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.Mission Statement
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Below you will find a selection of articles from Israel and Palestine. Please note that this is a random collection of news articles intended to give a 'heads-up' about current affairs in Israel-Palestine. It is not meant to reflect the views of OneVoice. Readers are encouraged to investigate headline stories further in other news sources for a variety of perspectives.
Al Arabiya: Israel deploys heavy security ahead of planned home demolition
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police deployed in an occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood on Wednesday ahead of the planned demolition of a home of a Palestinian who carried out an attack last year.
Al Monitor, Akiva Eldar: Netanyahu plans to 'punish' the Europeans over settlement labeling
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement that Israel will distance the European Union from the diplomatic process makes no sense, in view of the ongoing diplomatic stalemate.
Al Monitor, Aziza Nofal: Will Israel's ban on the Islamic Movement lead to further restrictions?
Some observers fear that the recent ban of the Islamic Movement's northern branch might serve as a precedent for Israel to tighten the noose on its Arab citizens
Ma’an: Israel confiscates ICRC tents from Palestinians in Jordan Valley
Israeli authorities on Monday confiscated 10 tents donated to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said.
Haaretz, Judy Maltz: Exclusive: U.S. Teen Slain in Terror Attack Was on Way to Volunteer at Illegal West Bank Outpost
While more and more study abroad programs restrict travel to West Bank, Haaretz learns that yeshiva of murdered Ezra Schwartz sent students to do community service at illegal outpost.
Ma’an: 13 Palestinians shot in clashes after house demolition in Shufat camp
Israeli forces shot and injured 13 Palestinians in the Shufat refugee camp on Wednesday during clashes which broke out after the demolition of the home of camp resident Ibrahim al-Akkari, who carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem last year.
+972 Magazine, Natasha Roth: This is how many Israeli cops it takes to demolish a Palestinian home
Around 1,200 members of the Israeli security forces entered Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on Wednesday morning to oversee the demolition of the home of Ibrahim al-Akri, who killed two Israelis in Jerusalem last year.
Times of Israel: Arab Israeli lawyer arrested for incitement on social media
Tareq Barghout, on defense team of alleged teen Palestinian terrorist, is accused of making Facebook posts supporting attacks.
Haaretz, Haroon Moghul: U.S. Jews and Muslims Must Fight Together Trump’s Racism
Given Trump’s position atop the polls, America’s Jews and Muslims have every reason to cooperate. But many of us are more concerned with excluding and demonizing each other.
JPost: Could solving open Jewish terror cases bring end to terror wave?
The link between Jewish terror and the current security situation in Israel is not disconnected from reality. In recent months, many security officials tied the solving of open Jewish terror cases to security on the ground.
+972 Magazine, Natasha Roth: Israel's military gov't stopped publishing info in Arabic
The Israeli army unit that administers the occupation has not updated its website for over five months. Instead, it religiously updates its Facebook page with impressive stats and jazzy graphics — in English only. What’s going on?
Al Monitor, Mazal Mualem: Are Israelis ready to move to the center?
Public support for the establishment of a “new Kadima” suggests that a significant segment of the Israeli electorate would back a party with a clear diplomatic agenda for a two-state solution.
NY Times, Diaa Hadid: Israel’s Ban of an Islamic Group Carries Risk
Israel has banned the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a move that denies crucial social services to Arabs living in northern Israel.
Al Arabiya: Israeli police shoot two alleged Palestinian attackers, one dead
Israeli police have shot two Palestinian alleged attackers in two separate incidents near Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, leaving one dead and the other wounded, Israeli authorities have said.
BBC: Mohammad Abu Khdair murder: Two Israelis found guilty
Two 17-year-old Israelis have been convicted of the murder of Palestinian youth Mohammad Abu Khdair, abducted and burned to death in Jerusalem in 2014.
Al Monitor, Adnan Abu Amer: Israel makes it official: Another wall on the way
Palestinians are interested to see what kind of wall Israel will build along the Gaza border to discourage Hamas attacks.
