New York, March 27, 2012—OneVoice Palestine reopened its office in Gaza late in 2011. Headed by Ezzeldin Masri, the movement has held three informal sessions with Gazan youth on the final-status issues and the two-state solution. OneVoice spoke with Ezzeldin over the phone recently to ask him about the climate in Gaza and OneVoice’s progress there.
Given the obviously different political climates in the West Bank, under Fatah, and in Gaza, under Hamas, how do OneVoice’s tactics differ in the two places?
Ezzeldin: OneVoice Palestine shares the same agenda with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They all seek to end the occupation, resolve all final status issues in accordance with international law, and establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Within this paradigm, OneVoice Palestine operates freely in the West Bank and enjoys support from influencers in both the private and public sectors.
In Gaza, the situation is markedly different. Hamas, the governing party since 2007, does not fully support the two-state solution. Though they’ve stated their willingness to accept such a peace deal if approved by a Palestinian referendum, the two-state solution remains very much absent from the political discourse in Gaza. As such, OneVoice in Gaza operates mainly through informal sessions to introduce the concept of the two-state solution. As far as I know, we’re the only nongovernmental organization in Gaza working in this space.
Considering Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza and the siege imposed that caused a decline in Gazan GDP and quality of life, how serious do most Gazans take the call for a two-state solution?
Ezzeldin: Although Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip nearly seven years ago, we remain under siege, with absolutely no rights over our airspace and territorial waters, and we’re prevented from leaving and entering Gaza. The unemployment rate hovers around 40 percent, and those employed are grossly underpaid. The living conditions are simply miserable with electricity, fuel and water shortages commonplace. Such conditions have dwindled support among Gazans for the two-state solution. Many don’t believe Israel truly wants a two-state solution and point to 20 years of failed negotiations and continued Israeli land grabs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
OneVoice has been quite successful in creating inroads with the Palestinian Authority, having met recently with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and others. Is Hamas similarly amenable to input from civil society?
Ezzeldin: Hamas differs greatly from the Palestinian Authority. A politico-religious movement that bases its constitution on the Holy Quran, Hamas refuses to recognize the state of Israel – certainly not before there is an end to the occupation and all the final status issues are resolved in a just and comprehensive way – and does not fully accept the two-state solution. Civil society organizations that support the two-state solution are viewed with suspicion. But, as I previously mentioned, if a peace deal with Israel is upheld by a widespread Palestinian referendum, Hamas has repeatedly stated that it will not stand in the way.
What does the future hold for OneVoice Palestine in Gaza?
Ezzeldin: I anticipate the end of the Palestinian national division soon, the formation of the national unity government, and a slight transition in Hamas' position toward the two-state solution. OneVoice Palestine in Gaza will hopefully move to the next step of activating the Youth Leadership Program, and establishing an active volunteer corps. Also, I’d like to see OneVoice in Gaza carry out public initiatives in support of the two-state solution.