Returner student travels to Israel and Palestine for study visit
Kaitlyn White (2014-15) recently travelled to Israel and Palestine on an International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) study visit, representing New Zealand Young Labour. She reports on her experiences of the two countries here.
"This January I was given the opportunity to represent New Zealand Young Labour on the IUSY study visit to Israel and Palestine. The aim of the study visit was to meet with government representatives and NGOs about the current political situation in both countries and the ongoing conflict. I was joined on the study visit with other representatives from political parties in Europe and South America.
"I've been involved with United Nations Youth New Zealand for almost four years, which has sparked a lot of my interest in politics and international affairs, and am currently the Canterbury Regional President. I'm studying towards an LLB/BCom, majoring in Economics and Management. I have wanted to study law since a young age due to having a strong sense of social justice and desperately wanting to make a positive difference in the world, which is where the Middle Eastern study visit and involvement with UN Youth comes in.
"During the trip we met with representatives from Meretz, Labour and the Social Academy in Israel, including Collette Avital, who is a famous Israeli politician. We also visited settlements around Jerusalem, which have been a point of contention in international law and causing huge tension. In Palestine, we met with executive members of the Fatah at their headquarters, a former Palestinian foreign minister and the current Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki at the ministry and many other officials and NGOs.
"One of the most poignant moments was meeting the parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered by settlers as a revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli boys in June 2014. This event ultimately lead to the Gaza war in July and August, which was a leading topic of our trip. Many of our discussions were based around the March 17 election for Israel, where many are hoping for a change in leadership to the leftwing in order for negotiations to start and relations to grow between the two countries.
"These is only a few of the people we met and the opportunities we had whilst we were in the Middle East. We also visited the tomb of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, who is seen as a hero to many Palestinians.
"It was an amazing opportunity and absolutely life changing. I've always wanted to travel to Israel and have been hugely interested in the conflict for years, so it was extremely rewarding to be able to see both sides and meet such influential people! I never thought I would get to do something as amazing as this study visit!
"I'd love to do anything to represent my country, and this trip has driven my passion to eventually go into politics in New Zealand and hopefully work for the UN in some capacity."