OneVoice Movement

OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two-state solution.

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OneVoice Europe talks conflict resolution at Living Islam Festival

OneVoice Europe participated in the annual Living Islam Festival on July 31 in London. The Festival is a national celebration of British Islam that encourages Muslims in the UK to think about their faith. Several thousand people attended this year, providing OVE another opportunity to expand its reach and engage as many people as possible about peace.

While a thriving bazaar and an array of workshops, activities, and food stalls added to the festive post-Eid mood, there was also a more somber side to the event. Many of the charities present spoke about the devastation in Gaza, and there were appeals for aid for those affected by the recent escalation in violence.

OneVoice was a unique presence at the festival, with our focus on conflict resolution providing a constructive angle on what many see as a desperate situation. Most of the people who approached us supported a two-state solution and the end to the occupation, and emphasized the common humanity they saw between all civilians who had been caught in the conflict, regardless of their nationality.

We also hosted two workshops during the festival, offering political background and analysis as well as an overview of OneVoice’s work. We received lots of positive interest in our Outreach and Education Program, including from school representatives.  Although the sessions were at times highly emotional, including a minute’s silence for the recent victims of the conflict, attendees maintained a pragmatic discussion about how to reach a solution. We gained 40 new members and a huge amount of support for our work, including queries about volunteering.

In Britain, there is a tendency for events in the Middle East to affect the way that communities are treated here- disturbingly, Jewish groups have reported a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the latest offensive began. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that people with strong feelings about the conflict are given a platform from which to discuss their views and worries while learning about the work of peace-seeking elements on both sides.

The Living Islam Festival provided exactly this kind of opportunity and sent out a message of inclusivity: far from being a ‘Muslim’ issue, the events in Gaza are drawing together British people from all backgrounds who want to see an end to the fighting.

Sharon Alsoodani is OneVoice Europe’s Outreach Director.

18 August 2014 See Post

OneVoice Europe branches out programming to German Students

In an effort to expand OneVoice’s capacity to other influential parts of Europe, OneVoice Europe’s Education Director Sharon Alsoodani conducted a Skype session between 70 students in Ansbach, Germany, and an Israeli and Palestinian activist on July 24.

Recent events in Gaza have resulted in worrying manifestations in Germany and broader Europe. Many protests highly critical of Israel have devolved into disturbingly anti-Semitic demonstrations and acts of violence. In parallel, several anti-Islam movements and parties have risen to prominence in Europe over the last few years. OVE works hard to combat these views among young British people, and the visit provided an excellent opportunity to introduce OneVoice to young Germans.

Gabi and Wasim, two of our activists, took part in the session. Gabi lives in Tel Aviv, Wasim in Ramallah, and both offered the students fresh insights into the political and humanitarian situation. Both emphasized the need for the violence to stop and condemned attacks which target civilians. They stressed OneVoice’s message: the occupation and conflict need to end as soon as possible through bilateral negotiations.

It was clear the students were aware of the shift in Germany; some asked questions about anti-Semitism in Palestine. It has perhaps never been more important, both in Europe and in the region, that people are able to criticize government policy without implicating an entire community. The Outreach and Education Program takes important steps to achieve this by presenting students with faces of the conflict, like Gabi and Wasim, who are more relatable and appealing than politicians.

Although there were inevitably differences in perspective, the students’ feedback showed that they were impressed by how fair the speakers were in not granting precedence to one narrative, and they were moved at hearing news of the current situation in the region. Many expressed their hopes for a speedy ceasefire and that OneVoice would come back to interact with other groups of students. After weeks of global conversation that seems consumed by hatred and blame, it was great to see that OneVoice still exists in the words and attitude of activists like Wasim and Gabi, and in young people like the Ansbach class who are so open and willing to listen.

08 August 2014 See Post

OneVoice welcomes the three day ceasefire

OneVoice welcomes the three day ceasefire just announced by the parties in order to provide urgent humanitarian relief needed to besieged Palestinians and provide a respite from missile attacks on Israeli civilians. 

