads between Ramallah-Jerusalem, Ramallah-Bethlehem, and especially Ramallah-Nablus, have become a prime target for settlers to strike at Palestinian cars and take refuge in their illegal settlements, fully protected by the Israeli military.
Over 140 students comprising of 15 MUN delegations from schools in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Haifa had registered to attend this first-of-a-kind event in Palestine.
We had noted in a letter sent out to all participants that we want to ensure that every student attending PalMUN is fully comfortable and doesn’t have any worries regarding whether he or she will be able to reach the conference and travel back home. Sadly, we have lived with settler violence our entire lives and given the impunity the settlers enjoy, we came to a collective decision that postponing the conference was wiser than risking the safety of any of our participants.
At a time when Israeli Jewish settlers’ hostility against the Palestinians is on the rise, we decided that holding the conference as planned would put conference goers’ safety at risk given the increased settler violence has disrupted traffic between Palestinian cities.
Settlers have vowed to march toward Palestinian cities in the coming days to protest the Palestinian bid for full membership at the UN. Testimonies are being heard from conference delegates and friends who are expressing fear about traveling on some of the West Bank roads after several incidents have been reported of settlers harassing and attacking Palestinian cars.
We also expect that on the opening day of the conference, Israeli soldiers are going to block many roads across the West Bank, adding to the already numerous checkpoints which are suffering Palestinian communities. The final outcome was the postponing of the conference until 7 October, and hopefully everything will go well then.
Palestinians, meanwhile, are volunteering for watch-teams to patrol West Bank villages and warn of any settler attack against Palestinians. Four days ago, I heard on the radio that in Qusra village near Nablus, 10 Settlers who were planning to attack the village after midnight were caught by Palestinian youth who were assigned to protect the village. One settler managed to escape by pulling out a gun and shooting at an unarmed Palestinian man, according to the radio.
However, the Palestinian youth released the settlers 40 minutes later fearing further consequences as settlers do carry plenty of lethal weapons, unlike unarmed Palestinians. Early in the morning, Israeli army raided the village searching for those who stopped settler attack, 6 Palestinians were injured by Israeli rubber bullets, many others suffered suffocation due to tear gas, as Ma’an reported.
Village councils have been assigning groups of youth volunteers to guard the villages, now the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee has launched a similar campaign dubbed the “Refusing to Die in Silence” project. On Wednesday, September 21st, there will be a booth at al-Manara in Ramallah (at the time of major Pro-statehood rallies) the booth will give the chance for more people to register to volunteer in those watch teams or to help in reporting incidents close to their location immediately.
While the real United Nations does nothing to stop Israel’s army and settlers constant terror against Palestinians, we Palestinian youths cannot even hold a Model United Nations conference in peace.