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Grassroots Voices on Action Plan for Israel and Palestine

The Global Institute of Sustainable Development at Chicago State University collaborated with the OneVoice Movement to host a Global Forum on the Middle East. This free event, opened to the public, took place on Monday, November 16, 2015 at Student Union Building Cougar Cove on the campus of Chicago State University. The forum, focused on examining a peaceful resolution to years-long Israel and Palestine conflict, drew the who’s who on campus including the Provost, Associate Provosts, Dean, Associate Dean, Chair persons, faculty members, students and community members. It stimulated a passionate conversation on grassroots organizing in Israel and Palestine, which attempts to combat extremism and pave way for a two-state negotiated solution.

In partnership with the Global Student Association, an International Studies students’ club, the event was part of the Global Institute’s service learning approach to enhance students’ leadership skills while also promoting global mindset and creating awareness for International Studies degree program. Mr. Fargou Lare Banmangbale, an International Studies major and the President of the Global Student Association welcomed the audience and also seized the opportunity to promote International Studies program and solicited membership in the student’s club as he announced the upcoming International Studies Week planned for November 30th to December 4th, 2015. He then introduced Dr. Margaret King as the forum facilitator, Coordinator of International Studies program, the Founding Faculty Adviser of the Global Students Association, Founder of the Global Institute of Sustainable Development, and the host of the event.

Dr. King echoed Mr. Banmangbale’s introduction. After observing a moment of silence in memory of the victims of recent terrorist attack in France, she took the time to create more awareness for International Studies with the various concentration areas in Business and Economics, International Law and Relations, International Culture, Foreign languages, Public Health, Environmental Studies/Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) and the proposed Sustainable Development focus. She alerted the excited audience about the various planned events before calling on the various ones to address the house including: Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Angela Henderson, College of Arts and Sciences Dean LeRoy Jones, English and Foreign Languages Department Chair Kelly Ellis, College of Arts and Sciences’ Globalization Committee Member and Associate Professor of Sociology Pancho McFarland, Office of International Programs Director Kemi Onajole and the Global Students Association Vice President Evelyn Castro who spoke about her study abroad experience in France and inspired others to gain the experience she cherishes.

Other university and community dignitaries were recognized including but not limited to Dr. Bernard Rowan, Associate Provost; Dr. Paula Carny, Assistant Provost; Dr. Aida Abraha, College of Arts and Sciences Interim Associate Dean; Attorney Mariam Perkins, Chair of Criminal Justice, Political Sciences and Philosophy Department; Dr. Evelyne Delgado-Norris, Assistant Professor of French and Coordinator of France Study Abroad program; Dr. Virginia Shen, Professor of Spanish; Ms. Nadege Nicholas, International Studies PhD Candidate, Loyola University; and a host of other faculty, students and community members. After the general introductions, the moment we have been waiting for arrived – the introduction of the guest speakers. Although the main speakers Polly Bronstein, Executive Director, OneVoice Israel and Samer Makhlouf, Executive Director, OneVoice Palestine were not able to leave their countries due to the current wave of global terrorism and stringent international security measures, Mr. Ezzeldeen Masri, the Midwest OneVoice Director, was a great replacement.

OneVoice Movement is a grassroots approach to air the voices of the people in creating a peaceful action plan to end the Israel and Palestine conflict, by proposing a two-state solution. Mr. Ezzeldeen Masri spoke eloquently and passionately. The audience, in apt attention, yet enthusiastic listened to the story of Israeli and Palestinian problems from a native Palestinian compared to what they hear from the news media.

Mr. Masri was born in Palestine and lived in the Gazza Strip, the center of the problem, an Israeli occupied territory. He came to study in Chicago and secured a Master’s degree in International Studies before going back in 2003 to help the people in Palestine resolve this conflict.

“Today I had a chance to listen to a guest speaker named Mr. Ezzeldeen Masri. He spoke on the causes, effects and solutions on the conflict that is going on in Israel and Palestine, covering all grounds including: politics, government, the

military, socio-economic issues and how these factors adversely affect the lives of the people. He got a sense of the people’s hopelessness in this small but very crowed area, as they live under military occupation, which basically means that the Israelis’ govern their freedom,” commented Meri Johnson, an online student in Dr. King’s Global Diversity class as she articulated in her report for extra credit.

To demonstrate the people’s anguish, he showed a video of a girl with her family driving through the city. In order to cross over to the next town, they have to go through different military check points, which makes it very hard to travel through the region. The girl in the video was imagining a place where one would free to just travel without unnecessary restrictions. With various wars, there have been mistrusts between the two countries that see themselves as enemies and this conflict has been going on for over 48 years.

The OneVoice Movement, which started 13 years ago proposes a peaceful two-state resolution, a term the U.S upholds as it constantly intervenes in trying to end the conflict. He iterated that it is important for Americans to be educated on what is going on in the Middle East, and, of course, the rest of the world, in order to propose amicable solutions as we fight the war on terrorism. Mr. Masri asserted that a two-state resolution to end the conflict between these two countries was urgent. He outlined the global impact the military occupation in relation to the different types of restrictions that are unsettling to the people. “When you live in war, poverty, feeling hopeless and helpless; all these combined, result in extremism. Extremism is the gateway to terrorism, and terrorism, as we all can see, is on the rise. The fight against terrorism starts when you fight extremism. And in order to fight extremism you have to look at the roots beneath extremism. The roots are injustice, poverty, unemployment, youth unrest, a state of hopelessness with no view of light at the end of the tunnel. We need to give the people hope by ending a century old conflict,” reverberated the speaker as he related his heart-felt personal experience.

He announced that the One Voice Movement gives fellowship and currently taking applications from college students around the world in attempt to be educated on the issues and to help stop this protracted conflict. At the end of his speech, he was cheered with a standing ovation by the audience who could not wait to contribute to the discussion. It was now open for questions and answers. It was a sight to behold when a majority of participants lined up at the microphone to ask questions or register their scholarly and passionate comments. All questions were satisfactorily responded to except one looming thought.

The Middle East is the birth place of most major world religions with interwoven relation among Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is an irony that instead of peace that should be experienced from religion, there is so much chaos and conflict. As such, there is addition thought yet to be explored about the spiritual nature of the conflict with regards to human being’s vertical relationship with God, their maker; the horizontal relationship with a fellowman, as well as God’s covenant with Israel, a subject for further discussion. Meanwhile, a global terrorism forum is planned for December 3, 2015, as part of the activities of International Studies Week. A panel of experts will discuss the history, root causes and effect of Global terrorism and propose policy recommendations including a call for action to ameliorate, if not end this menace.

It was time to mingle and dine with participants and enjoyed the delicious Mediterranean cuisine donated by Mr. Ezzeldeen Masri and the OneVoice Movement. On behalf of the International Studies program, the Global Institute, and the Global Student Association, Dr. King expressed appreciation to him and his organization for a great presentation and cross-cultural educational experience. It was a successful event, one of the many activities scheduled for the semester.

“’Over all, it was a great topic;’ ‘a wonderful audience with many questions, good company;’ ‘delicious ethnic food I have not tasted before, and a great eye opener.’ ‘In the end, love means you breathe in two countries,’” concluded some of the students in attendance.

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