by John Hilley
One Voice is a project which apparently promotes peaceful joint Israeli-Palestinian efforts towards a "two state solution". When stripped bare, however, we find a more stealthy agenda serving to disguise Israeli power through appeals to 'moderation' and challenges to 'extremism'.
Despite it's elite allies and the failure of a supposedly critical media to highlight its crimes, Israel is increasingly on the international back-foot. Ever-astute in the PR field, One Voice offers a more accommodating medium and tone through which Israel's fundamental interests can be softened and presented.
Much of One Voice's language is framed in ways which underline the need for Israeli 'security'.
In its site literature, one can find no proper recognition of elementary language and labels, such as:
* The Occupation, or Occupied Territories - as formally defined by UN and other international statutes.
* Israeli extremism and terrorism - only Palestine is denoted in these terms.
* Israel's apartheid policies - as defined by Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and (former) UN Rapporteur John Dugard.
* Israel's multiple violations of international law.
* The illegality of the Separation Wall - as ruled by the International Court of Justice (2004).
* The viability and justice of a "one state solution".
Donors, friends and Lubetzky's CV
One Voice is backed by an array of corporate donors, like IBM, with strong business connections to Israel, while its board supporters include Likud, Shas and National Religious Party members.
One Voice also lists would-be supporters without consulting them, while others have relinquished their connection on learning of One Voice's true agenda.
One Voice is closely supported by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organisation responsible for vast expropriations of Palestinian villages, and the synthetic alterations to Palestinian locales in order to disguise Israel's historical violations and ethnic cleansing.
One Voice seeks to break the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Following plans for a One Voice joint event in Tel Aviv and Jericho, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) made this explicit statement:
"According to the widely accepted boycott criteria advocated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), 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, for the following reasons:
1. Participants are required to join the One Voice Movement and sign a mandate -- ostensibly based on a "two-state solution," but without any commitment to international parameters -- which assumes equal responsibility of "both sides" for the "conflict," and suspiciously fails to call for Israel's full compliance with its obligations under international law through ending its illegal military occupation, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights (particularly the right of return), and its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens.
2. The event is sponsored by Israeli institutions (mostly from the private sector) and endorsed by mainstream Israeli political figures from parties including the Likud, Labour and Shas. These Israeli "partners" are unquestionably complicit in maintaining Israel 's occupation and other forms of oppression.
We believe this event is being organized to promote a "peace" agreement that is devoid of the minimal requirements of justice, and that will leave the Palestinian people as disenfranchised as previous agreements have. The unfortunate and harmful support of Palestinian businessmen, religious and political figures, among others, for this event indicates either ignorance of the hidden agenda inherent in the whole initiative, deceptively camouflaged as a collective call for peace, or willingness to forfeit the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people in return for advancing selfish interests.
We call on the Palestinian public and international supporters of a just peace in Palestine not to take part in this public relations charade that conceals a misleading political program that falls significantly short of international law tenets and the Palestinian national program."
The event was subsequently cancelled following the withdrawal of most Palestinian musicians, organisers and others who quickly came to see that One Voice does not truly speak in the Palestinian interest.
One Voice's founder, Daniel Lubetzky, is a businessman with strong corporate and establishment ties.
On his website, Lubetzky claims that he "wants to amplify the voice of moderates", dismissing Hamas as extremists. The fact of Hamas's democratic election holds no apparent relevance for Lubetzky. His calls for 'moderation' and 'dialogue' are coupled with standard attacks on other international 'deviants', such as the "authoritarian regime of Hugo Chavez". Another recent entry castigates casual criticism of Rahm Emanuel, while omitting any mention of Emanuel's own hardliner Israeli leanings.