Al Monitor, Daoud Kuttab: Hebron radio stations closed for 'exercising incitement'
The Israeli army has closed three Palestinian radio stations in Hebron so far, a step that concerned parties say will only escalate the violence witnessed in the Palestinian territories.
JPost, Tovah Lazaroff: Peace Now to High Court: New land allocations to West Bank settlements must be made public
The secrecy that surrounds such allocations makes it impossible for the Palestinians to oppose them or ask that the land be assigned to them instead, NGO says.
NY Times, Diaa Hadid: Young Palestinian Women Adopt Unfamiliar Role in Seeking to Become Killers
Where previous outbursts of violence mostly involved men, 15 women have tried, or are accused of trying, to stab Israeli soldiers or civilians since an uprising began in October.
+972 Magazine, Michael Omer-Man: Nobody is coming to end the occupation
The Americans are disengaging from the conflict, the EU won’t go beyond half-measures, and the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of implosion. So what happens next?
Haaretz, Amira Hass: The Illusion of Palestinian Sovereignty
The West Bank’s division into 'territorial capsules' makes it hard for Palestinians to mass against Israeli aggression; instead, there are 'lone-wolf stabbers.'
+972 Magazine, Noam Sheizaf: The real danger of outlawing Palestinian political movements
Banning and persecuting political groups like the Islamic Movement and Balad has the effect of disengaging Palestinian citizens of Israel from the state and its political system. That is very, very dangerous.
Haaretz, Barak Ravid: Kerry to Visit Next Week to Discuss Israeli-Palestinian Confidence-building Measures
In his first visit in over a year, the U.S. secretary of state is hoping to persuade Netanyahu to implement more serious measures than those he presented recently in Washington.
JPost: US ambassador to Israel warns against 'bi-national outcome'
Dan Shapiro speaks at Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, calls for creative and proactive solutions from Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
NY Times, Isabel Kershner: Israel Outlaws Northern Branch of Islamic Movement
In an effort to quell a recent wave of violence, the Israeli security cabinet said it had outlawed the northern branch of the group, accusing it of collaborating with Hamas.
YNet, Matan Tzuri: Netanyahu: In Europe, they blame Israel for terrorism
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lamented the fact that not only is Israel blamed for the terror perpetrated against its citizens, it is also blamed for terror attacks in Europe.
Al Arabiya: Israel aircraft hit Gaza in response to rocket fire
Israeli aircraft hit two training camps in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to a rocket fired toward the south of the Jewish state, sources on both sides said Wednesday.
JPost, Moshe Arenstein: IAF commander: Israel will continue to eliminate regional threats
The main instability in the region is caused by Shiites organizations, explains Major General Amir Eshel.
Wafa: Five Students Injured in Jerusalem Clashes
At least five Palestinian students were injured during clashes which erupted on Wednesday between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters, mostly students, in the neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabir in Jerusalem.
Al Monitor, Hana Salah: Gaza's unemployed youth look online for work
Young professionals in the Gaza Strip use local and international online freelancing platforms to find job opportunities and a steady source of income.
Ma’an: EU delegation meets with PA to discuss Gaza reconstruction
Palestinian Authority officials on Wednesday met with the European Union's delegation to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to discuss Gaza's reconstruction effort, the Minister of Public Works and Housing said.
Times of Israel, Raphael Ahren: Netanyahu hints at possible annexations in West Bank
PM says he prefers ‘negotiated moves’ but will act if necessary, blasts EU’s ‘heinous’ settlement goods labeling scheme.
+972 Magazine, Leanne Gale: Hey Hillary Clinton, Palestinian lives matter too
You claim to support peace, but your words imply that Palestinian lives are less valuable to you than Israeli lives. I implore you: please do better.
Al Arabiya, Sharif Nashashibi: British Jews send a wake-up call to Israel
In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told British-Jewish leaders in London that “settlements are not the issue” with regard to the conflict with the Palestinians. However, according to a poll published last week, British Jews would beg to differ.
Al Arabiya: Palestinian team ‘identifies Arafat assassin’
The head of the Palestinian team looking into the death of Yasser Arafat on Tuesday has once again accused Israel of assassinating the iconic Palestinian leader in a Paris hospital.
