Two States, One Voice, No Peace Concert

For as long as there have been wars, there have been people willing to do the craziest things to bring about peace. The women of Aristophanes’ Athens refused to let their men bone them until they called a ceasefire, a … Read More

By / October 17, 2007

For as long as there have been wars, there have been people willing to do the craziest things to bring about peace. The women of Aristophanes’ Athens refused to let their men bone them until they called a ceasefire, a dangerous tactic with all those well-oiled young Greek hoplites around. John and Yoko famously staged a bed-in for peace, with rather less success. (I myself have managed to combine lying in bed with not having any sex for ages now, but seemingly to no avail.)

But in the last few days, PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) has found a new way to bring peace closer; by wrecking a joint Israeli-Palestinian peace concert.

One Voice is one of the most dynamic peace-building organizations in Israel and Palestine today. Over 3,000 activists, equal numbers of young Palestinians and Israelis many of whom are students, have been working from Gaza City, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, touring the towns, villages and cities mobilizing citizens to demand conflict resolution through political process. One Voice isn't a dialogue organization and it's not trying to make Israelis and Palestinians love each other. Its approach began as iterative, parallel consensus building which has given 180,000 Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to vote and comment on the ten most contentious aspects of the conflict – the issues which need to be resolved prior to a lasting peace settlement, and the issues which the elected representatives must keep in mind in order to represent their people. One Voice's work highlighted findings from other surveys that the majority (here 76%) of both Israelis and Palestinians want a two state solution.

One Voice had organized huge peace concerts to take place in Jericho stadium and Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv this Thursday in advance of November's peace talks. At the satellite-linked events activists, performers and citizens would call on their respective leaders to act 'against violent extremism, occupation and terror'. The event would be free, with signing the One Voice mandate a condition of entry. Steps had been taken to amplify the call and satellite-linked support, or 'echo', events had been scheduled across the world that evening, including one at the Friends Meeting House in London.

These events have now been derailed.

The story is almost painfully predictable to relate. PACBI identified One Voice with suspicion from the very start, because its founding principles – dialogue and negotiation with a view to a two-state solution, supported by nearly 600,000 Israelis, Palestinians and others – are entirely at odds with the tactics employed by PACBI and its various satellite organizations. Hosting a joint peace concert and “People’s Summit” was judged to break the terms of their “Boycott and Divestment Campaign”, and so they began to call on the artists involved, as well as participants on the Palestinian side, to withdraw – including members of the One Voice board like Saeb Erekat and Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the Islamic Chief Justice of Palestine.

In addition, a pressure group called “Another Voice” (cute, huh?) sent out a press release denouncing the concerts as a “celebration of apartheid”. “Like many other diplomatic misadventures” [Oslo?], “the OneVoice campaign overlooks the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and repackages dangerous concessions…” [Yeah, Oslo] “…into an initiative that looks nice on the surface. It is misleading, and many are starting to realize that”. In other words, any body that calls for a negotiated two-state solution is our enemy, and we’re going to bring you down.

Coupled with the public campaign was a series of anonymous, unattributed threats against the One Voice campaign, including threats against performers in the Jericho event and a bomb threat against the group’s HQ in Ramallah. To their credit, many of the performers expressed their determination to take part nonetheless, but the pressure was too great. In the face of continuing intimidation, the Jericho concert was called off late last week, and on Monday, One Voice released a press statement announcing the cancellation of the Tel Aviv event in solidarity. An excerpt:

Fringe groups waged a slanderous campaign to incite threats against OneVoice staff and supporters claiming that a survey OneVoice released five years ago represented a policy document on final status negotiations. […]

A campaign of lies against OneVoice was launched by radical groups, including PFLP, who oppose the goal of Israel and Palestine living side by side. This then evolved into an intimidation campaign against those due to take part in the OneVoice Summit.

Apparently, the irony of threatening to blow up anyone who took part in a peace concert was lost on these scumbags. To the radical fringe groups like the International Solidarity Movement and the PFLP that helped derail this initiative, anything that even smells of “normalization” of the “occupation” is treasonable. So the moderates are, once again, sidelined.

The backers of the One Voice movement are putting a brave face on their disappointment, but ending a 60-year conflict through the power of Bryan Adams was always a big ask anyway. The fact that the concerts can’t even be held in safety suggests that real peace is still some way off.

Perhaps the best that can be said about this shabby affair is that if it opens a few people’s eyes to the reality of what is happening in the Holy Land, One Voice’s efforts will not have been in vain. There are plenty of supporters of the so-called ‘divestment campaign’ who are well intentioned, and honestly believe that boycotting Israel is the only way to help end the conflict. These range from the good and conscientious people who buy Palestinian arts and crafts from church fairs in Britain to the so-called “keffiyeh kinderlach” who think that the progressive look is going to get them laid.

But these people need to realize that there are darker forces at work; they’re in bed, however inadvertently, with people who simply aren’t interested in peace, at least not as we understand the word. The sort of people who see a peace concert as a threat, dialogue as collaboration, and an Israeli and a Palestinian state living together side by side as a second nakba, not belated and imperfect closure to this appalling and bloody mess.

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