Another key connection here is Lubetzky's own past posts at multilateral capitalist agencies like the World Economic Forum and World Bank. As one useful analysis of the latter shows:
"The Bank's approachto development in Palestine hinges on the full acceptance of the status quo - including continued occupation and the presence of the settlements and the wall - as well as joint projects that require PNA-Israeli cooperation, often with a third international partner. Politically, these development projects threaten to legitimise Israeli claims in regards to the wall, Jerusalem, land annexation and settlements that have resulted in the fragmentation and ghettoisation of the West Bank and Gaza."
Little wonder Lubetzky's organisation is being bankrolled by big business, with its eyes on Palestinian investment opportunities.
One Voice's recent meeting with Tony Blair helps ilustrate this new 'peace'-cum-business collaboration in the making, all in tune with the Palestinian Authority's attempt to please Western interests. Little surprise, then, that Blair is backing One Voice as he takes time from his various financial board jobs to pitch big business interests around the West Bank.
The reasons behind Western political and corporate endorsement of One Voice should be obvious to any savvy observer. Lubetzky's organisation is a front for what those interests see as the 'future' of Palestine - one in which Israel remains the dominant political, economic and military force, even under any two state solution.
One Voice in Glasgow
Among others, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign SPSC have given cautionary notice to those, notably students, being seduced by One Voice's seemingly inspiring message.
I sat in on one such gathering at Glasgow University. Held in the University chapel, lending a 'let's come-together', ecumenical feel, it wasn't hard to see how One Voice's Israeli and Palestinian peace-declaring speakers and slide-show appeals was intended to attract much of its genteel, liberal-minded audience.
The sizeable (100, or so) meeting was opened by University Rector and advocate for One Voice, Charles Kennedy, who talked for a few minutes (much of it in jocular reminiscence of his student days here) about "difference and diversity" and how One Voice are serving to bring hope to this difficult situation. Kennedy's bland-speak and failure to discuss the actual issues was matched by a glowing tribute to Tony Blair and his current 'peace efforts' in the Middle East. The 'admirable efforts' of the Quartet were also noted before Kennedy handed-over to the panel - and promptly departed.
Kennedy's grand posturing, testament to a war criminal and apologetics for a body which has helped secure the siege of Gaza made me recall one of the more useful lessons I myself learned here as a student: how the process and trappings of 'high education' so often serve to mystify and neutralise rather than illuminate and inspire knowledge and truth.
And, as the One Voice invited guests proceeded to speak, that kernel of truth seemed never more evident. Posing as 'civic engagement', rather than political activism, it merely served to circumvent the core issues. We heard not one specific word about the main UN resolutions or Israel's multiple violations of international law. No one highlighted or invited exchange on the still-key issues: the border question, Palestinian right of return, the status of Jerusalem and the illegal settlements.
The introductory speaker, of Palestinian origin, opened with some background on the despair felt post-Oslo and in the wake of the two intifadas. But, though seemingly considered, it was couched in language which cast no specific blame on Israel's Occupation. Later in the meeting, he made a convoluted 'move-on' statement about land for Palestinians holding "different values" today from what may have seemed the case in 1948. Again, it was a moment begging for reference to UN resolution 194, advocating, from 1948 onwards, the standing right of Palestinians to return to their land.
He might also have noted the JNF's land-grab dealings in all of this ethnic cleansing - perhaps, even, Charles Kennedy's own patronage of that lofty body. Alas, the One Voice message doesn't include that kind of awkward detail.
Up next, the Israeli speaker's personal journey announced another desire for peaceful co-existence. Yet, it was an account, from Jewish immigrant to serving soldier and One Voice member, which failed to comprehend why she might be granted special 'right of return', while the state and military which she served continue to deny Palestinians their basic rights. Like many other peace-extolling Israelis, her peace-commitment was informed, as she related, after witnessing Palestinian rocket attacks. No doubt it was this primary fear over Israeli 'security', rather than Palestinian oppression, which prompted her facile claim that the Separation Wall - a "symptom" of the "conflict", according to her fellow-speaker - amounted to "only five percent" of Israel's security infrastructure.
