Representatives from OneVoice, an international grassroots organization that aims to resolve the conflicts between Israel and Palestine, spoke about possible solutions to restore peace between the two countries at the USF Law School on November 16.
The event started with an introduction by USF Law Professor Joshua Davis. He spoke about a previous trip to Israel where he befriended an Israeli. He said he read her a passage from the American writer Kurt Vonnegut, a playwright, novelist and essayist who in his works questioned the existence of God in a world of suffering. She then invited him to come to her house and see what her life was like.
During his visit, a close friend of her family joined them. Davis said the friend was furious they had invited an American Jew to the house. Later that night, she came back and apologized to him with a rose.
He said, “I took the rose and pressed it in a book. As long as those rose petals survived, there would be hope for peace.”
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates as far back as the late 19th century. The people of Palestine demand to achieve an independent Palestinian state, while Israelis wish to end terror and the existential threat of the country’s disintegration. The main conflicts concern: borders, oil, security, Israeli settlements, the Palestinian freedom movement, economic justice, and legalities concerning refugees.
In an attempt to find a resolution, the conflict between Palestine and Israel has led to the involvement of many European countries, the United States and Japan.
OneVoice Europe has fundraised for the ongoing work of OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel in the region.
In 2006, Japan also announced a plan for peace called “Corridor for Peace Prosperity,” which promotes economic development for Palestinians. A year later, the Israeli Cabinet decided to adopt the Corridor for Peace Prosperity plan.
The U.S. government has been providing financial aid to both Palestine and Israel, but only provided military support to Israel.
Shaina Low, international education program associate at OneVoice, discussed how their movement encourages collaboration among the countries in conflict.
OneVoice has over 650,000 signatories working to empower Israelis and Palest
inians to achieve a two-state solution. Through OneVoice, youth leaders are trained all over the world to reach all sectors through universities, communities, and families.
OneVoice youth activists, Abigail Gottlieb and William Salameh, shared their stories and emphasized that hope for a solution should never be lost.
Abigail Gottlieb, OneVoice Israel youth activist, said she joined OneVoice because her grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, wanted a better life for their family.
She said, “The youth leadership program gives the platform to bring what we feel is necessary to the Israel and Palestinian public.”
William Salameh, OneVoice Palestine youth activist and refugee, shared a very emotional experience he went through while studying at the American University in West Bank.
He said Israeli soldiers entered the campus and announced to all students to come down at 4 a.m.
“They forced us to show them our id’s, told us to take off our clothes, and made us stand outside in the cold for more than 20 hours. When I was released, I didn’t even know what to do,” Salameh said, “As I believe in nonviolence, in that time and now, I was thinking what I have to do to change this, and make a better future.”
Nazita Lajevardi, president of the Middle Eastern Law Students Association, organized the event in collaboration with organizations such as Students for Law and Global Justice, International Law Society, and the Jewish Law Students Association.
In a private interview, Lajevardi said it was important to have this event because “It is imperative in allowing students to feel as though being involved in these issues is an actual possibility.”
She explained that by engaging with the speakers and attending these events, USF students are one step closer to not only being aware of the conflict, but being a part of the solution.
But can a resolution to this conflict ever be achieved? Polls show that Palestine and Israel are both open to a two state solution.
Not everyone in Israel agrees on the two state solution, but OneVoice believes that giving a voice to the two conflicting countries and will raise awareness and more creative solutions will arise.
Students who wish to get involved can join OneVoice in leadership seminars that train students to speak about OneVoice and learn about conflict resolution. Students can also start a chapter at USF to raise awareness, and can wear a OneVoice pin or t-shirt to show their support.
For further information on how to get involved, please visit http://www.onevoicemovement.org/get-involved/.