Promoting peace between Jewish students and Palestinian activists

Beata Krants and Dina Jaber

Beata Krants and Dina Jaber

Trying to convince Palestinian farmers in Ramallah of the benefits of a two-state solution is no easy task. But doing the same with pro-Palestinian students in Britain can be even harder.

Members of OneVoice, the grassroots movement which works with Israelis and Palestinians to promote co-existence and conflict resolution, yesterday completed a challenging two-week campus tour.

Palestinian Dina Jaber and her Israeli colleague Beata Krants faced the challenge of convincing some of the most vocal advocates from both sides that a peaceful conclusion is achievable.

Their audiences included students who took part in anti-Israel lecture theatre occupations at the height of the Gaza conflict earlier this year.

Dina said: “Here in Britain the pro-Palestinian students are more hostile than the people I meet in the West Bank. At home there’s the reality; we know we need to have a negotiated peace. People understand the facts.

“But here students see what’s in the media and they think the Palestinians should have everything.”

When working in the West Bank, Dina holds town hall meetings to discuss the most controversial issues of the conflict, including settlement -building, return of refugees and final borders.

Replicating such meetings on campuses proved similarly demanding.

Beata said: “We try to convince the simple people on the street. They get to talk about taboos like borders, settlements. It’s a huge challenge; it’s why I’m here.

“In Israel everyone has five opinions on the situation, but OneVoice combines everything, everyone can have a say and a voice. We have to help people understand we want to live in peace.”

After visiting Exeter, Southampton, Oxford, Birmingham, Surrey, London, Manchester and Glasgow, the pair feel they made significant progress.

“Two or three times students came to me after the event and said ‘wow, an Israeli and a Palestinian on the same platform’,” said Beata.

During their stay in Britain they also met Middle East minister Ivan Lewis MP, who endorsed OneVoice’s work.

Sharon Booth, OneVoice director of outreach and education for UK and Europe, said: “The aim of this tour was to challenge myths about the conflict and engage hundreds of UK students in constructive debate towards a pragmatic solution.”

OneVoice organises regular campus events including talks by conflict resolution experts and trips to Israel and the West Bank.

    Last updated: 4:14pm, November 19 2009