October 18, 2007 - OneVoice is a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have joined together to advocate for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My only criticism of them is that their web site contains too many press releases and not enough substance. I really do want to hear the voices of "OneVoice" speaking words of mutual recognition and affirmation of the other's humanity. Nevertheless, I can only applaud an organization that tries to be a voice of moderation in a world dominated by extremes.
The following comes from the OneVoice mission statement:
- OneVoice aims to amplify the voice of the overwhelming but heretofore silent majority of Israelis and Palestinians who wish to end the conflict. Since its inception in 2002, OneVoice has empowered ordinary citizens to demand accountability from elected representatives and ensure that the political agenda is not hijacked by extremists.
- OneVoice works to reframe the conflict by transcending the “left vs. right” and “Israeli vs. Palestinian” paradigms and by demonstrating that the moderate majority can prevail over the extremist minority
- While the needs and concerns of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples are different - Israelis wish to end terror and the existential threat to Israel; Palestinians wish to end the occupation and achieve an independent Palestinian state - the vast majority on each side agrees that these goals are achievable only by reaching a two-state solution.
OneVoice planned a "People's Summit" to be held today. The Summit was to consist of two coordinated events in Tel Aviv and in Jericho, reaching both Israelis and Palestinians. At these rallies, "Ordinary citizens will speak out in unprecedented numbers against violent extremism, occupation, and terror, and demand that their leaders negotiate and implement a two-state solution." The intent was to press strongly for a compromise that would bring to fulfillment the wishes of moderates to live together in peace.
Now what could be wrong with that?
Palestinian extremists, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have been waging a propaganda war against OneVoice, portraying it as out to betray the interests of the Palestinian people. This campaign has escalated to threats of violence. And so for security reasons, OneVoice had to cancel the Jericho event. In a show of solidarity, the planners of the Tel Aviv event canceled theirs as well.
The Palestinian activist web site Electronic Intifada has published a press release by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), dated October 4. The press release notes that according to OneVoice, its People's Summit will "mark the first time that massive numbers of Israelis and Palestinians gather simultaneously to unite against violent extremism." So isn't that a good thing? No, says PACBI, it is a problem. PACBI strongly condemns this effort precisely because it would lead to normalization of relations with Israel: "the event falls under the category of normalization projects and violates the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, trade unions, political parties, and grassroots movements."
The press release concludes with this call for action: "We call on Arab and Palestinian artists, in particular, not to participate in this or any similar event whose real objectives have nothing to do with genuine peace. We call on Palestinian board members of the One Million Voices to withdraw their support for this movement." It is hard to understand why PACBI assumes that OneVoice's objectives have nothing to do with "genuine peace." As OneVoice states: "The Summits, and the work of OneVoice, are not an attempt to define the content of those negotiations, but to demand progress thereon." The mission of OneVoice is to call for peace, not to dictate peace terms. Apparently PACBI does not like Israelis and Palestinians calling for peace and meeting together as equals. It will be satisfied only by defeating Israel through "boycott, divestment, and sanctions." PACBI already said it does not want "normalization."
In issuing this call against the peace rally, PACBI claims to speak for Palestinian society: "This call has been endorsed by tens of cultural and other civil society organizations in Palestine and the Arab World." Will Palestinians, either by their support or by their silence, allow PACBI to speak for them? Is there really a balance to PACBI and these "tens of cultural and other civil society organizations" in Palestinian society? Are there people in substantial numbers willing to meet the other side as fellow human beings and share true aspirations for peace? Or must any "genuine peace" come only through completely defeating and humiliating Israel, by any means necessary?
It was the Palestinian event, not the Israeli one, that had to be canceled because of rejectionist threats. The world needs to hear whether the rejectionists will have the final word. Are there moderates in sufficient numbers who are willing to speak out and condemn those on their side who would destroy any chance for a peace between equals? Or will silence once again be the powerful last word?
If someone advanced an extremist position and claimed to speak for me, I know what I would do.
Peace with Realism