Twenty-five university students came together to discuss and debate the two-state solution in an intimate setting in Gaza last week.
These discussions are not uncommon in Palestine, especially at OneVoice Palestine (OVP) events. Refugees, sometimes maligned in their own communities, have strong opinions on these issues, and are directly impacted by the outcome of the conflict.
On October 9, those 25 university students living in Jabalya Refugee Camp came together with OVP and partner the Society of Hope & Future to discuss Palestinian hopes and the realities surrounding the two-state solution.
OVP-Gaza director Ezzeldeen Masri spoke to the unfortunate realities that Palestinians have gone and continue to go through: half of the population has lived in refugee camps since 1948; the continued suffering under Israeli occupation; perceived collective punishment against the 1.7 million Gazans; continued Israeli settlement building West Bank; the Palestinian national division; and the lack of a comprehensive and agreed upon national program.
“In order to liberate our land and establish our independent Palestinian state, we all need to get involved in the struggle against the occupation,” said Masri. “The creative, nonviolent resistance is the only way that guarantees that all the segments of the Palestinian people can participate in the march toward independence. Each one of us should ask: what can I do to end the occupation and establish the independent state?”
Amid some skepticism, Masri went on to tell the students that the two-state solution protects Palestinians’ right to self-determination and statehood and preserves their national identity as Arab Palestinians living in an independent state. He also mentioned that signing of a permanent peace treaty between Palestine and Israel will ensure that all final status issues, including refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem, will finally be resolved.
Mr. Saleem Hindi, the Director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition in the Gaza Strip, agreed.
“The two-state solution is an ideal solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hindi said. “However, the continuation of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank forbids us Palestinians from having our sovereign state…we are ready to end the conflict based on two states, are the Israelis ready?"
The topic of negotiations also surfaced during the meeting. The secretive peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have gone underground for the most part, but that doesn’t stop the discussion on the street.
“What if the current negotiations failed just like the other rounds of failed negotiations, do we continue to negotiate just for negotiating while Israel continues to build facts on the grounds?” asked Mohammad Majdalawi.
Masri explained that negotiations are the ideal method to end any conflict, and eventually a permanent peace agreement will be signed based on win-win negotiations. One shouldn't blame the process of negotiations, he said, but instead show support for the Palestinian negotiators.
Of the 25 students in attendance, 18 stayed after to sign up for OVP’s basic training program in Gaza.
“The state of Israel is a reality that we Palestinians have to deal with in order to end our suffering,” Masri told the audience, “and the two-state solution is a birth certificate for two states: Israel and Palestine.”Saleem Hindi, the Director of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, explains that continued Israeli settlement expansion is problematic.