We hope that this critical initiative taking place under the auspices of the Egyptian government tonight in Cairo will lead to the resumption of direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to ensure that the conditions that resulted in this latest round of hostilities affecting Israel and Gaza do not recur.

The dangerous escalation and tragic loss of life on both sides of the border are proof that the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. Palestinians and Israelis will only realize peace and security by transforming this temporary ceasefire into a renewed opportunity to resume direct, good faith negotiations leading to a lasting peace.

31 July 2014 See Post

OneVoice Palestine hosts Ramadan political iftars

In spite of the current conflict, OneVoice Palestine (OVP) activists are hard at work organizing peaceful, informative events to cultivate support for an end to the violence and the status quo.

OVP is running an iftar series throughout the month of Ramadan. Iftars are the evening meals to break the daily fast, and OVP is bringing together activists, community representatives, security forces, and political leaders to share meals and participate in constructive discussions on the political situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

On July 3, 40 youth leaders meet with OVP Board Member Dr. Mohammed Labadi in Jenin, who told the participants that although “these are very difficult times, we will pull through. I can’t stress how important it is to keep hope. There is a necessity to work hard on all different levels to make sure that the situation won’t escalate further.”

OVP held its second iftar at the Palestinian National Security Forces (PNSF) headquarters in Jericho on July 9. Over 50 activists from Jericho, Ramallah, and Bethlehem toured the facility with Lieutenant Colonel Atef Naser, Commander of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Nu'ayma Refugee Camp. Before sitting down for the iftar with hundreds of security force personnel Lieutenant Colonel Naser praised OVP for strengthening the relationship between the public and security forces in Palestine, especially under these circumstances.

OVP’s Executive Director Samer Makhlouf stressed that what is happening in Gaza is very bad and unacceptable. Stopping the war against Gaza and reaching a ceasefire that will save the lives of civilians on both sides must be a top priority, and in this difficult time, the Palestinians should unite on one strategy to resist the occupation through popular, nonviolent activities.

“Nonviolence and national unity are keys to ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state,” Samer continued. “Look at other successful experiences in other parts of the world; if nonviolence worked there, it will definitely work here.”

Nablus was the next city to have an OVP iftar. The July 11 feast featured over 100 youth and political leaders. Nablus’s Mayor and Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Mr. Ghassan Shakaa; Advisor to the Council of Ministers, Dr. Fawaz Aqel; Deputy Ambassador of Palestine to Azerbaijan, Dr. Walid Tiem; and Dr. Labadi all attended.

“When I was invited, I was very hesitant, but OneVoice youth leaders who arranged the event were very persistent,” admitted Mayor Shakaa during the iftar. “They called my office a couple of times, and I agreed to attend. After watching the video [of successful OVP activities from the last two years], I pledge my full support to OneVoice if you continue the work you do on the ground. In the 1990s, I worked with other mayors from the West Bank and Israel to achieve civil peace. We knew back then that coordination is needed to reach a common goal. I hope you will take the lead soon and pursue the dream of an independent state.”

*Josh Rutstein is the Summer 2014 communications intern. 

Mayor Shakaa Nablus OneVoice Palestine

Right to left; Dr. Walid Tiem, Dr. Fawaz Aqel, Dr. Mahmoud Labadi, Yakoub Samri, OVP’s Abdallah Hamarsheh and Samer Makhlouf, Mr. Ghassan Shakaa, and OneVoice volunteers. 

16 July 2014 See Post

Talking peace during war

Peace. It is a bit odd to write about peace as I sit at home in Bat Yam and wait for the sirens to go off, running to and from the safety of my bomb shelter. But this situation compels me to write about peace and the hundreds of people who gathered in Tel Aviv at the Haaretz Israel Conference on Peace on July 8 as rockets from Gaza flew overhead.

The conference had a number of panels and speakers – academics, members of the Knesset, journalists, and international analysts – professing a variety of views about the conflict and how (or if) Israel can make peace with the Palestinians. Labor Party Chair MK Yitzhak “Buji” Hertzog told the participants, “this IS the time for a peace conference,” and OneVoice Israel co-sponsored a workshop on young people and the peace process, where MK Stav Shaffir said, “nobody will take care of a peace solution if young people don't do it, because the system is built to maintain the status quo.”

