Thursday, March 17, 2011

OneVoice Palestinian activists join mass West Bank unity rallies

OneVoice Palestinian activists participated in massive West Bank unity rallies on Tuesday, demanding reconciliation between bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas as the first necessary step toward ending the occupation and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following demonstrations that began in Gaza on Monday, thousands gathered today in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Nablus, and Ramallah for peaceful unity rallies organized by Palestinian youth groups on simple pages of the social networking site Facebook. OneVoice Palestinian activists called on their chapters to ensure the demonstrations remain nonviolent. They have also been tweeting throughout the day on the rallies. Visit OneVoice’s blog to view the movement’s real-time Twitter stream.

“What we’re seeing today is the start of the Palestinian Spring,” said Samer Makhlouf, executive director of OneVoice Palestine. “At the heart of these peaceful rallies lies a youthful generation—inspired by the Egyptian revolution—demanding national unity as the necessary first step to end the occupation and resolve the conflict.”
The organizers themselves also stressed the nonviolent nature of the rallies. Beyond the call for unity, they will demand the release of all political prisoners held by Fatah and Hamas and “full democratic representation for Palestinians all over the world.” They also called on all participants to avoid waving flags or holding up posters that showed affiliation with political parties.

Rallies were also scheduled to be held around the world, including outside the offices of the Palestinian General Delegation to the U.K. in London and the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N. in New York.
“OneVoice was founded on the principle that the key unfulfilled role in this conflict is that of civil society,” said John Lyndon, executive director of OneVoice Europe. “Today, we see ordinary people demanding unity and an end to occupation. We encourage leaders – both in the region and further afield – to listen very carefully to what they are saying and act accordingly.”

OneVoice Palestine recognized the importance of ending factional divisions as a precursor to ending the occupation, establishing a viable, independent Palestinian state, and achieving lasting peace in the region. They launched major activities across the West Bank early in March to channel the energy on the street into a deafening cry for national unity.

OneVoice’s Palestinian activists spread thousands of bumper stickers emblazoned with the words, “the people want to end the occupation, the settlements, the [internal] division – help build the state,” on the streets of Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Qalqilya, and Ramallah. They will be introducing billboards, radio and television spots, massive murals, and several youth-led initiatives in the coming months.

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