Monday, 15 December 2008

One Voice: do not disturb

My attention has been drawn to the Glasgow University Guardian article 'Voices unite in plea for peace' (3 December 2008), a report by Ross Mathers on a recent public meeting held by One Voice (10 November 2008).

The opening line reads:
"A MEMBER OF AN OPPOSING MOVEMENT interrupted a recent rally held by the Glasgow chapter of One Voice."
Further into the article, hailing One Voice and its adherents, Mathers contends that:

"The evening was disrupted, however, by a member of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign [sic] accusing One Voice of diluting the reality of the conflict and of backing the Israeli occupation. The situation in Israel and Palestine was also compared to the apartheid seen in South Africa.

Speaking to Guardian, One Voice supporters said they expected such a reaction. This came after One Voice's leafleting campaign on campus was disturbed by similar protestors who voiced their concern over the underlying loyalties and aims of One Voice."

The words "interrupted", "disrupted" and "disturbed" are highly revealing of how One Voice and its coterie view criticism of their message. There's also the curious anomaly of how an invited opinion aired from the floor of an open public meeting constitutes an interruption or disruption to such proceedings. As with One Voice's own evasions on the key issues of Palestine/Israel, one can only presume, from the absence of any contrary opinion in this piece, a similar kind of closure.

Mathers's sanitised reportage complements One Voice's own aversion to critical examination. There's not a word of serious discussion on the actual issues in his gushing article. Instead, we're treated to a generalised lauding of One Voice's 'higher' peace agenda, its lofty supporters - notably Charles Kennedy (who, at the OV meeting, lavished praise on Blair's Middle East 'peace' efforts) - and this Israeli One Voicer's anguish over the external hatred she believes is being directed at her country:

"It's hard, because sometimes we feel alone when the world seems to hate us so much. The media shows what it wants to show."

Thus speaks the 'suffering Zionist', a default defence of Israel which finds ready welcome inside One Voice. It's a denialist mindset which helps insulate Ms Lipnik from the core causes and staggering scale of Palestinian oppression. It also protects One Voicers from the truth of what the BBC and other Western media do show, which amounts to daily distortion, omission and a servile apologetics for Israeli conduct.

Don't mention the 'A' word

Support for this 'persecution complex' is apparent in Mathers's own intimation of contempt at my charge of "apartheid", as though uttered by an extremist interloper falsely impugning Israel.

Perhaps Mathers and the selective One Voice respondents in his report should pay a little attention to the growing body of international figures making that very indictment.

For example, UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann recently denounced Israel's apartheid system, while calling for an intensified boycott, divestment and sanctions to help break the illegal Occupation and siege of Gaza. As the activist writer Phyllis Bennis notes, Brockmann's use of the 'A' word “was really quite extraordinary" coming “from the highest levels of the most democratic part of the United Nations, the General Assembly".

As documented, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and many other notable peace-makers view Israel as an apartheid state. The Israeli human right group B'Tselem have made similar statements. Even the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Cold War hawk, acknowledges the apartheid comparison with South Africa. UN Rapporteur Richard Falk, meanwhile, has just been refused entry into Israel for condemning its racist conduct.

International campaigns like Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid are also serving to highlight Israel's state abuses and war crimes. The admirable Action Palestine are doing similar work across UK campuses, providing, contra One Voice, a true picture of the Occupation and Israel's contrived 'peace agenda'.

At a recent AP meeting in Strathclyde Union, three Palestinian students gave moving testimonies on educational apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza (as part of the Right to Education week). It's a pity Mr Mathers wasn't there to report their astute thoughts and harrowing experiences. Again, it seems, that's an unwelcome "interruption" of One Voice's select narrative.

Unlike One Voice and Mr Mathers who endeavour to shun discussion of international law and Palestinian rights, it's reassuring to know that one is in the better moral company of Brockmann, Tutu and journalists like Pilger - people prepared to use honest, informed vocabulary in calling Israel to account for its crimes.

In contrast, it's a shameful kind of campus 'journalism' that employs terminology like "disrupted" to demonise critics of One Voice while Israel uses its violent disruptions and apartheid powers to break Gaza and the West Bank.

John Hilley

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