By Wasim al-Masri
If I was asked to recall one memorable moment from 2012, the first thing that would come to mind is Palestine's United Nations bid and the series of events that led to the historic vote in November.
Every event, workshop, initiative, and campaign my colleagues and I at OneVoice Palestine (OVP) launched in 2012 – 35 workshops, 9 youth-led initiatives, 12 town hall meetings, and two major campaigns – was building to the day of the vote.
I was watching the vote in my living room with my family. And although the early polls showed a majority in favor of a Non-member Observer State of the U.N., like most Palestinians rallying in the streets of Ramallah and watching the vote on the big screens that night, I was anticipating the moment a Palestinian state was officially acknowledged by the international community and the rest of the world, bringing the state of inequality to an end.
That night, I had to go down memory lane and revisit some of the key moments in OVP's campaign to support Palestine's U.N. bid. We launched the campaign in early 2012 with little support and expectations from the local community.
We had a plan: to mobilize the people and advocate the importance of the U.N. bid for building the independent Palestinian state and achieving peace in the region. First, we launched a series of workshops to explain the U.N. bid, and then we organized town hall meetings to connect the people with the politicians. Finally, we mobilized the youth leaders on the ground nearing the date of the vote. Our plans seemed fairly easy from the drawing board. But they weren't.
Our first campaign in 2012, although praised locally by Palestinian officials, was sadly overlooked by the Israelis and the international community. We needed to convey a message to the Israeli government to cease settlement expansion in the West Bank and return to negotiations. "The land is ours, leave us be" was a bold statement in the face of, what we believe is, the greatest threat to the two-state solution and the peace process: settlements.
Over the course of three months, we planted trees threatened by confiscation in Area C (east of Bethlehem, south of Hebron, and west of Jenin). We also rallied hundreds of youth leaders and activists to support the Arab Peace Initiative and send messages to the Israeli public inviting them to adopt the initiative and revive the peace talks. Above: Over 300 activists gathered near Jenin in April, flying balloons containing copies of the Arab Peace Initiative -- translated into Hebrew -- over the Wall and into Israel. Below: OVP's activists rallying with the people of Bethlehem to plant trees in an event we named, "The Future Garden of Peace."
Back in my living room, President Abbas was wrapping up his speech in the General Assembly. "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," said Abbas. "This is why we are specifically here today."
By the end of June, the image was clear. We've established a solid base in advocating the importance of the U.N. bid. People started to ask questions and we provided answers through our town hall meeting program, focusing entirely on the topic of the U.N. bid and the options of the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the vote, connecting ordinary citizens to the Palestinian leadership. The first town hall meeting organized by OVP's youth leaders in Hebron attracted over 300 participants, with decision makers responding to the public's questions and concerns.
Through our community events, whether we were hosting or co-sponsoring, we made sure that the message of the U.N. bid and the two-state solution was conveyed. We wanted the public to be aware of this rare opportunity to end the conflict once and for all. The message was present through each and every event we organized. A good example would be the day we celebrated the International Day of Peace. The youth leaders called all nations to support the Palestinian leadership at the U.N. and help bring justice by ending the occupation to build the independent Palestinian state.
We were counting the hours to the day of the vote, promoting peaceful mobilization and inspiring people to take actions along the way. Hundreds of new recruits were joining the Movement through our introductory workshops, community events, and public campaigns. And on November 18, hundreds joined us to plant the foundation stone for the future garden of peace.
A week prior to the vote, we launched the final stage of the campaign: a U.N. bid website. Our youth leaders and staff members were on the streets of every major city in the West Bank handing out fliers and posters; interviews occurred, and our office in Ramallah was a circus. We were hyper from coffee and pure excitement!
One particular Tuesday comes to mind. As I was driving to the office, I was thinking that I had obviously spent too many hours staring at our campaign's blue logo, because I was seeing blue everywhere. Once I arrived to the office, I was greeted with the image of our logo featured on the front page of a hugely successful local newspaper.
The logo we used to promote the campaign was a hit! “Palestine at the United Nations” logo was a huge success among news agencies and local media outlets, and on that particular Tuesday, it was everywhere, and represented the peak of our campaign.
"Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, 131 (67.9%) have recognized the State of Palestine as of November 2012. Their total population is over 5.5 billion people, equaling 80 percent of the world's population."
The day after the vote there was much work to be done. The team was exhausted. We were having coffee and discussing the crazy rollercoaster we've been on for the past 12 months. The question on everyone's mind was the obvious: what comes next? For OVP's team, it was clear that walking down the path of the two-state solution and promoting the Arab Peace Initiative through peaceful mobilization would continue. The path of ending the occupation and building the state has just begun. We have ambitious ideas for 2013, but that's another story to be told.