Blogging from Abroad: Many Sides… One Voice

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has created a lot of cynics. I, however, have maintained a relatively positive outlook on it, even though most of the time my cup is half empty. OneVoice, an NGO I currently intern for, shares a similar attitude on the potential of building peace between Israel and a future Palestinian state. OneVoice defines itself as “an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinian, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward a two-state solution.”

There are three aspects of OneVoice that inspired me to become an intern with them. First, OneVoice operates both out of Tel Aviv and Ramallah (as well as New York and London). What I didn’t realize until I arrived at OneVoice Israel (OVI) is that each branch’s activities are nearly independent from the other branches’ work. At the end of the day, however, they all coordinate with each other to achieve the same goal: to encourage a peaceful end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. After intensively studying Middle Eastern politics, I wanted to see how moderate Palestinians push their political initiatives. After meeting some of the Palestinian OneVoice activists, I have come to highly respect them for the great challenges and risks they face in the West Bank by merely stating their support of a two-state solution.

The second thing that drew me to OneVoice is its International Education Program (IEP), which brings an Israeli and a Palestinian to visit campuses across the U.S. to share their personal narratives of living in Israel and Palestinian Authority. I appreciate this program because it humanizes the conflict and shows that life has to continue in spite of it. Click here to listen to two OneVoice activists share their take on US Middle East policy on NPR’s Tell Me More.

The third thing and final push onto the plane to Tel Aviv was that I specifically wanted to see how Israelis address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Until now, I have only gotten to see how Americans react to events occurring in Israel. As I’ve learned more about the Middle East specifically and international politics in general, I’ve realized that it’s unrealistic to dictate foreign policy prescriptions from abroad without understanding what it’s like to live in conflict you’re trying to end.

I approached this internship as a chance to gain more insight about the ideological rifts that occur within Israel. It doesn’t take spending a lot of time here to catch on to the diversity of political inclinations that exist here. Israel is like most other democratic countries in the world in that regard, but it’s a reality that’s sometimes hard to see from the outside. Two weeks ago, I had the chance to be a part of lobbying on behalf of OneVoice at the Israeli version of parliament, the Knesset. It was cool to see democracy in action!

Lobbying at Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. Here I am with Tal Harris, the Executive Director of OVI (middle) and Otniel Schneller, a member of Knesset representing the Kadima party (left).

Susanna, Intern Abroad