Youth Talk Peace For Middle East

An Israeli and a Palestinian came together yesterday afternoon to discuss compromise and joint action in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at an event held at the Harvard Divinity School.

The event was organized by the OneVoice Movement, a non-partisan, grassroots movement of Israeli and Palestinian youth aimed at achieving a moderate, non-violent end to the conflict and realizing a two-state solution.

Two speakers, Nisreen Abdallah, a youth director at OneVoice Palestine, and Roi Assaf, a youth director at OneVoice Israel, spoke about their personal experiences living in Palestine and Israel during the conflict.

Abdallah spoke about the trauma of growing up in the midst of the violence, calling it a key influence in her life so far.

“I was just a child trying to embrace life,” she said. “It was really horrible––I couldn’t go to school, go to my university; there were curfews everyday, checkpoints everywhere. In the checkpoints I hit the [Israeli] soldiers; I couldn’t understand why they are controlling my life.”

Assaf also spoke about his experiences while he was serving mandatory military duty. At one point, he described his feelings after an incident during which one of his soldiers almost killed a Palestinian over a misunderstanding.

“I thought, ‘Why the hell should I control someone elses life?’” he said.

“This is not a normal situation, not for the Palestinian couple; not for my soldier––he’s just an accountant, dragged out of his room––this is not normal, not the way that we live, in fear of explosions; not the way that [Palestinians] live, under Israeli control.”

OneVoice Movement, according to China Sajadian, co-ordinator of its International Education Program, seeks to employ a pragmatic framework [to resolving the conflict].

“[The Israeli and Palestinian peoples’] shared language is the OneVoice mandate to end conflict through non-violent means, a two-state solution,” she said.

OneVoice is primarily focused on raising awareness of this “silent majority” opinion through youth activism in communities in Israel and Palestine, Sajadian added.

She also added that she thought the replication of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on college campuses overseas between different student groups was not productive.

Naomi T. Saks, president of the Divinity School’s Jewish Student Association and one of the organizers, said that she hoped the event gave students a different understanding of the conflict.

Cecilia G. Owen––a third-year HDS student, said that she was impressed by the OneVoice speakers even though she said that she did not agree with their method of resolving the conflict.

“I’m not so much wedded to the two-state solution as much as the process by which they are recruiting people,” she said. “I’m very much for youth empowerment and youth activism.”