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Story | Community
19 July 2021

Young Palestinian trained by QF’s QatarDebate forms Gaza’s first debate club

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Ismail Al-Rzzi has established a club for dialogue that aims to promote awareness of the Palestinian people’s struggle against occupation and aggression

Inspired by the challenges he has overcome on his own journey of knowledge, a Palestinian student trained by Qatar Foundation’s QatarDebate has established the first debate club in Gaza, with the aim of promoting awareness and dialogue of the struggle against oppression and aggression that his people continue to face.

Gaza and its people have suffered in the face of renewed Israeli bombardments. Image source: Reuters/Ahmad Khmis/Medialys Images/Si via Reuters Connect

Ismail Al-Rzzi dreamed of completing his higher education and achieving his goals in life, but the difficulties he faced when seeking to travel created an obstacle that threatened his prospects of achieving this dream.

My absolute belief that the logic of argument is the civilized alternative in the face of the occupation of Palestine was a motive for me establish the first debate club in Gaza

Ismail Al-Rzzi

He was invited to complete his training in the art of debate in Qatar in 2012, but his journey from Gaza to Doha took several years instead of several hours due to the closure of borders. After a long journey which involved stops at several stations, he eventually reached Qatar to complete his debating career by joining QatarDebate, where he attended training and arbitration workshops for debating in the Arabic language, and was also trained in managing debate tournaments.

Because I grew up in Gaza, I believe that I was born as a voice for what I consider to be the most just cause on the face of the earth

Ismail Al-Rzzi

Al-Rzzi said that, since his childhood, he has believed that debate, dialogue, and logic promote the values of peace in the face aggression, oppression, and exclusion, saying: "Because I grew up in Gaza, I believe that I was born as a voice for what I consider to be the most just cause on the face of the earth.

"My absolute belief that the logic of argument is the civilized alternative in the face of the occupation of Palestine was a motive for me to work on building bridges between Palestinian factions, to promote dialogue and bring perspectives to our issues – and I was able to establish Orient Debating Club, the first debate club in Gaza".

Forming a debate club in besieged Gaza was not easy, as Al-Rzzi explains. “The first difficulties we faced when establishing the club was the difficulty of communication between university students and youth in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, given the continuous closure of the crossings by the Israeli occupation, as well as the difficulty of traveling from the Gaza Strip to participate in tournaments held outside the country, and the lack of previous experience in the field of debate in Palestine at the time.

“But I overcame all these challenges through the clarity of the idea, which made it understandable, adaptable, and implementable.”

My journey from Gaza to Qatar was not easy; for many years, I was waiting for a call that said that the crossing was open, but to no avail

Ismail Al-Rzzi

Al-Rzzi had to face challenges of his own to complete his training at QatarDebate. “I arrived in Qatar after a tiring and arduous journey,” he recalled. “My journey from Gaza to Qatar was not easy; for many years, I was waiting for a call that said that the crossing was open, but to no avail.

“The crossings remained closed, and one opportunity after another ended. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”

Speaking about the importance of debating in raising awareness of the Palestinian cause, Al-Rzzi said: “One of the most important goals that any debate achieves is to raise awareness, which is what the Palestinian situation needs in various issues, such as political division and the relationship with the Israeli occupation.

Ismail Al-Rzzi

“Usually, debates are between two equal parties and there are differences in views between them, but the truth is that the issue with the Israeli occupation is not a difference of views.”

Al-Rzzi also highlights the importance of social media in conveying the voice of young people, "The truth is that I admire how young people have resorted to an alternative reality on social media to hold their dialogue and debates there,” he said. “Today, young people have succeeded in influencing global opinion through social media.

"Young people exposing the occupation, and new applications and means of communication, have contributed to amplifying the voice of the Palestinian people and their calls for their rights.”

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