October 21, 2007 - Who speaks for the Palestinians? A Palestinian group calling itself "Another Voice" claims that they do. They do not like OneVoice trying to sound like one voice of moderate Palestinians and Israelis. Another Voice's purpose for existing is to undermine the work of One Voice and to present "peace" on their terms only, which means unconditional surrender to Palestinian demands.
Right now they are crowing with pride over the cancellation of the OneVoice peace concert. Their web site boasts: "Another Voice is proud to have contributed towards the grassroots mobilization that has resulted in the cancellation of OneVoiceís event in Jericho on October 18th." They are thrilled that "most of the Arab artists have withdrawn their participation from the concert," and are planning their own concert in Ramallah later this month.
Another Voice is unhappy because OneVoice does not come out in support of their positions, which include an unlimited right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and condemnation of the security fence. However, as OneVoice states, it is not their mandate to support specific conditions of any future settlement:
Of course the people have demands, whether they be to end the occupation or to deliver security. OneVoice, however, does not have a political platform other than to endorse negotiations for a Two State solution and stands only to support the leaders and demand that the will of the people serve to energize the process.
Another Voice clearly does have a political platform. They also don't really consider themselves just "another voice," but use the phrase to suggest an undeserved underdog status, the courageous "suppressed alternative." This "other voice" claims to represent the entire Palestinian community. They want people to believe that the OneVoice concert was canceled due to "grassroots mobilization" from within that community. They also leave the impression that Palestinians as a whole are unwilling to compromise and will accept "peace" only on their terms. They link to a press release from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that states: "This achievement [cancellation of the OneVoice peace concert] is further proof that a clear majority in Palestinian society continues to insist on the full realization of the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine, paramount among which is the right to self-determination and the right of return for the refugees." This right of return would effectively turn Israel into a second Palestinian state, and would violate the principle of two states for two peoples, which OneVoice supports.
If there is truly a courageous alternative voice that is being suppressed, as the pressure to cancel this concert proves, it is not Another Voice, it is OneVoice.
Does Another Voice speak for the Palestinian Community? Well, at least it speaks for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The pro-Palestinian ISM also portrays itself as a "nonviolent," "peace" movement, but its leaders are masters of deception. Though its members may not themselves actually engage in violent acts, the ISM has supported violence and terrorism. It also opposes a two-state solution, and any compromise towards peace that would give Israel legitimacy.
At the time of this writing, the ISM's home page features not one but two sharp attacks against OneVoice. The first is a vicious article by Ben White in the British Guardian, which, after condemning the OneVoice concert, states: "The crucial point, however, is that Israel has all the power. Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, not the other way round. Palestinian cities are besieged by a modern, hi-tech Israeli army and subjected to closure, raids and bombardment - not the other way round." Really? Tell that to the residents of Sderot and other towns in southern Israel, who endure Palestinian rocket fire practically on a daily basis. This is the same old justification for violence: Palestinians are victims, they are "powerless," so they are excused no matter what they do, whether itís murdering children or bombing buses or shelling Israeli cities.
The "powerless" Palestinians are not alone. They have been armed and/or and funded by governments such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, and Saddam's Iraq. They portray themselves as small and isolated, while they are proxies for these larger powers still fighting a covert war with Israel. The "powerless" Palestinians have one strong power option they have not yet used: drop the violence and come to the bargaining table.
The second featured attack on OneVoice from the ISM home page is the same PACBI press release linked on the home page of Another Voice. The ISM links not only to Another Voice, but to the following "activist" response to OneVoice:
By portraying the conflict as balanced between equal sides with equal responsibilities, and by defining the root of the problem as violence and extremism while ignoring the context of displacement, dispossession, and occupation, in which this violence and extremism occur, you are misrepresenting the conflict in a way that damages the chances of ever achieving a just solution.
Yes, OneVoice does say that both sides are equally responsible. And yes, I don't like that either. I don't think it is fair to say that both sides are equally responsible, when the Arab refusal to accept Israel's existence has been strong since the day of Israel's birth, and when terrorist attacks and other Arab violence have plagued Israel throughout its short life as a nation. It is not fair to talk about equal responsibility when Gaza, whose occupation resulted from Egyptian aggression, is no longer occupied, and when the West Bank would never have been occupied had Jordan not attacked Israel first. It is not fair to talk about equal responsibility when the Palestinians have repeatedly refused even to consider reasonable offers for a separate state, and when Israel's withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon were met not by peace gestures but by attacks on Israel's border towns. There is no "equal responsibility" for this conflict.
Nevertheless, I am willing to accept the language of OneVoice, as an expression of my agreement to hear the other side. I am willing to accept that language because peace will not be possible until both sides become ready at least to try to see the conflict through the eyes of the other. Healing will not be possible until each side takes at least some measure of responsibility for the suffering of the other. For Another Voice, PACBI, and the ISM, there is no other side. There is only the extreme Palestinian position, no compromise allowed, and any refusal to accept their dictate is condemned as a rejection of "peace" on their terms.
So who is really for the Palestinians, and who is really betraying them? Daniel Lubetzky of OneVoice makes this sharp observation in his blog article "The Bad Guys Uncovered":
If any one doubts that the ISM and all those opposing the OneVoice Summit are just ultimately the very extremists we seek to expose, just confront them and ask them. You will get evasive politicized answers that only will confirm these people are the "false messiahs" that promise absolute solutions to the Palestinians, only to manipulate them and deliver nothing to them.
What could be clearer than this? Encouraging Palestinians to believe that peace is possible on their terms only, with no compromise at all, does not offer salvation but destruction. Both sides will have to make "painful concessions," as Sharon was unfortunately reviled for saying. For either side to believe otherwise will lead both to catastrophe. It is bad enough that Another Voice, PACBI, ISM, and other Palestinian hard-liners refuse to compromise. For them to claim that their intransigence represents true peace desecrates the very word. It is a deception that must not be allowed to stand.
There is no tougher challenge, no task of greater importance, than recognizing the humanity of the other. OneVoice is an effort to promote this mutual recognition. It is Israelis and Palestinians getting together to say, "We may not know what the eventual settlement will look like, but we know we have to work together towards it, towards peaceful coexistence in two states." Those who attack this position tell us exactly where they stand. Their phony attempt to co-opt the word "peace" is exposed. Their pride in the cancellation of a concert that would have brought together people from different sides under the healing power of music tells us everything.
Peace with Realism