Newspaper article International New York Times

Pushing 2-State Path in Gaza

Newspaper article International New York Times

Pushing 2-State Path in Gaza

Article excerpt

Ezzeldin Masri runs the Gaza branch of OneVoice, promoting a two- state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite continuous setbacks.

To define Ezzeldin Masri's battle as uphill is an understatement. He runs the Gaza branch of OneVoice, a group that promotes a two- state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the Gaza Strip, where more than half the 1.7 million residents are classified as refugees, and the ruling Hamas party of Islamic militants opposes negotiations with Israel, Mr. Masri often feels that his is the one voice of pragmatic realism.

"It's like scratching the rocks with your bare nails," said Mr. Masri, 43. "I cannot claim that I'm making a change in society. But slowly but surely, as they say in America."

"If I don't say it," he added, "no one else will say it."

Mr. Masri grew up here in Beit Lahiya, a town near the armistice line separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, the son of a school principal. In 1990, his parents sent him to Chicago for fear that his stone-throwing during the first Palestinian uprising would land him in prison or a grave. He earned degrees at Northeastern Illinois University, and "lived next to Jews in Skokie and in Niles," he said, referring to suburbs of Chicago. He returned in 2003 because his father was ill.

In 2006, he opened a OneVoice office in Gaza City. A week after Hamas wrested control of the strip in 2007, Mr. Masri said "masked men with guns" broke into the office "and confiscated all my files and computers." Now, he operates "almost underground," via a laptop and mobile phone from the home he shares here with his American wife and their five children, one man with one voice.

Since 2011, he has convened 60 town-hall meetings, pushing peace to small and skeptical crowds.

"The population of Gaza is not interested in the two-state solution," he explained. "They are interested in the right of return" for refugees who fled or were expelled in 1948, as Israel became a state, or in 1967, when it seized the West Bank from Jordan. The political patter in the strip, Mr. Masri said, is: "Where are your keys? Where are your deeds? We're going back. Get ready."

So the breakdown of American-brokered negotiations this month barely registered a blip. …

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