OVE unites Israeli and Palestinian delegations in historic EU meeting

This is a crosspost from the One Voice blog

London, March 5, 2010—OneVoice presented to a historic joint meeting of the delegation for relations with Israel and the delegation for relations with Palestine at a special session of the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.

About 150 people attended the meeting, held in the iconic European Parliament building and chaired jointly by Proinsias De Rossa, head of the Palestinian delegation, and Sari Essayah, member of the Israeli delegation. It was simultaneously translated into four languages, allowing observers from across the continent to hear OneVoice’s message of pragmatic engagement.

OneVoice Europe Executive Director John Lyndon was joined by Joel Braunold, media and political outreach coordinator, Palestinian youth leader Rinal Sader, and Israeli youth leader Dekel Canetti. Lyndon opened up the meeting, explaining the movement’s ethos and core philosophy, and running through some of OneVoice’s programmes and landmark achievements

“Listening to these young people, I am really encouraged,” said Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, vice chair of the Palestinian delegation. “They are using tools that are really important, like their town hall meetings, which bring people together.

Sader spoke passionately about the struggles she and her family experienced under Israeli occupation and the reasons behind her commitment to OneVoice. Canetti talked about some of the events in his life that led him to join the movement and explained the complexities within Israeli society, which OneVoice uniquely addresses.

“It’s really heart-warming to see three young people working daily trying to overcome the taboos that surround this conflict,” said De Rossa. “Their methodology is quite extraordinary and it has been proven to have worked elsewhere.”

Both delegations had been at loggerheads for some time, unable to jointly participate in parliamentary sessions discussing the conflict. OneVoice’s presence provided a mechanism by which representatives from both delegations could sit side-by-side, hearing about the genuine efforts of OneVoice activists from both sides of the Green Line to permanently end this toxic conflict.

Building consensus between parties in opposition to one another is OneVoice’s modus operandi, and the day’s meeting proved no different.

Members of both delegations asked the OneVoice staff and youth leaders present questions about the nature of the conflict and the current lack of trust between both parties.

“Youth from both sides are showing us a way that politicians often can’t see,” said Ioannis Kasoulides, vice president of the European People’s Party (EPP) and former foreign minister of Cyprus. “Let me congratulate OneVoice from the bottom of my heart.”

The meeting was preceded by a special session of the Middle East Working Group, where MEPs quizzed Danny Taub, the chief legal officer of the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Taub urged members to stay for the OneVoice meeting. “I encourage the European Union to support the excellent organization OneVoice,” he said. “It is vital that members stay to hear how they are working with moderates on both sides to end the conflict.”

Chair of the Middle East Working Group and former European Union President Hans Pottering also lent his support to the movement. “I encourage everyone interested in the Middle East to stay and hear the excellent presentation by OneVoice Europe,” he said.

The meeting marked a milestone in the progress OneVoice has been making in Europe, continuing in the rich tradition the movement has had in connecting the wishes and feelings of the grassroots to leaders in the corridors of power across the globe.

From meetings at the British Houses of Parliament, to the US Senate, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, OneVoice has consistently engaged and challenged those international leaders who can hasten the pace of progress in the region, bringing grassroots representatives from the region to be heard at the highest levels.