New York, November 21, 2012 – With stops in Davis, Mill Valley, San Francisco, and more, OneVoice Palestine youth leader Obada Shtaya took part in the final tour of the International Engagement Program’s (IEP) fall semester. From November 12-16, Obada toured a number of community and university locations in Northern California and spoke with us about his experience.
OneVoice: As an experienced IEP tour program volunteer, how is this tour different from other tours you’ve participated in?
Obada: I gave myself so much feedback the first few times and I thought I did well, but there is always more to learn and work on. Now I know I am even more committed to the two-state solution and I want to work toward my passion, which is a Palestinian state. I am also more mature – I’m no longer a student, but now an adult living and speaking about the occupation and the conflict to different audiences.
OneVoice: What were the most common questions asked during the tour? What were the toughest? And how did you answer them?
Obada: The most common questions were about refugees and the status of Jerusalem. These are critical issues for Palestinians: Jerusalem is considered the capital of Palestine and the refugees suffered in the 1948 catastrophe. Therefore, we seek a just and solution for the refugees problem in accordance with the international law and international resolutions. And I actually don’t think there are any hard questions. I know that the two-state solution is the best solution for us. I am asked about the difficulties a lot, and I tell audiences that there are challenges and compromises that need to be made, but the two-state solution has a bright-side – it has everything that a state needs to thrive. I also acknowledge that it is not perfect, but it still remains the best option.
OneVoice: Were there any moment(s) that stood out to you, anything memorable?
Obada: The Mill Valley Seniors for Peace event was great. It was a bit different because it wasn’t a campus and outside our main target: youth. These seniors had a lot of experience and came from different backgrounds – lived through wars, fought in wars – and they are still active. Sometimes I ask myself why I keep doing this [activism], but with an average age of 87, these seniors are still working on peace issues. They see the sanctity of life in a universal standard, look at humanity in general, and stress to others that there is an international community, and it means so much to me.
OneVoice: What are your personal goals going forward as a member of OneVoice?
Obada: I consider myself as part of a non-violent resistance movement. OneVoice is a stage where I can raise my voice – locally and internationally – and tell the world what is important to me. People say we’ve been negotiating for 20 years, but at least I am doing something to change the status quo in Palestine. This is a good way to be active, and I will continue to do my part to empower the Palestinians and do campaigns that I know will have a positive impact in the present and in the future.