One Voice brings female activists to speak at Occidental

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Author: Tess Langan

Malaka Samara re-wrapped her hijab in the bathroom, preparing to speak to a group of Occidental students on behalf of One Voice, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) that operates in both Israel and Palestine. On April 15, Samara and her Israeli comrade Elanit Green shared their experiences advocating for peace between Palestinians and Israelis in their shared Mediterranean homeland.

“The current situation in Palestine is unsustainable, unbearable, and the people are frustrated,” Samara said. “I believe in doing something every day, for myself, for my people, for my country. I can’t just sit at home.”

One Voice advocates for a two-state solution as the best way for peace in Palestine and Israel. With 26 core chapters in both nations, the NGO is designed to empower activists to generate support for the two-state solution in their local communities. Samara helped over a thousand young people sign on to the global grassroots movement and organizes many protests throughout the Israeli-occupied lands of Palestine.

Samara became active with One Voice after two of her brothers were seriously injured in the conflict and three were imprisoned for many years. “I felt that there was nothing to do but at the same time that it was necessary for me to make a change for my country,” Samara said.

Fed up with what she described as a terrible situation of isolation for Palestinians, who often feel they don’t have a partner in Israel, Samara attended an introductory workshop for One Voice in 2008. Since then, Samara quickly became one of their most active members. She is now a project coordinator for One Voice’s Palestine office and is touring the country along with Green to spread the word about the movement.

One Voice Occidental is a chapter of the larger, international One Voice organization which focused its efforts this year on pushing President Obama to unfreeze the peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The chapter brought Samara and Green to campus as part of their “Two States 2013” campaign, according to Occidental One Voice President and Diplomacy and World Affairs major Dina Yazdani (sophomore).

“Every year through OneVoice’s ‘International Education Program,’ two Israeli and Palestinian activists tour the country… to mobilize the masses to demand for a two-state solution from their representatives,” Yazdani said in an email. “It was significant to bring these two women activists because the Oxy community has organized multiple events around women-empowerment in response to the sexual assault case, and we thought it would be important to show the amazing work these two women are doing to resolve conflict in the Middle-East.”

One Voice was founded in 2002, building support through town hall meetings, open forums with government officials and international tours. Their primary goal is to extend their reach to more potential supporters of peace. To date, they have 662,180 signatures on their mandate for the two-state solution and over 4,500 youth leaders working to drive all One Voice activities.

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