Despite the hardship which the Gaza strip is going through these days, last week OneVoice Gaza began a series of town hall meetings throughout Gaza, under the title, Palestinian National Aspirations & the Two State Solution to discuss and create awareness of the urgency of the negotiations process for the Palestinian people. The meetings brought together groups of 40-50 women, university students, and activists at each meeting, in Dar al Balah, Beit Hanoun, and Beit Lahia. The purpose of the meetings was to introduce OneVoice Palestine's vision of ending the occupation and establishing a viable, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel.
At Dar al Balah, Ezzeldin Masri, Outreach Director of OneVoice Gaza, emphasized the need to break the cycle of violence, and adopt nonviolent means of ending the occupation and the conflict once and for all. Executive Director Mowaffaq Alami likewise talked about the need to present a different image of Gazans to the international community - one which is different from the violent stereotype. He emphasized the need to mobilize the silent majority in Palestine toward expressing its will to end the occupation through direct negotiations. The audience, comprised of 50 university students, was very interested in the message, even as it sounded new and strange in the context of the impoverished and stricken Gaza strip.
In Beit Hanoun, where OneVoice Gaza gathered roughly 50 university students and activists, Ezzeldin spoke about Palestinians national aspirations, asking the audience to respond. Many commented on the major changes in Palestinian nationalism over the past sixty years, and emphasized the importance of not allowing other countries or forces to hijack the Palestinian cause for their own purposes. The participants concluded that it is imperative for the Palestinian leadership and people to do all they can to achieve a two state solution. Mowaffaq asked the participants to imagine what Palestine would look like ten years from now, in 2018, if a peace agreement were achieved this year. His question elicited many positive comments - many focused on the fact that Palestinians love life, and simply want to enjoy living, with hopes of a bright future for their children. The participants likewise discussed the economic benefits for Palestinians in the context of a two state agreement.
On March 18th, Ezzeldin and Mowaffaq gathered 50 women from Jabaliya and Beit Lahia for a town hall meeting in Beit Lahia. Mowaffaq started the meeting by introducing OneVoice and its guiding principles, and then spoke about the stability and prosperity which only peace can bring to the Gaza strip. Ezzeldin spoke to the women about the talked about the need to support those who seek peace based on a two state solution - he emphasized that successful negotiations are the opportunity Palestinians want and need to end the occupation and establish an independent state. The women in attendance spoke of the many hardships they have faced - the jobs they and their husbands have lost and the difficulties for their families. They expressed a desire to end the violence and a better future.