How young people bring about change

Kira Nygren, Adrian Kreutz, Lily Wood (Balfour Project Peace Advocacy Fellows), chaired by Matan Rosenstrauch (Fellowship Programme Coordinator)

Kira Nygren – Settler Violence in Area C 

Adrian Kreutz – Israel Arms Suspension

Lily Wood – Israel Arms Suspension, Recognise Palestine, TikTok


Matan Rosenstrauch

Matan Rosenstrauch is an anti-occupation activist and Peace Advocacy Fellowship Coordinator since 2019. He has worked with Jewish communities’ anti-occupation organisations and helped establish the Jewish Democratic Initiative, a South African charity. He is an organiser for Meretz UK. He holds a BA in Jewish History from Ben Gurion University and an MA in Community Developments Studies from the Hebrew University. Matan teaches Hebrew privately.

Find out more about the Fellowship Programme here:


Film clip: Recognise Palestine now

The devastating recent events in Israel and Palestine have shown the failure of the existing paradigms. Israeli officials have often used the phrase “managing the conflict” to describe their policy for the past decade: a system in which Israel has been the sole sovereign between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The recent escalation has highlighted that Israel’s regime of occupation not only oppresses Palestinians but endangers Israel’s own citizens. For the first time in decades, Palestine is back at the forefront of the international agenda. No longer can the political will of powerful states continue to stifle the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.

Achieving justice also requires international intervention where state and non-state actors actively encourage de-escalation, hold Hamas and Israel accountable to international law and address the root causes of this violence.

Now the misconceptions have fallen, it’s time to change the paradigm. There can be no just solution without an independent Palestinian state in which the Palestinian people are able to live in security and shape their own future.

Let’s not wait for the next war. Let’s recognise Palestine now.

Matan Rosenstrauch

 I’m the coordinator of the Peace Advocacy Fellowship for the last five years. I am Israeli. I have close family members who were affected and lost friends in the Hamas attack on 7 October. This has caused me a lot of pain, but also strengthened my understanding that there can be no military solution to the conflict, only a political one that we should work towards.

The idea of the Fellowship is to bring young people together and provide them with tools, knowledge, and capacities to become peace advocates, working on projects that they plan with us on advocacy and education during the academic year. The Fellows are very diverse. We have young people from the Jewish diaspora, from the Palestinian diaspora; we are all working together.

Kira Nygren

I have just finished my undergraduate degree at Durham doing geopolitics. Next year I’ll be going to Georgetown to do a Master’s in Arab Studies. I joined the Balfour Project this year and focused mainly on the Settler violence in area C project. Lara, Jasmine and I helped organise the UK tour of Nidal Younis, the Mayor of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills. His community is threatened with eviction by the Israeli authorities. He spoke with political activists primarily in Westminster, but also travelled up to Durham to do a student talk there.

I chose to join the Balfour Project for two reasons. I was privileged to do a variety of academic work in my undergrad degree, focusing on settler violence and Israel-Palestine. Second, my maternal family are Palestinian. While it’s been very difficult for my family to be open about being Palestinian, I was able to do more research into my family’s background and some of the consequences they faced as a result of losing their home in Haifa and combining that kind of personal connection to Palestine with advocating tangible change.

There is a general conception that Palestinians have a very firm sense of identity, something that a lot of them are very proud of, but I think less well understood by the Western world is the concept of shame amongst Palestinian diaspora. Part of the reason that it was not a concept I spoke a lot about at home when I was younger is my family felt embarrassment for having left and starting a new life, creating an identity that was built around other parts of the world. They moved to Canada and integrated there and stopped speaking Arabic at home, stopped practising Islam within the family, a personal decision, but also we’ve reflected and said in some ways you also contribute to the loss of Palestinian identity across the world. And in that way you contribute to the erasure of Palestinian people. So it’s been really important for me and my family, now that we have settled and feel comfortable, for me to use my voice and in some ways my privilege to come back and do meaningful work in the space.


We all have been following the student protests in the US and here in the UK. Adrian has been involved in students’ protests both in Amsterdam University and at Oxford.

Adrian Kreutz

I grew up in Germany. I recently completed my PhD at Oxford in political theory, so I’m transitioning out of student status. It was a pleasure to be part of this Fellowship group at the Balfour Project. I spent the last year lecturing in Amsterdam. I now move to Oxford again, lecturing in the Philosophy Dept.

I have previously been engaged with the UN Department of Palestinian Rights, and also working with Al Haq, the International Law and Ethics NGO in Ramallah. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different narratives: West Bank narratives through my work at Al Haq, the international narrative or the perspective of global institutions such as the UN. And, from my German background, the discourse in Germany. What attracted me to join the Balfour Project was the opportunity to acquaint myself with the narratives and the discussion, the narrative space in the UK to better understand what are the voices within the UK, how do they compare with what I’ve learned about people in the West Bank, having had these first hand experiences in the West Bank? How does it compare to the narrative space in Germany? That was very insightful.