Al Monitor, Adnan Abu Amer: Why was Hamas interested in the Turkish elections?
Hamas leaders were among the first to congratulate the AKP for its victory in the Turkish elections, as Turkey has always supported the Palestinian cause.
BBC: Boris Johnson cancels West Bank events amid Israeli boycott row
Boris Johnson has had to cancel planned public events in the West Bank because of security fears after he criticized backers of a boycott on Israeli goods.
NY Times, Sewell Chan: European Union Moves to Label Products From Israeli Settlements
The European Union pushed ahead on Wednesday with rules for labeling consumer goods from Jewish-owned businesses and farms in the land Israel captured during the 1967 war, creating new strains in relations between Europe and Israel.
BBC: Palestinian youths stab Israeli guard
Two Palestinians aged 12 and 13 have stabbed and wounded an Israeli security guard in East Jerusalem, police say.
JPost, Ariel Solomon: ISIS in Sinai threatens to attack Israel
The Islamic State released a new video threatening to attack Israel, but did not reveal when it would take place.
Ma’an: 70 injured in West Bank clashes during Arafat commemoration marches
Clashes erupted across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday after marches to mark the 11th anniversary of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, with at least 70 Palestinians shot and injured by Israeli forces.
+972 Magazine, Amir Rotem: What Netanyahu can easily offer Obama on Gaza
Three ‘gestures’ Israel can easily make that will radically improve the lives of at least thousands of Palestinians — all without compromising one inch on its own security concerns.
Al Monitor, Daoud Kuttab: Jerusalem and Hebron: A tale of two cities
East Jerusalem and Hebron are bound by familial ties and shared solidarity from their experiences under Israeli occupation.
Ma’an: Clashes break out in al-Arrub refugee camp for 2nd day in a row
Clashes broke out Wednesday for the second day in a row in al-Arrub refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, a committee leader said.
Times of Israel: PA to take video of police shouting at teen terror suspect to ICC
Palestinians allege interrogation of Ahmed Manasra, 13, part of systematic torture of prisoners
+972 Magazine, Edo Konrad: Why the 'hijacking' of Israeli democracy is a myth
We often hear that that Israeli democracy is being ‘hijacked’ by a group of right-wing extremists. Too bad the alternatives aren’t any more appealing.
Haaretz, Steven Klein: To Regain Its Credibility, Israel's Left Must Hold Palestinians Accountable for Violence
Can the peace camp reboot its principles, while insisting the Palestinians also hold themselves accountable for their actions?
Israel Hayom, Aviad Hacohen: Two paths, one challenge
Two separate events, one by the Reform movement and one by Chabad, showed the vitality of the Jewish people as well as the challenges facing those who consider the preservation of the Jewish world important.
Across Europe, the mercurial nature of regional politics in the Middle East has coincided with troubling increases in prejudice towards Jews and Muslims both.
In Germany, as never before, thousands are pouring into the streets to protest what they view to be the Muslim ‘take-over’ of Europe. In solidarity with victims of radical Islam, 25,000 people rallied in Berlin after the Charlie Hebdo attack, even after Chancellor Merkel had made a bold stand to say that ‘Islam belongs to Germany’, and that Muslims are central to the German character. One poll by Stern magazine has reported a sharp rise in negative views towards Muslims, with 29% polled believing Islam to have a negative influence on German life. Even more troubling have been incidents of violence by extremists: in one such instance, a home for mainly Muslim refugees was firebombed in rural Bavaria in December of 2014.
Troubling also is the increase in anti-Semitic attitudes as of late, coinciding with last summer’s war in Gaza, with vandalism and malicious rhetoric being aimed at Jewish citizens of Germany. Protests over Israel’s actions in Gaza even led to the firebombing of a Synagogue in Western Germany, which was only one of 184 anti-Semitic acts committed in June and July of that year.
