By Dina Yazdani
We at OneVoice Occidental (Oxy), the local OneVoice chapter at a Los Angeles college, felt the need to revitalize the two-state solution discussion on our campus. As president of the chapter, I have seen first-hand that students are losing hope in the peace process…and the discourse around the conflict is discouraging.
Students and professors speak as if they give up on the two-state solution in favor of other outcomes that would not allow the nationalistic rights and aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis to be realized. With Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, and the transition the other Arab Spring states were and are undergoing, it is understandable why students are losing sight of the peace process. However, if Americans begin to forget, become discouraged, or stop caring about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict altogether, then President Obama will also be less motivated to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resolve the conflict.
We knew we needed to do something unique and eye-catching to rekindle hope for a two-state solution in the students, and we saw President Obama’s visit to the Middle East as the perfect opportunity to make our voices heard.
On March 20, the same day that the president landed in Israel, we launched a “Two States 2013” campaign to revive support for the two-state solution on our campus. The night before, we plastered stickers with Israeli and a Palestinian flags with the words “Two States 2013” around our entire campus, and hung a large banner replicating the sticker at the front entrance of our cafeteria. We wanted to make it clear the next morning when students would make their way to class that the demand for a two-state solution is very much alive at Oxy.
That afternoon, we set up a table in our quad to hand out stickers and collect signatures for a OneVoice petition, which called for the president to prioritize a two-state solution during his second-term in office. We also hung an Israeli and a Palestinian flag on a branch of the tree behind the table, which coincidently, became the location of de facto photo-op sessions for students to display their support for a two-state solution. We were amazed and humbled by the amount of support students showed.
Everest Law, a sophomore member of OneVoice Oxy and international student from Hong Kong, explained to passersby the significance of doing this campaign on March 20 and the urgency of achieving a two-state solution.
"We chose our event date such that it coincided with Obama's visit to the Middle East, and one of our frustrations is that there is not enough conversation about [the conflict] in American society,” Everest said. “Therefore, we wanted to make use of the publicity of Obama's visit and remind people that there is still a conflict going on. If not now, then when?"
When, indeed? We need Americans to know now that despite a decade of frozen peace talks, activists on the ground at OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel have worked and continue to work hard for two states, an end to the occupation, and an end to the conflict. It’s time that we in the United States work equally as hard to help end this conflict. Americans can help keep the peace process alive by urging their leaders to take constructive steps to revive the peace process. In addition, Americans can help educate their communities on the conflict and spread the message of a two-state solution.
My hope for the “Two States 2013” campaign was to amplify the Israeli and Palestinian activists’ voices and shed some light on the need to keep the discussion alive. I believe we did. Walking around campus, I still see some of the “Two States 2013” stickers stuck on light poles, buildings, and students’ laptops. Earlier this week, I saw one student wearing the sticker in the middle of his t-shirt.
While the stickers may be small, the message is big. President Obama’s new Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that Israel/Palestine peace will be a priority, and has already visited the region multiple times since stepping into office only a few months ago. We’re confident that this year will be a milestone for the peace-process. After witnessing the excitement the “Two States 2013” campaign generated on campus, we’re ready to make sure that happens.