Palestinian and Arab youth delegations have been shocked by the situation at the World Festival of Youth and Students, currently taking place in Sochi, Russia, due to the involvement of an overtly Zionist delegation in what was intended to be an anti-imperialist conference.
The Palestinian Youth Organization responded to the current events at the conference in a statement, emphasizing its commitment to boycott all attempts at normalization in any form, including at this conference. The PYO is part of the Palestinian delegation organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth, an international organization composed of leftist groups that stand against imperialism and Zionism. WFDY organizes the Festival and its history and record in support of the Palestinian cause and confronting Zionism is clear, said the PYO.
However, the PYO noted that at every conference, the host country arranges an opening ceremony as well as events on the sidelines of the conference, while WFDY organizes the main conference program. “This time,” the PYO noted, “the host state, the Russian Federation, organized the opening ceremony and multiple events, inviting a Zionist delegation to participate in the opening and raising the flag of the Zionist enemy.”
In response, the PYO noted that the entire Palestinian delegation boycotted the opening ceremony as did almost all of the Arab delegations participating in the festival, with a protest outside the ceremony. One comrade from the Lebanese Communist Party attempted to take down and burn the Zionist flag, the PYO noted, and she was arrested and removed from the conference; she was later released. The PYO saluted the role of the comrades of the Lebanese Communist Party at the conference and their historic sacrifices of blood and lives for the resistance to Zionism.
Furthermore, the PYO statement noted that beyond the raising of the Zionist flag, the Palestinian flag was not raised at the opening ceremony. “The failure to raise the Palestinian flag is surprising from the Russian Federation and unacceptable. We will not accept this, and it is required to explain and apologize to Palestine, its delegation and all Arab delegations regarding this repugnant action,” said the PYO.
Following the statement from the PYO and four days of protests, on October 17, the Palestinian flag was raised with that of the other delegations. The Palestinian youth are continuing their demands for the Zionist delegation to be removed from the conference.
The PYO declared its plan for confrontation of the Zionist participation in the conference, based on a clear and explicit boycott of normalization. They noted that their first demand is the withdrawal of the Zionist flag and the expulsion of the Zionist delegation, and are mobilizing Arab and other international delegations to pressure the host country.
The PYO is also working with other delegations to participate in public solidarity programs and declarations for Palestine outside the conference entrances, drawing attention to the issue and shaming the host country for its role in welcoming oppressors and sidelining Palestinians. Finally, the PYO’s action plan includes withdrawal from the conference and the organization of separate solidarity actions with the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian resistance to Zionism that reflect the true democratic, anti-imperialist spirit of the progressive and left youth of the world.