After Rami and Dari said what they had to say about their work in OneVoice, I and a few other listeners had a few questions. Here are the highlights:
I had heard during their introduction that they had offices in Gaza which had closed during Operation Cast Lead for obvious security reasons, and now they have just been reopened. The point of interest to me was how it was received by Hamas, the ruling party over there. I was curious because Hamas is, at best, a firm organization. If there is anything that they see as a threat they will try and take care of it swiftly.
Rami was the one to answer my question since he was obviously more aware of the situation there. To the surprise of the audience, they had allowed it to open. They were even allowed to hold two meetings in Universities there, a general meeting and one specifically for students that specifically support Hamas and those that supported parties from the PLO. Rami expressed his wishes that it would be just the start of things to come. But with the blockade still active, he as a West Bank resident, can’t visit his colleagues as of yet.
Another pressing issue was that of normalization. When I had put up the event on a social networking site, some people chose not to go because it encouraged normalization. Meaning that they saw that OneVoice made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict politically symmetrical, while in reality it is asymmetrical, with Israel doing the occupying, building the settlements, possessing more finances and a more powerful military. OneVoice responded by saying that they too did not deny that the situation was indeed asymmetrical, but that what is important is the end of the conflict. Rami himself said that there will be no justice or peace, no work towards an independent Palestinian state, until the military occupation ends, and it needs to be ended “urgently”. OneVoice was not forcing people from both sides into dialogue and presenting a symmetrical political situation, but making people on both sides to focus inwardly, both at the same time, to effect change. As Sharon, a representative and worker in OneVoice’s London office, said “if Israel is part of the problem, then it is part of the solution”.
Throughout the talk, I noticed that Dari kept on mentioning that if the conflict does not end then her future will be, in essence, ruined or ripped apart. Some pro-Palestinians might think that she is doing nothing but playing victim, but I kept an open mind and asked her what she explicitly meant by that. Her answer was nothing to do with the possibility of increased terrorist attacks, but the very moral integrity of Israeli society. She had mentioned earlier on, during an informal chat, how long it took Israelis to “wake up”, and now she was envisioning a world fifty years from now where Palestine eventually disappears. She imagined that all her fellow Israelis would be asking themselves “where were we when this happened?”.
That last part was admittedly touching. Many who follow Palestine’s political affairs have witnessed the crimes committed by the Israeli government and I.D.F. I have always wondered how the soldiers who have taken part in these crimes deal with it. How must they react or whether they realize at all that their own morals are crumbling. Yet here was Dari, a soldier who had served in the second Intifada, left frustrated and saw the importance of moral integrity to herself and the country she was born in. An importance greater than any amount of wealth or land that one can gain.
These were essentially the main points of the talk. Hopefully I will stay in touch with the organization and their progress. I don’t want to raise my hopes too high, and I don’t know if this is because I am wise or because it is just a knee-jerk reaction. Something tells me things will either be slow to change, or it will be too late…