In light of the rise of anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic actions across Europe, and in particular Germany, a film crew from channel ‘Arte’ is making a documentary about European anti-Semitism for German and French audiences.. Following OneVoice Europe’s recent successful tour in German schools and communities last April, the documentary will include a focus on the importance of the Outreach and Education Programme for combating extremist narratives through the humanising experience for the participants of meeting ordinary people from the conflict zone, and learning about the needs and interests of the populations on both sides: needs that are actually rooted in a complex reality involving a wide variety of international actors, an asymmetry in the situation between both sides of the conflict and polarized historical narratives.
One of OneVoice’s school sessions in Ansbach featured 25 students and was filmed for inclusion in the documentary. A follow-up session to the April tour with the same group, the format included an initial review of some of the history of the conflict, plus a renewed understanding of some of the final status issues, Israeli security fears, and facts about the current situation of ongoing occupation and settlement in the West Bank. The students then learned how to apply OneVoice’s win-win approach to the situation through listening to the two speakers representing the majority of their civil society on both sides, and explaining the needs and interests of their respective peoples.
The session concluded with the participants engaging in group work to discuss possible solutions that would deliver Palestinian statehood in a just territorial settlement based on the 1967 borders, and improve the long-term security situation for Israelis - not just in terms of the Israeli relation to a Palestinian state, but also in regards to the wider region. Various benefits of a political solution and an end to the occupation including economic and cultural factors and the achievement of peaceful coexistence were discussed and presented by the students to their fellow classmates, with comments and feedback via Skype from OneVoice’s Palestine Executive Director Samer Makhlouf and OneVoice Germany Executive Director Tal Harris. One student commented that she was “profoundly struck” by the similarity in the mutual interests of both sides, and saw the understanding of this as a possible key in the progression towards a solution. The students’ teacher, Eli Hirsch, expressed the crucial importance that the next generation of internationals are educated in depth about the conflict with a variety of perspectives so that they can be constructive future actors in support of their Palestinian and Israeli counterparts, and engage in positive dialogue with each other.
The programme’s Europe Director, Sharon Booth remarked: “The students at Theresien-Gymnasium, Ansbach are clearly an example of the bright, young political thinkers and actors of tomorrow. Many of them will be instrumental in building a Germany and a wider Europe in which mutual understanding, respect, and the skills to deal with religious and cultural diversity will saturate the prevailing culture. It is vital that we work even harder than the extremists to create the future that we want to see – our Israeli and Palestinian speakers are an example of what can be achieved in a tough reality.”
OneVoice Europe will be conducting further tours in Germany in the coming academic year, and will be expanding its outreach to build a network for establishing a similar project in France, where concerns about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are just as strong, if not more so. For more information or to offer help and support, please contact Sharon Booth on: email@example.com
OneVoice Europe’s (OVE) Outreach and Education Program has undergone a period of unprecedented expansion in the past six months. With the appointment of a new Education & Outreach Manager in February and the establishment of OneVoice offices in Germany under the direction of OneVoice Israel’s former Executive Director Tal Harris, OVE’s next year is looking to be one of its most impactful yet.
The first OneVoice Germany tour was launched and run from the fourteenth to the twenty-fourth of April, with speakers Tal Harris and OneVoice Palestine’s Executive Director Samer Makhlouf, and OVE’s Education Director, Sharon Booth. The team travelled across three states of Germany, covering over 2,000 km, and engaging over 600 people from across civil society. The tour brought OneVoice’s message to the German public in intimate gatherings, in “Salon”-style events, and larger educational lectures with professionals, students, and politicians. The sessions examined the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a two-state solution amidst the current political reality in Israel and Palestine.
OneVoice’s reach was felt in Berlin, where meetings were held with Green Party members and Dr. Sarah Husseini of the Palestinian Mission to understand the German Parliament’s strategy in recognising the state of Palestine. And in nine school sessions conducted across Bavaria for high-school students, the level of engagement and discussion amongst the students was impressive—a student commented, “You have to raise your voice if you want to change something…this session was one of the most important and useful things we ever had in school… now I understand both countries better”.
Leveraging the momentum and engagement of the thousands of Israelis over the course of the last election, OneVoice Israel and their strategic partner V15 have been conferring with volunteers, activists, and local community members in conferences across the country.