I was an Associate Fellow. I wasn’t involved in a concrete project. I was benefiting from all of the fantastic opportunities that came through with the Balfour Project. So I was a fellow traveler, a satellite in some sense. It was a fantastic year, and a great opportunity to reflect on the student protests. This may help answer some of the requests that we’ve heard for some concrete action plans, demands that we want to put forward and discuss. The student protests throughout the globe, in the UK, in the US and in Amsterdam had very concrete demands and aims, motivating the encampments.

In the protests that we saw around the globe, all of the advocacy came from the student body. I was involved in the student protest both in Oxford and Amsterdam. Some of it was fairly violent, disruptive, the students went as far as resorting to property damage to get their demands heard. Whether that was productive, I think that’s up for debate.

One of the demands widely discussed was boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israeli institutions. At Amsterdam, the student demand was first of all to disclose all the ties that the University of Amsterdam has with Israeli institutions, both academic educational institutions and the arms industry.

This first demand was not met. Aggravated by that, the students took to the streets and the campus encamped, protested, putting up blockades, trying to disrupt the educational space in a more or less fruitful way. What happened in the aftermath was much more fruitful and might lead to some positive change in how we view a boycott demand. What we’ve come up with together with the students and staff at the University of Amsterdam is to critically renegotiate the programme of boycotting, divesting, sanctioning Israel institutions. We’ve come up with a very concrete proposal that we’ve put forward to the Boards of Oxford University and Amsterdam University to downplay what is commonly considered the BDS demand, which is the blanket divestment and sanctioning of Israeli academic institutions. This is something that we want to distance ourselves from.

Within the academic community, there’s been recognition that within Israeli institutions, a blanket boycott would have negative consequences on the progressives, on the radical voices within Israeli academia, and therefore a blanket boycott would just hurt. The concrete policy proposal that we came up with through these discussions with the students and in debates with the boards of these universities is an ethical review process. If it gets through the boards of the universities, we will have an ethical review of all further investments and all future cooperation with Israeli educational and other institutions. A dedicated Ethical Board will discuss and negotiate the ethical dimensions of any investment and cooperation.

Lily Wood

 My undergraduate degree was in Arabic. I’m now doing a Master’s at SOAS in international law. I joined the Balfour Project because I’d studied the Middle East from a very academic perspective, but never had any personal involvement or connection, unlike others who have joined the charity.  I always felt that the vision of the Balfour Project really resonates with my own ideas about the responsibility of the UK in the Middle East and Israel-Palestine specifically. The Balfour Project, being so close to home, feels like it’s a tangible thing. You can really contribute to change even when it feels quite far away. It’s important to raise awareness about Britain’s role because people don’t really know. Growing up, I had no idea about the Israel-Palestine conflict and how the UK was so involved historically.

In terms of experience with the Fellowship programme, I worked on three projects, including the TikTok project. We’ve been making short educational videos on that, responding to current events. We did a video on the ICJ hearings for the genocide case. We did videos on the other IFJ case about the legality of the Israeli occupation, and just generally news, recognition of Palestine, that sort of thing.

The second project was the Recognise Palestine campaign in which we were drafting letters to be sent out to the public, to send on to their MPs – and now to all the candidates to become MP – to encourage the UK to recognise Palestine. Last was the Suspension of Arms to Israel campaign, which is ongoing and we hope will carry on into next year.


The Suspension of Arms to Israel Project is one that came about through one of the Fellows as an initiative. That’s a really good example of how young people bring change and progression also in the work of charities. Finally, what is your message to young people out there? How can you work towards change from our place here in the UK?


My primary message to young people is one of gratitude. This year we’ve seen young people look at the cause of Israel-Palestine with a critical eye, but also a very genuine and committed interest, which has been really wonderful, especially in regard to things like writing to MPs. Young people have really made their voices heard.

It is very easy to share an image on your social media, or to do things when your face isn’t necessarily attached. One of the important things we can do is have tangible conversations in your social circles, at university, with your family. That’s really important. Not just using social media, where it can feel like you don’t have to own up to the opinions you’re putting out, but to follow up those conversations in real life. Young people do have an interest and an excellent voice, so to continue on that road.


I echo what Kira said. There’s often a lot of fear and nervousness about talking about Israel and Palestine. Young people may feel that they don’t have all the answers. They don’t know everything about a conflict, or maybe they feel that they have to pick a side. I was always quite afraid of that growing up: if I express support for one side, am I then denying the rights or respect for the other side? I would say to recognise and really promote the idea that calling for justice and equality and security for all people isn’t picking a side. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to know absolutely everything. It is complicated, but it’s not that complicated. Don’t be afraid to use your voice.


 Echoing what you both said, I would like to see young people, me included, not mistaking political tribalism for advocating for a cause. That means that advocating, speaking up for a political cause, should not be mistaken for forming in-group alliances. Taking up a certain standpoint within one’s friendship group, within one’s radicalised or not so radicalised student body. It’s about debate, engagement, listening to one another. It is about discourse. Educating yourself, having a critical perspective on all of the narratives that we are confronted with. And then formulating your own position and not being afraid, even if it’s hard, to step outside of the political tribe that otherwise we might want to associate ourselves with.

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