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OneVoice movement promotes two-state solution for Israeli, Palestinian conflict

by Melissa Kansky,

In order to reach a compromise, each party must acknowledge the efforts and expectations of the other side. An Israeli and Palestinian represented this idea as they jointly promoted a two-state solution to a group of Elon University students Wednesday night.

Ahmad Omeir, a Palestinian, and Danny Shaket, an Israeli, represented the OneVoice movement, which, according to their presentation, is an international organization working to "empower the majority of Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a mutually acceptable two-state solution."

The two men served as a microcosm for the moderates who are willing to work toward an agreement.

"We are trying to mobilize people within the community and explain why it is important to take these more realistic compromises," Omeir said.

Although neither party has designed the details of the two-state solution, Shaket said that it is important to show Israel has a partner working for peace.

"This is not a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but between extremists groups that fail to acknowledge the humanity of the other side," said China Sajadian, the international education program director for the movement.

Shaket enforced this idea.

"We need to refrain from conflict," he said. "Whenever these extremists raise their heads we know these people are trying to derail us, and we will do no such thing."

Both representatives shared their story to explain the origin of their dedication to the movement.

Omeir, who describes himself as a Palestinian not born in Palestine, did not encounter any effects of the occupation until he was 8-years-old. In 1992, he was removed from his parents and strip-searched at a security check point.

He recounted the day his religious and conservative father came home with a razor and ordered him to shave his beard.

When you are young and have a beard, you are associated with fundamentalists and considered a threat to Israeli security, Omeir said. A beard was a reason to fear your son will end up in jail or be killed.

Although that day signaled a fearful future, he said his worst experience was in 2003 and 2004 when he lost two of his close friends.

"One I had to watch die in front of my eyes," Omeir said. "From that came two things: hatred and anger. I held those emotions with me until 2006 when I graduated from college."

Shaket exhibited sympathy for Omeir and commended him for relinquishing his anger and hatred toward Israel.

"First as a human being," Shaket said, "and second as an Israeli, it is very difficult to hear his story and more than that to appreciate the step he has taken instead of using negative power."

He acknowledged that as an Israeli he had a different experience, but like Omeir, he still feared the nation's future.

Shaket recalled being 15-years-old and being afraid to hang out with friends and use public transportation.

"People no longer blew themselves up in Jerusalem, but in Haifa and Netanya and basically all over Israel," he said.

When he was old enough to join the military, he served in the West Bank. His responsibilities included checking documents and regulating who leaves and enters Israel.

"With that experience resonating in my mind and understanding or fearing what continuation of occupation would do to my state and my people, I decided to take a more active role," he said.

His disenchantment with the nation's condition provoked him to consider a peace group. Although he attended a OneVoice event, he didn't join immediately.

"First you have to be skeptical (of peace groups) because you have your experiences and you are already so cynical," Shaket said.

His initial thoughts were those in OneVoice are day dreamers for talking about resolving the conflict, he said.

Because OneVoice is not a political movement, the organization cannot propose an agenda.

"People are willing for a two-state solution, but turned off by details," Sajadian said. "It's not about being dishonest. It's about getting people in a room."

The movement organizes "town meetings" to discuss and consider different scenarios.

"We don't actually have a suggestion," Omeir said, "but we're trying to explain that unless people make realistic compromises we're not going to have an agreement."