New York, April 15, 2011—Activists Mohammad Asideh and Shir Lachish alerted University of Wisconsin students on Monday and Tuesday to the parallel consensus-building OneVoice is accomplishing in the Middle East.
Each day, Mohammad and Shir grapple with the final-status issues, such as borders and settlements, which preclude an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. In order to do so, they must mediate between various political factions and build trust within communities. The event in Wisconsin enabled them to highlight this aspect of their work.
The students at the University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison and Milwaukee have themselves suffered a lack of trust for years. In 2010, an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Milwaukee exploded into a violent altercation between Jewish and Muslim students. When visiting communities experiencing polarization over the Middle East conflict, OneVoice aims to refocus the dialogue on the important issues and amplify the voices of moderate Israelis and Palestinians to secure a two-state solution.
“There’s the important issue we need to address: What the people want,” Mohammad, of OneVoice Palestine, illustrated.
OneVoice works to empower the peace-seeking majority within Israel and Palestine in an effort to achieve a mutually-agreeable two-state solution. The work is not easy; in order to motivate elected leaders to reach peace, a level of consensus must first be achieved. The first step toward doing so is promoting a sensible pragmatic approach to final-status issues.
“That’s one of the reasons why we do our town hall meetings,” said International Education Program Manager Rachel Steinberg. “We’re building consensus not only for compromises, but for final-status issues.”
The group in attendance came with a solemn understanding of the daunting task OneVoice has undertaken. The Wisconsin students were aware that there is more to a solution than security and specifically voiced their concern and interest in the struggle for resources, with water disputes being the most notable. It is not simply the news-making security issues that prevent a solution; access to water and future economic opportunity are vital concerns of both the Israelis and Palestinians.
“As Palestinians, we are very pragmatic about negotiations,” said Mohammad, reflecting on the difficult final-status issues. “We must invest in the future by solving the conflict.”