We cannot wait for peace to come later. An agreement to establish the two-state solution and finally end the conflict is possible, and it is the only way for Israel to remain a democratic state.

Most Israelis lost their hope in peace a long time ago. This loss not only drives us away from the possibility of peace, it also makes us cynical and resentful.

I became very emotional when Israeli vocalist Achinoam Nini's sang "Shir LaShalom" (Song for Peace) at the conference—the same piece Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sang during a peace rally in 1995.  Its meaning died a little in Israel along with Rabin’s death. But the Haaretz conference and movements like OneVoice make sure that it’s not in the grave just yet.

Spending an entire day in a room full of people devoted to peace, knowing you're not alone, was very empowering. It was an incredible experience, meeting groups and organizations devoted to the idea of peace and that care about Palestinians and Israelis alike. Embodying peace is a moral and ethical sharpening of ourselves and believing that there are partners for peace (and there surely are) makes us a better partner, too.

15 July 2014 See Post

Statement on escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine

We at OneVoice are united in asking our political leaders to recognize that the preservation of life must always be paramount. This dangerous escalation and the tragic loss of civilian life are proof that the status quo is unsustainable. That is why we are calling for a mutual ceasefire to ensure the safety of innocent lives. Those of us committed to an end to conflict and occupation, and the realization of a two-state solution, understand that violence can never achieve a just peace.
 

09 July 2014 See Post

Statement from CEO Marc Ginsberg on Recent Events

On behalf of the OneVoice Movement and its Israeli, Palestinian, European and American staff, I wish to express our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of all those who were slain without cause. 
 
OneVoice is a movement for and on behalf of the youth of Palestine and Israel, who yearn for the day when they will live side by side in peace and security, with no more fear from reprisal or intolerance. The young Israelis and Palestinians who lost their lives in recent days remind us that their hopes and aspirations can only be fulfilled by ending the occupation and bringing to a quick end the latest cycle of violence and reprisal.
 
There is only one true path forward, as difficult as it may seem, in these mournful hours…courageous leadership that leads Israelis and Palestinians back from the precipice of more violence to the negotiating table in good faith. We at OneVoice know that the challenges before us are greater than ever before. But as we mourn the loss of these young lives, we rededicate ourselves with conviction and fortitude to their memories so that their young Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters face better days and greater comfort in the weeks and months ahead.

Marc Ginsberg
CEO, OneVoice Movement  
 
Statement from the OneVoice Movement
 
We at the OneVoice Movement are deeply worried and saddened by the recent escalation and violence and the tragic news of young Israelis and Palestinians who have needlessly lost their lives.
 
We recall the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”
 
As the only solution to violence is the end of the occupation and conflict and the realization of the two-state solution, we call upon both parties to refrain from violence, and to return to serious negotiations based on clear references and a timeframe, bringing bloodshed to a permanent end.
 
Together, we pledge to re-double our efforts; doing everything that we can to ensure that no more lives are lost as part of this tragic conflict

03 July 2014 See Post

OneVoice Europe panel discusses Israel-Palestine & extremism in the UK

On 16 June, OneVoice Europe’s Outreach & Education Program held a panel with Usama Hasan, OVE board member and senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation; Vidhya Ramalingam of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s Program on Far-Right Extremism and Integration; Palestinian PhD student Hitham Kayali; Israeli PhD student Smadar Cohen-Chen; and Sharon Alsoodani, OneVoice Europe’s Education Director, to discuss Israel-Palestine advocacy in the United Kingdom and the challenges that peace activists face from extremists.

Held at the Royal Society of Medicine, the hopeful tone of the evening underscored OneVoice’s work to amplify the moderate voices on both sides of the conflict. Sharon addressed the activism of the far left, noting that a resolution to the conflict can only be viable if it is based on realistic expectations rather than on abstract, idealistic notions such as the ‘one-state’ solution.

“The two-state solution is realistic because it has the rare and precious consensus of the international community and is the only solution that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians would accept,” Sharon said.  

