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.
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.