OneVoice and V15 are determined to harness the energy and positivity of the thousands of volunteers who became active during the elections. There is a determination to use this momentum in order to approach Israel’s most pressing challenges— chief amongst them the resolution of the conflict— with fresh thinking and new approaches that can disrupt the status quo and convince greater numbers of Israelis to join this growing movement.
In Kfar Saba on April 30th, participants strongly agreed with leveraging V15’s momentum. As one volunteer engineer put it, “this energy must continue. We will be able to affect the country by power in numbers. We have the potential to reach hundreds and thousands of people--even just our Facebook page has massive reach!”
On May 1st in Be'er Sheva, the energy continued with V15 and OneVoice conferring with other organizations and local residents on the social justice issues pertinent to mainstream Israelis. With Netanyahu's narrow coalition formed, and prospects for the two-state solution looking more distant, it is crucial for OneVoice Israel and V15 to continue their tour of Israel into the summer in order to capitalize on the momentum teeming across the country.
In March, OneVoice Europe undertook two successful tours in the East Midlands and London involving four speakers from Israel. It was a record breaking undertaking: almost 1,500 people participated in sessions and events.
As part of the Outreach and Education Program to combat anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiment in British schools and communities, OneVoice speakers acted as a prime example of how young people can be actors for political change in their own societies using non-violent tactics. The forces of extremist violence and hatred on both sides, in addition to an asymmetry between the two parties, have long hampered progress towards a peace deal in the Middle East and have led to a continued status quo of occupation and fear. And yet, themselves the product of an intensive OneVoice skills-training program among Palestinian and Israeli young people, these activists inspired British teenagers with their call for equal rights, justice and freedom from occupation, and their efforts to overcome the voices of the fundamentalists in their respective societies.
The day of school sessions and community events in Derby was covered by BBC East Midlands, which included an interfaith event at Derby University, and a visit to the Jamia Mosque.
Highlights of the month’s events included class-time with students at the Madani High School in Leicester, and a welcoming evening event for the local community at the school. Concluding presentations by the Madani school students on possible solutions to the situation in Israel-Palestine showed the impact of the educational sessions. Students took a constructive stand for non-violence, voiced their support for ending the occupation, and advocated for security for all.
One female student spoke at length, saying: “The people need to move away from labels and start focusing on humanity and the sanctity of human life.”
At the end of March, the OneVoice team received a warm welcome from Muswell Hill Synagogue, with an intensive discussion event focusing on the outcome of the Israeli election, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Participants made it clear that extremists in government and at the grassroots level have been harnessing the agenda with aggression and fear mongering for far too long. One audience member commented after the event: “Thanks for introducing an excellent and focused discussion last night - what I took away most of all is that it's vital to continue to build on the ideas put forward, no matter how slim the thread of hope.”
These tours continue to demonstrate that OneVoice Europe is one of the only organisations on the world stage that is successfully facilitating direct discussion, actively engaging people of all faiths and creeds in the UK and Europe, and bringing Israeli and Palestinian voices to the forefront of the battle against prejudice.
OVE will continue its work in schools and communities during the summer, and follow up opportunities for young people aged between 18 and 25 will be made available later this year, with our volunteers’ program and our student residential course.
The application for the course is now open, for more information, contact Jess Brandler: firstname.lastname@example.org
On January 27, OneVoice held its second English-language “Peace Pays Off at the Bar” event at Patrick’s Pub in central Tel Aviv to attract Israel’s international community. The guest speaker was Daniel Ben-Simon, acclaimed journalist and former Member of Knesset for the Labor Party. The event brought in over 50 English-speaking attendees from Israel, the United States, Canada, Russia, and more.
There was a buzz of anticipation about the room as a steady stream of attendees arrived, pulled up chairs close to the stage. “I’m here because I saw the event on Facebook and thought it looked interesting,” said Ethan, 22, a local journalist originally from New York. “I also have friends attending the event, which made it more likely for me to come.”
OVI’s Sharon Siegel, the event organizer, brought the crowd to attention and introduced the theme of Ben-Simon’s talk: the upcoming elections. “Whether you are here for only a short period of time, or you’re planning to stay here long-term, you can get involved,” she said.