Another topic was the appropriation of Zionism by far-right English Nationalists. Vidhya pointed out the tendency of British far-right groups to assert that Israel, in the context of its conflict with the Palestinians, serves as the front line in the fight against Islamism, a mistaken and dangerous correlation. Usama also described how his own youthful involvement with Islamist extremism included burning Israeli flags, emphasizing the need for British Muslims to guard against anti-Semitic narratives in their approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The panel spoke in consensus about the need for the British people to form a united response to these kinds of associations. As evidenced in Israel and Palestine, no group’s right to self-determination needs to be at the expense of another’s. As Hitham put it, “I try really hard to see the core differences between Judaism and Islam, and I really don’t see them.” And Smadar said British Jews should feel confident about their Israel advocacy, but it should be aimed at creating a viable Palestinian state, which is in Israelis’ long-term security interests.

Look out for a follow up event where nationalism and the two-state solution will be discussed further.

25 June 2014 See Post

IIE Goldberg Prize for Peace Awarded to OneVoice Leaders

OVI’s Tal Harris and OVP’s Samer Makhlouf were awarded the 2014 IIE Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East June 9 from The Institute of International Education (IIE). The award was for their parallel work with OneVoice’s Youth Leadership Program, which gives young activists the skills to mobilize the moderate, non-violent majority in their communities to press for the two-state solution. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, was presented by the Chairman of IIE’s Board of Trustees, Thomas S. Johnson, at the U.S. cultural center in Jerusalem.

“This award recognizes innovation, and rewards those who are courageous and committed enough to work to overcome the religious, cultural, ethnic, and political issues which divide the Middle East,” said IIE Trustee Victor Goldberg. “We hope that the dedication shown by our prize winners will inspire others to join together across these divides to advance the cause of peace in the coming years.”

11 June 2014 See Post

Regional Activity Wrap Up - May 2014

While disheartening, the peace talks' recent collapse have inspired our activists to redouble their efforts to mobilize everyday Israelis and Palestinians to change the dynamic for a negotiated two-state solution.

OneVoice Palestine (OVP) held town hall meetings and trainings for over 200 Palestinian students, community members, and activists throughout the last month. In an effort to encourage greater local-level political engagement, OVP organized Women of Influence seminars in Bethlehem and Jenin with Hanan Ghashah of the Women’s Empowerment Center in Qalqilya. Senior youth leaders also met in Ramallah for a training series on non-violent activism by South African diplomat Rafique Gangat, and Lindsay Levin, founder of Leader’s Quest, conducted leadership workshops. OVP also hosted a town hall meeting on national reconciliation for 150 students with Mohammed Almasri from the OVP board and Abu Khalid Shihada of the PLO.

In parallel, over 160 Israeli youth leaders and university students took part in OneVoice Israel (OVI) events across the country, including several at Tel Aviv University. In one seminar, veteran Palestinian journalist Elias Zananiri spoke to a packed room about the conflict through Palestinian eyes. At a subsequent forum, members of the European Delegation to Israel, Mark Gallagher and Luigiandrea Pratolongo, discussed the economic advantages of peace between Israel and Palestine. And Amram Mitzna, chair of the Education, Culture, and Sports Committee in the Knesset, visited Tel Aviv University for an event on teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Israeli schools; Tel Aviv Radio later interviewed OVI project manager Elanit Green on Mitzna’s presentation and how the Israeli education system should not ignore the conflict. OVI also hosted a debate at Bar Ilan University between MKs Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) and Zvulun Kalfa (Jewish Home) on the status of Jerusalem in a final peace agreement.

And closing out the active month, over 60 OVI activists travelled to Ramallah with the Peace NGO Forum to hear Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speak of the need for continued dedication to the resolution of the conflict.

“I assure you that there is absolutely no other way to achieve peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people but through peaceful negotiations. Both of us have tried everything in the past and paid a heavy price. We have realized that there is no way but peace,” Abbas said in The Times of Israel.

Josh Rutstein is the OneVoice US summer 2014 communications intern.

09 June 2014 See Post

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