The special debate speakers – Philip Goldenberg, Kauser Akhtar and Keith Scott.
May 19 Special Debate Israel and Palestine: 
Now and the Future Forty people came to the special debate on Saturday May 19 . Keith Scott spoke on what he saw as an Ecumenical Accompanier when he spent three months on the West Bank last year. 50 years of military occupation has left a population ground down by living under military rule with few rights, high unemployment, restricted housing, travel restrictions and limited water and electricity in many places. Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, have taken much of the best land and the settlers have subsidised housing and live under Israeli civil law rather than the military law the Palestinians live under. Philip Goldenberg reflected that The Israeli Palestinian conflict was by no means the only problem in the Middle East. Israel was created by the UN and is established under international law. After its establishment Jews were ejected from neighbouring countries where they had lived for thousands of years. Speaking as a Liberal Zionist he thought hopes of peace ended with the assassination of Rabin and deplored the present government. His hopes lie with civil society. Kauser Akhtar agreed to speak at the last moment. She had tried to get a Palestinian speaker to come but they all felt too involved in recent events to give an objective account. Kauser spoke about the Great Return March in Gaza and the violence it has been met with by Israeli soldiers, about the Palestinian towns and villages that were demolished after 1948, present conditions in Gaza where 96% of the water is contaminated and 80% of the population rely on food aid, of the child arrests and settlements on the West Bank. Discussion was passionate but never got out of hand. Concerns were raised about Israel's need to defend itself and how parties still seek its destruction, how it discriminates on religious lines, the land that Palestinians have lost, the way that the UN has not acted strongly enough to enforce the resolutions it has passes, and whether a two state solution could still work. The new town of Rawabi was suggested as a way forward. Built to become a high tech business city for Palestinians it was completed just last year with Palestinian capital. "We have to start with the children" was widely agreed, that we have to learn not to fear and demonise the other. Also when politicians on both sides are part of the problem we need to support the efforts of people working in civil society to bridge the divide and bring peace.