It’s pretty hard to argue that any movement for peace in Israel-Palestine has been successful. It’s obvious that the situation today is worse than it has been in a long time, perhaps ever, and little progress is visible on the horizon. But there is one thing that peace activists of all stripes on this question have proven themselves amazingly adept at–savaging one another.
The latest example is the cancellation of simultaneous concerts in Jericho and Tel Aviv that was to be a part of the “One Million Voices” campaign put on by the organization known as One Voice. The dual concerts were to be free, with participants being asked to add their signatures to the One Voice statement. This would not have been a requirement, but it was an obvious effort to help One Voice reach its goal of one million signatures on their statement (they have a little less than 600,000 at this time).
The One Voice platform is clearly a two-state one, and, while the group professes only to be pushing for negotiations, it’s clear that their stance is based on the sorts of agreements that are on the diplomatic table–the Clinton Parameters (which the group mentions in its own overview of their mission), the Taba talks, the Geneva Accords, etc. It is not surprising that many activist groups would disagree with this platform, as a growing trend in Israeli-Palestinian activism is to embrace a one-state solution, and even many who are not committed to that path bristle at these agreements as being insufficient.
But whether or not groups agree, the rhetoric employed all around on this issue has been terribly divisive. The status quo on an issue like this is always difficult to change, and the fact that various individuals and groups find it much easier to attack others working on a peace program, albeit a different one from what they would desire, only serves to strengthen the occupation and ensure that Palestinians will continue to live in misery, violence and dispossession while Israelis continue to live in perpetual fear.
The twin concerts were attacked rhetorically by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) as promoting “apartheid.” Many of their critiques are understandable–One Voice does generally make no distinction between the occupying power and the occupied people in terms of the plight of each, and it does not promote international law as a guideline, something very important to the Palestinians (for good reason, as it is really the only diplomatic leverage they have). But the stridency of the language, essentially accusing One Voice of being nothing more than a front for Israeli policies and implicitly accusing the many involved with it of treason is uncalled for, unsubstantiated and needlessly divisive.
Sadly, the One Voice leadership responded in kind. They don’t make it clear what the “security threat” was that forced the cancellation of the concerts. Presumably, it was based on some threat they received, which they attributed to the PACBI campaign. Or perhaps it was just a reaction to campaign itself. In any case, they canceled it, thereby simultaneously eliminating what would have been the biggest gathering of people calling for some kind of peace ever in the region and sparing both Israelis and Palestinians from the agony of hearing Bryan Adams. Some good comes out of anything, I suppose.
That could have been the end of it, but instead of taking the high road and letting the cancellation of the events speak for itself, One Voice issued a sharply worded release condemning PACBI and blaming the International Solidarity Movement for the cancellation (ISM’s involvement seems to have been limited to publicizing PACBI’s statement, though I’m sure they would not deny that they agreed with it).
By implication, One Voice painted the threats to the concerts as coming from PACBI and ISM, two organizations whose only connections with violence have been made by ultra-right opponents of peace, such as noted disseminator of misinformation Lee Kaplan, and the occasional foolishness of some of their volunteers. But neither group has ever advocated violence, much less engaged in it, by action or threat.
Indeed, while I have profound disagreements with PACBI on most issues, and they can certainly be legitimately defined as anti-Israel, the fact is that the call on which the coalition was initially based was specifically adopted as an alternative mode of resistance to the violence of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Martyrs, et al. That was its raison d’etre when it was constructed, and it remains the guiding principle. Whatever else one might say about the group and the movement it is part of, accusing it of fomenting, encouraging or employing violence is clearly baseless.
So, in the end, there’s no concert and instead we have the same old story. The so-called “moderates” attack the so-called “radicals” as rejectionists and fanatics, while the “radicals” attack the “moderates” as traitors, shills, or double-agents. And the occupation, dispossession, walls, rockets, checkpoints, threats, shootings, insecurity and all the other wonderful features of the conflict roll merrily along.
This is hardly atypical. I’m put in mind of my own position, where hardly a day goes by where I’m not either called a “self-hating Jew” or accused of “seeking Israel’s destruction” from one side, or being accused of being a front for “The Israel Lobby” or a “Zionist shill” form the other.
And people wonder why reasonable, committed and sensitive people don’t want to get involved in this issue?