When Ben-Simon took the stage, he was quick to emphasize the importance of Israel’s March 17 election. “This election will change the face of Israel and the history of Israel,” he said, “but most people are too angry or disinterested to vote.”
Ben-Simon revealed what he believes to be the most important issue in the election: “what to do with the West Bank.” He went on to speculate that, in the discourse around the elections, the West Bank is likely to be overlooked in favor of the economy. “Most Israelis don’t feel the lack of a Palestinian state, but they do feel that their living standard has lowered so much over the last few years that they cannot afford another four years of this economy.”
During his talk, Ben-Simon criticized the government’s unwillingness to negotiate with Israel’s Arab neighbors. “You cannot close the window and say you do not see anything. We need to open Israel and be a part of this region.”
Other topics of Ben-Simon’s talk included an indictment of the religious right for stalling negotiations with the Palestinians, and the practice of recruiting celebrities to serve in political parties as a way of garnering votes. “If you have more celebrities you can get more votes, it makes a parody of the Knesset.”
In the end, Ben-Simon restated the importance of the upcoming election and urged everyone to get involved and vote. “The political game can determine how we live and if we live.”
After his talk, Ben-Simon answered a few questions from the audience, and was followed by Guy Simon, a representative of the non-profit agency, Kol Oleh, which brings information about Israeli politics and the upcoming election to English-speaking immigrants. Simon presented information about several political parties that will be important in the upcoming elections and the key issues of their platforms.
“I think these things are necessary for new immigrants - helping them figure out how to navigate the political process,” said Riana, an attendee at the event. Cydney, a photographer from Atlanta attending the event, said, “For someone like me, who is considering moving to Israel, I think it’s important to be aware of what is going in in Israeli politics. I’m definitely glad I came.”
Guy Simon of Kol Oleh speaks to audience members about the Israeli elections.
OneVoice Israel’s (OVI) successful “Peace Pays Off at the Bar” events continued on January 6, when 150 people from Israel’s vibrant international community packed the Casa Veranda bar in Tel Aviv to learn about what it will take for peace between Israel and Palestine.
Americans, Russians, Norwegians, Brits, Germans and other internationals stood elbow-to-elbow at OVI’s inaugural English bar event organized and led by OVI intern Sharon Siegel. The audience listened intently to event speaker Gershon Baskin as he described his diplomatic experience and relationships with the people of Palestine. He endorsed a negotiated two-state solution as the only way to move forward with a peace agreement.
Baskin, a man passionate about this topic, said that the majority of the Palestinian people want peace and support a two-state solution. “What I'm saying is that this is doable; what we know about public opinion research is that the majority of Israelis and the majority of Palestinians would accept an agreement if they believed that there was a partner for peace on the other side.”
He went on to indict the current government in Israel for failing to make negotiations with the Palestinians a priority. “Israel is a start-up nation,” he said, “and we're a country that puts out new patents every morning. But on the issue most important to us, what puts lives on the line every day, we have zero initiative, and that's on Netanyahu.”
At the end of his talk, Baskin turned toward the topic of Israel’s upcoming elections. “On March 17, we have to get out the vote. On March 17, we have to make a change. We as Israelis have a responsibility to bring home a government that will return to serious negotiations with the Palestinians.
“This is life and death. It matters for every single one of us, and every single one of us can make a difference,” he concluded.
After Baskin’s talk, he opened the floor for questions from the crowded room. After answering questions on topics like Hamas, the rise of radical Islam, and the current unrest in the West Bank, an audience member named David finally asked, “I wonder if you have any hope for March? Do you believe there’s a viable candidate to challenge Netanyahu?”
“I believe there is a chance that the next government will be headed by Isaac Herzog,” Baskin responded, “and if we want to have a center-left government, we need to convince people that there is hope. When people don't have hope, they vote for people like Netanyahu.”
