In a Gaza City conference room covered with OneVoice messaging, 30 university students from around the Gaza Strip gathered around the table to hear why they—as citizens— must play an active role in securing a Palestinian state.
OneVoice Palestine-Gaza Director Ezzeldeen Masri introduced OneVoice to the students and briefed them on the historical reasons why the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) made the landmark decision to accept and pursue the two-state solution, how it could secure their rights and independence, and what they could do as Palestinian youth and the inheritors of this legacy, to help bring it about.
Ezzeldeen recounted the decades of bloodshed that people had already suffered through, and emphasized a critical point, that violence between the two sides will not achieve what Palestinians truly want: an independent state living in peace and security.
“After the 1982 war, the PLO decided to focus more on the political and diplomatic front in order to end the occupation and establish the independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders,” Ezz explained.
An audience member raised a question about armed resistance to the Israeli military occupation, and Ezz focused on the need for Palestinians to focus their energies on nonviolent resistance.
“At OneVoice Palestine, we honor the martyrs who have suffered or died in the cause of Palestinian justice and statehood. Now, in our struggle toward liberation and independence, we support the vision of our President, Mahmoud Abbas, in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution and through popular nonviolent resistance and other diplomatic and legal measures,” Ezz responded.
OneVoice Palestine was glad to be able to facilitate a genuine debate on what steps the Palestinians needed to take to begin building a future free of occupation. Recent history provided an important touchstone to many of the young people in attendance.
Yasser Arafat's vision of the Peace of the Brave, and the historic Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, provided the framing for a lively debate, as the young Gazans present discussed what could be done to break the impasse.
“For me”, said Ezz, “one of the most important things we’re doing here in Gaza is giving these young people the tools and grounding necessary to take ownership over their fate and play an active role in ending this occupation and building the two-state solution. Nobody else here is doing this sort of work-- nobody.”
Some of OVP’s longest serving Gazan activists - Mahmoud Daoud, Hasan Skaik, and Islam Shalah - spoke about their experience and the skills they gained from participating in the youth leadership training program (YLP), encouraging participants to join and become OVP volunteers. The activists also introduced the town hall meeting program (THM) and the various initiatives that OVP conducted in the past, as well as brainstorming about future activities.
“The OVP leadership training program helped us develop the skills needed to become politically active and capable of contributing to the march toward liberation and independence,” Mahmood explained to the group.
Mr. Salem Hindi, director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, and Mr. Ibrahim Kishta, councillor in the Palestinian Diplomatic Corps and an OVP supporter, both addressed the session’s attendees. They spoke about the need to adopt nonviolent popular resistance in order to put pressure on Israeli society and for the international community to demand an end for the occupation and the establishment of the Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
"We must have a clear objective: liberation, independence, and popular nonviolent resistance combined with diplomacy are the best methods to reach our goal," said Mr. Kishta.
Mr. Hindi concurred. “Nonviolent resistance proved its effectiveness in the West Bank towns of Bodress, Nalien, and Nabi Salah,” and therefore should be used elsewhere in Palestine.
“At this stage in our struggle toward liberation and independence, we need to adopt the popular nonviolent resistance model," activist Islam Shalah told the group.
By the end of the intro session, 23 of the 30 attendees signed up for the youth training program with OVP-Gaza, helping Ezz and his team further increase their impact and non-violent agenda in this most challenging of environments.
The introductory session was done in cooperation with the Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations in Gaza City.Mahmood Daoud, OVP activist (right) explains the youth leadership training program to the group.