LEVEL-HEADED activists don’t get much press for their involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Voices of the moderate mainstream just aren’t loud enough to be heard above the din of political intimidation tactics, the uproar over the West Bank settlements, and the divisive rhetoric of aggressive solidarity movements.
The OneVoice Movement is an international nonprofit organization that advocates for a peaceful, two-state solution and the active engagement of everyday Israelis and Palestinians.
It seeks to raise awareness of the “silent majority” in Israel and Palestine that has abandoned divisive politics and wants to hold stubborn politicians accountable for continuing negotiations.
Most people, the organization argues, just want to live in peace with one another, and its goal is to mobilize civil society in each community to put pressure on government officials to achieve a compromise.
OneVoice has organized a number of symbolic protests over the past few months that rarely receive press coverage in the local media, and even less coverage, if any, in the West.
The Palestinian branch of OVM organized a peaceful protest in March consisting primarily of Palestinian activists. They staged a sit-in near Hebron in protest of Israel’s continued occupation of privately held Palestinian land in the West Bank.
And the Israeli branch of the organization staged a flash mob in Jerusalem’s Zion Square in January in protest of the continued freeze of direct negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas.
The majority of Israeli media coverage of activism this spring was devoted to the ill-fated, slightly indulgent Flytilla protest, in which Western activists spent money on flights to Israel with the knowledge that they would most likely be deported.
The Flytilla made for some pretty sensational headlines, but in the end, the activists’ inability to recognize and accept the challenges posed by the Israeli government and their unwillingness to alter their tactics meant that little was accomplished besides the fashionable sensationalism of an aggressive, symbolic protest.
OneVoice Movement promotes dialogue and substantial action-based programs that seek to elevate the voices of moderate Israelis and Palestinians who recognize that serious compromises must be made by both governments to resolve this 60 year dispute. OVM provides Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists with a platform not only to learn about each other, but to put pressure on stubborn governments that no longer seem to be representing the mainstream desire for reconciliation.
The highlight of the organization’s efforts is the Youth Leadership Program conducted in the Israeli and Palestinian chapters of OVM. These programs engage young leaders from both communities in a series of seminars and training sessions that prepare them to perform as moderators at town hall meetings in their respective communities.
The training process engages Israeli and Palestinian young people to share personal narratives of conflict unique to their side of the Green Line, and teaches them how to think and debate critically about complicated issues like land swaps and settlement relocation. Each year, the most diplomatic young leaders are selected for speaking tours in Europe and the United States in an effort to expose Westerners to the under-reported compromises and inspiring human infrastructure being achieved not by politicians, but by everyday citizens .
And while the organization does put an emphasis on the positive impact that nonpartisan, international activists can have on the reconciliation process, OVM places the majority of its efforts on engaging Israelis and Palestinians. Because it isn’t the concern of international activists that will instill lasting change in the region, but rather the efforts of two communities of people who have an actual stake in righting wrongs and living in peace.
These are the voices we should be listening for.
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Emily Hanssen Arent
Emily Hanssen Arent is a writer and traveler who has found a home in Boulder, Copenhagen, and Jerusalem. She is currently a graduate student of Middle Eastern Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she writes, studies, and struggles daily with Hebrew and Arabic. You can follow her @emilyharent.
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