In more moving terms, the Palestinian guest speaker recounted the suffering she, her family and community have endured in the West Bank. Her personal desire for an end to the hopeless impasse was, likewise, sincerely expressed. We heard here of her worthy desire to help unlock the wealth of Palestinian talent, and of her culminating belief in the two state solution. Yet, her apparent epiphany to the One Voice 'ideal' seemed little more than a hopeful submission to its false 'two sides' narrative.
It's here that we see the cynical promotion of One Voice's loaded appeal to 'Palestinian moderation', the implications of which seem lost on some Palestinians in their efforts to transcend the hopelessness and violence.
In particular, One Voice are pushing a 'both-to-blame' lingua franca which urges us to consider this 'vital' question: 'how do we defeat the extremists?' Precisely who the terrorists are was never specified at this meeting. The site literature is equally coy. But we're left in little doubt: it's the Palestinians. In contrast, there's only hollow silence from One Voice on Israel's massive state-terrorist arsenal, and the extremist brutality it has inflicted.
In another curious void, the two-state solution received not a moment of serious scrutiny or analysis as to what it might actually look like in practice. Rather, as in the literature, it was held aloft as a catch-all leitmotif, a kind of holy grail. No further thoughts. No examination. All we're told is that it's the preferred option of most Palestinians and Israelis.
Thus, the more awkward problems went conveniently unanswered: what form of two-state solution might this involve?; does Hamas get to have a say in any settlement?; will two states require the decisive removal of all the settlements - including those plush hill-top locales in East Jerusalem? More critically, with reference to the demographic time-bomb of Israel's 20 percent Arab population, what are One Voice's primary objections to a one-state solution?
Precisely none of this was up for serious discussion. Yet, it's here, in this sensitive omission, that the real Zionist fear of Israel losing its ethnocratic - rather than democratic -state composition can be discerned. As the Israeli activist Jeff Halper (whose ideas One Voice devotees might more usefully consult) notes in his excellent An Israeli in Palestine, even for many Israeli peace groups:
"the two state solution is an absolute and unassailable one; they cannot even contemplate another one, and in particular anything smacking of a bi-national state. This is because they are Zionists, and for them a Jewish ethnocracy - or a 'Jewish democracy' as they prefer to say - is sacrosanct." (p 78.)
This is also why One Voice is campaigning relentlessly against any notion of a one-state solution.
My own contributions to this assembly - noting the regrettable ways in which One Voice, Lubetzky and his corporate-backed project are neutralising the issues and misleading people away from fuller understanding and action - was met with a kind of respectful rebuke from all three speakers - the Israeli taking particular exception to my use of the term "apartheid" to describe the country she "loves". And from the introductory speaker came the convenient clarification that One Voice are 'not a political body', they're just 'working for peace.' Rather predictably, the microphone was denied as I tried to ask what One Voice really meant when talking about a two-state solution.
Throughout this meeting, nothing from the table gave the slightest encouragement for people to go and consult the actual 'one or two state solution' debate. Nor was there even a token nod to the standard non-reporting of the Occupation which has allowed Israel's military brutality to continue for so long. My own point noting the case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and international action on the scale mounted against South Africa, was, of course, totally ignored by the panel. Instead, we were urged to embrace and donate to a group which talks in vague and passive niceties about pushing our respective politicians to do more.
The meeting ended with an audience invitation to the One Voice drinks reception (which I naturally avoided) and appeals to buy the One Voice-Paul McCartney pin badges on sale.
Afterwards, some of the audience spoke with me, registering their appreciations on being alerted about One Voice. One young student articulated it well in saying that this group is about instilling "quietism", thus serving to dull the actual issues of Israeli power. He also noted that this kind of soft-elitist institution is particularly conducive to harbouring such groups. Which pleasingly reaffirmed my faith in critical investigation.
Those attracted to One Voice's contrived message, please take note.