At the end of this very successful event, OneVoice gained many new supporters from all across the international community. Alisa, a production manager from Russia, said, “it was an amazing event and I'm grateful I came here because I heard a different perspective than I've heard over the last few months. I've heard over and over that there is no partner for peace. This is the first time I've heard from someone I respect that peace is possible. This makes me want to move forward more and spread this farther.”
Gershon Baskin mingles with event particpants during OVI's "Peace Pays Off at the Bar" event.
Gershon Basken (center), with OVI staff from left to right: intern Aaron Pilcher, Project Manager Elanit Green, intern and event organizer Sharon Siegel, OVI activist Roise Perper, and intern Eric Canosa.
Christmas Eve is a day of celebration for many around the globe, and thousands of people from all walks of life flock to Bethlehem’s Manger Square to take in the sights of the season. OneVoice Palestine saw the day as primed for mass public engagement and sent 80 of our best youth leaders from 22 chapters in the West Bank to promote popular resistance against the occupation and conflict among the crowd.
Preparations for this event took place weeks ahead of Christmas Eve, with the staff and volunteers meeting, discussing, and planning to execute what turned to be one of OVP’s biggest events in years.
OVP coordinated with the chapter heads of Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, and Jericho, and it would be a lie to say there wasn’t any pressure on the staff. There were legitimate concerns about logistics and safety. Adding to the pressure was the known presence of media outlets from local agencies and news reporters from around the globe. We needed to present OneVoice’s message and vision for nonviolent activism and the two-state solution in the best way possible. We needed to paint an inspirational image for thousands of Palestinians and tourists visiting Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.
Early Wednesday morning, the youth leaders arrived in OVP’s office in Bethlehem. All donned a specially designed sweatshirt that encouraged tourists to speak to their communities about Palestine through acknowledging Palestinian rights of freedom and self-determination. OneVoice staff briefed the youth leaders about the program and divided them into small groups to reach the most people. The staff and youth leaders walked the main street of Bethlehem wearing Palestinian keffiyehs, checkered black and white scarves that are a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and an icon of Palestinian solidarity.
When we reached Manger Square, morale was high. We wanted this event to succeed, but more importantly we wanted our voices to be heard. We set up a small stand with fliers and coffee. The coffee cups carried the OneVoice logo and messages from our previous “Wake Up! What is Your Role?” campaign. We printed and handed out hundreds of brochures and “passports” with clear messages about non-violent activism, the two-state solution, the Arab Peace Initiative, and a message from our staff and youth leaders to the international community to recognize Palestine as a state on the 1967 borders.
Palestinians visiting Bethlehem found the event intriguing. They asked the youth leaders about the logo and the initiative. OneVoice offered the crowd coffee and engaged many in long conversations about Palestinian national interests. In some cases the conversation turned into long debates about the Palestinian leadership’s vision and non-violent activism. Not all Palestinians we met in Bethlehem showed support for our work, but the majority was pleased by the youth leaders’ enthusiasm and courage.
The event was remarkable. The keffiyehs were everywhere and the passports were a big hit; everyone wanted one! Internationals nodded in approval and encouraged the youth leaders to continue down the path of non-violent activism. They took photos with our activists and one in particular was shouting “two-states” at the camera! Local media outlets followed us around, too. They interviewed OVP Executive Director Samer Makhlouf and senior activist Raya Fatayer. Two hours later we ran out of passports! We were also running low on fliers. We didn’t anticipate how huge the crowd was.
Afterward, the youth leaders marched back to our office, exhausted but very proud of what we accomplished. For many youth leaders it was an extraordinary experience. For others it was a quick stop to refuel. As for the staff, we are excited for the next step. OneVoice generated momentum that day. It was a much needed win to ignite hope and a reminder why we all love doing what we do.
We dined as a team later that evening. OneVoice staff thanked everyone and reminded them why our work is important. We also took the opportunity to give out certificates to the youth leaders who participated in our training program, and celebrated the hard work of our senior youth leaders who had a wonderfully constructive year. That evening, we looked around the room and saw hope in the eyes of our youth leaders. OVP’s community shined as a great example of what hard work, popular resistance, and a simple idea can accomplish.
Wasim Almasri is OneVoice Palestine's Communications Officer.
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