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One Voice in Gaza: normalization at its best!

5 December 2012 | The One Democratic State Group, Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

It has come to our knowledge that One Voice, “an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two-state solution” has started recruiting youth from The Gaza Strip. This is supposed to be part of its work “to forge consensus for conflict resolution and build a human infrastructure capable of mobilizing the people toward a negotiated, comprehensive and permanent agreement between Israel and Palestine that ends the occupation, ensures security and peace for both sides…” The movement recognizes that violence by either side will never be a means to end the conflict. (emphasis added). In its new Gaza initiative, One Voice “planned an intensive 36-hour training program in leadership skills and teamwork.”

The Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic boycott of Israel, like Palestinian Youth Against Normalization, considers One Voice a normalizing organization since it ignores the reality which is Israel’s oppression and systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people in its three components: 1948, 1967, and the Diaspora. OV, amongst other organizations, targets Palestinian youth to engage them in dialogue with Israelis without recognizing the inalienable rights of Palestinians, or aiming to end Israel’s occupation, colonization, and apartheid.

We reiterate our commitment to the statement issued by Palestinian youth against normalization which was endorsed by almost all Palestinian youth and student organizations.

We consider One Voice to be an organization that aims to normalize apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that took place in 1948. One Voice Movement’s vision  is based on a “two-state solution”, 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.

Some of the events organized by One Voice, like the One Million Voices, are 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.

One Voice seems to ignore the fact that the reason why Palestinians and Israelis cannot get together is because the former are colonized and the latter are settler colonists. It also ignores the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, as former American president Jimmy Carter and anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Laureate Desmund Tutu called it; a state that discriminates not only against the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, but also against the 1.2 million Palestinians living in it as third class citizens.

We, Palestinian youth of Gaza, ask if One Voice trainers and leaders in Tel Aviv are willing to admit that the creation of the state of Israel was responsible for the continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people since 1948? That it illegally occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and racially discriminates against the 1948 Palestinians in what the United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard described as, “the only remaining case after South Africa of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long”. A state responsible for ongoing house demolitions, illegal settlement expansions and the building of a monstrous Apartheid Wall — not to mention the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who are subjugated to a brutal, medieval siege entering its fifth year?

The One Voice website never alludes to the children and teenagers killed by Israel in the last two genocidal wars against the Palestinians of Gaza. Or is that considered a form of “dialogue” between “two equal parties” engaged in a “conflict?” Will there be a reference to the violence of the colonizer; the fourth largest army in the world with more than 450 nuclear heads?  Will it state the fact that two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from the towns and villages where Israeli One Voice trainers and leaders live now?

Instead, One Voice is working on “building a mass grassroots movement that will amplify the voice of the moderates on both sides“, wanting to “show that there are partners for negotiations and peace on both sides” Where are the “two sides” of this “conflict?” Palestinian resistance is considered a “form of violence…(which) brings more violence and suffering to people on both sides! ” This is an issue of injustice around continuous dispossession and subjugation of one people by another people. Do we understand from One Voice that there was a “conflict” between the native Blacks of South Africa and the White supremacists of the apartheid regime?

The One Voice programme is one more arrogant attempt to equate the colonizer and colonized; oppressor and oppressed; victim and executioner. This is camouflaged by changing its name in Arabic to “Palestinian Voice!” We ask: will One Voice ever condemn Israel’s policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing? Will it openly support the Palestinian right to self-determination?

We, therefore, consider One Voice projects in Gaza a continuation of a campaign of normalization that aims at whitewashing Israel’s tarnished image and does nothing but falsely creates the facade that there are actually two equal sides to “the conflict.” No wonder that tens of cultural and other civil society organizations in Palestine and the Arab World called One Voice “peace activities” as “camouflaging of Apartheid.”

We call on all Palestinian youth 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.  We expect the Palestinian participants to withdraw their support for this movement that only serves to blind the Palestinian public and sidetrack it from struggling, with the solidarity of its international supporters, for its UN-sanctioned rights, for justice, equality and freedom.

Signed by:

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)

Progressive Student Union Bloc

Fateh Youth Organization

Islamic Bloc

Palestinian Student Labor Front

Union of the Palestinian Students struggle committees

Islamic League of Palestinian Students

The Palestinian Popular struggle Front Union

Union of the Palestinian Students struggle committees