With the conflict in the Middle East raging, Palestinians and Israelis spoke at the Law School Monday about a peaceful and moderate resolution of the region’s problems.
The speakers, who are part of a mediation-based group called OneVoice, spoke about the thousands of people in Israel and the Palestinian territories who want to solve the conflict peacefully. About 40 people gathered in Lerner Hall to hear the speakers who said OneVoice began as a way to get moderates in the conflict zone to speak out more.
“I believe the students need to see the actual Palestinians and Israelis … coming from the land of conflict to explain the situation,” said Christine Soudah, a young activist from the Palestinian territories.
Raji Dajani, executive director of the American Task Force for Palestine, said that Soudah and Odelia Englander, an Israeli, represent the majorities of both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
Soudah said that they wrote the “Proclamation of Principles,” which is a list of 10 general points regarding the conflict that people in both regions can agree on, such as a two-state solution.
The group aimed to get a total of 5,000 signatures of support on the document, but after crossing checkpoints in Israel to hostile territories to get signatures, they quickly reached 20,000. Soudah said that OneVoice continued to collect signatures despite high political tension and now has 250,000 signatures on the proclamation.
Englander said that her involvement began after her good friend was severely injured in a suicide bomb attack during the second intifada.
“My first reaction when I heard about his injury was hatred,” Englander said. “I hated every Palestinian.”
Englander said she had only heard of Palestinians as extremists, so she was very surprised when she saw a group of Palestinian youths at a OneVoice conference, brainstorming peaceful ways to end the conflict.
“I decided I wanted to do something about it at that point as well,” Englander said.
Soudah also said that the loss of many loved ones to death and jail spurred her interest in a peaceful solution to the conflict.
“I’m fed up with my life back home, and (Odelia’s) fed up with her life back home,” she said.
Asnes and the youth activists said they are now focusing on large public demonstrations that will take place in both Israel and the Palestinian territories in October. Asnes urged attendees to become involved in the demonstration OneVoice is hoping to sponsor in D.C.
“It is incredibly hard for OneVoice to get our Israeli and Palestinian youth leaders together,” Asnes said.
Some members of the audience expressed skepticism at the Palestinian government’s commitment to the peace process, citing the recent election of Hamas, a terrorist organization to control of the government.
Sophomore Inayat Hemasi said he came to the event, which was sponsored by several international affairs groups, to learn about the on-the-ground aspect of the conflict.