Saturday, 13 December 2008

One Voice - simplifying the 'choices'

As with George W Bush's "with us or against us" line, simplified 'choices' often serve a purpose in excusing murderous regimes, hiding their crimes and preventing just solutions.

Here's another "pick a side" choice from One Voice coordinator Anthony Silkoff who has just been given a Young Thinkers Award for extolling the ideas of One Voice:

" 'Palestinians do not deserve a State and are incapable of governing themselves. They must be managed, imprisoned, or exiled.'


'The state of Israel is a hydra-headed monster, comprising Zionist ethnic cleansers, US imperialists, and Arab collaborationist regimes.'

Pick a side. Any side, so long as it's black and white. Farcical, perhaps, but this is the true extent of polarisation to be found in Britain today on this issue."

How very One Voice.

In essence, we're invited to read these propositions as polar opposites, the implication being that 'fair-minded moderates' should not only oppose the former position but also reject the scurrilous charges against Israel noted in the latter.

This is not a essay on true choices. It's an exercise in crude dissembling from our One Voice advocate, a sleight-of-hand typical of the chicanery that passes for intellectual reasoning from this deceitful organisation.

Alas, Mr Silkoff has a lot more thinking to do on the actual issues. His seeming dejection at the "polarisation" between Palestinian and Israeli groupings across UK campuses is used as a rallying call for One Voice 'moderation'. Yet, it's a discourse which only serves to inhibit understanding of the core causes and possible solutions.

By circumventing or dismissing the inconvenient language of occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, Zionism and other signifiers of the, yes, "hydra-headed" system of Israeli oppression, he does a disservice to Palestinians, Israelis and others seeking an honest examination and just peace.

Nor, apparently, is it productive to talk about "US imperialists" or the "collaborationist" role of Arab regimes. Presumably, this 'moderate view' precludes discussion of America's geopolitical conquests and its other ambitions in the region, Israel's client-state part in that project, the billion-dollar cheques issued annually from Washington to Tel Aviv helping to maintain Israel's illegal Occupation, the brutal siege of Gaza and the dual US-Israeli arms economy underlying all that oppression. It's also, no doubt, rude to mention the conditional US aid lavished on Egypt, serving to keep its borders sealed and the people of Gaza in a state of near starvation.

In more 'thinking' mode, campus Palestinians and their supporters are caricatured by Silkoff as hostile intransigents, unable, apparently, to see the One Voice message of 'mediation'. The 'balance', of course, is served by disapproving token comment on their Israeli campus adversaries. Again, how very One Voice to conflate arch-Zionists and Palestinian groups campaigning for fundamental human rights - as though the latter's campaign for justice based on international law is somehow detrimental to 'moderate dialogue' - or One Voice's white-washed version of it.

There's also something precociously arrogant about Silkoff's problem with "outside opinions" and the "domination" of "academics viewpoints" rather than "what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians themselves actually want." This is another standard One Voice play to 'moderate' 'on-the-ground opinion', implying claims of mass-support for its work, while dismissing a rich field of critical academics, many of whom work as dedicated activists in pursuit of both justice for the Palestinians and the moral regeneration of Israeli society - which broadly involves a one state solution with full rights for all people.

As noted elsewhere, One Voice may not approve of Israeli historian Ilan Pappe's landmark text The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, but they should have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that, contrary to their facile 'choices', a definitive and massive ethnic cleansing did actually take place - indeed, it's still ongoing, as evidenced by the stealthy purges against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

In similar vein, they may not wish to recognise the academic and humanitarian efforts of Israeli professor Jeff Halper, whose heroic (non-academic) activism includes lying down in front of Israeli soldiers and bulldozers in an effort to stop Palestinian homes being demolished.

These are acts of real human solidarity, far-removed from the cosy-cloistered 'engagement' of people like Silkoff and his One Voice friends.

Perhaps they should visit the Sheik Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, from where the al-Kurd family have just been brutally evicted from their home after 52 years, a trauma too much for Mr al-Kurd who died days after of a heart attack.

Moreover, where is One Voice's recognition of the international activists who stand beside the al-Kurds and other Palestinians facing Israeli violence, such as the besieged villagers of Bi'lin and Ni'lin? Are they also part of that "polarisation"? Have they also made the wrong 'choice'?

Likewise, what of the Shministim school-students in Israel who have refused to serve in the Israeli Occupation Forces, choosing jail, instead, in an admirable act of defiance and support for suffering Palestinians? Isn't their "pick a side" action more moral and immediate in drawing international attention to the real issue of Israeli repression?

Instead of the slanted choices offered by One Voice, the discerning thinker might more usefully look - even if the media has ignored it - at the damning statement and report just issued by UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Falk, condemning Israel's gross violations in Gaza. It's yet another unequivocal reminder that, contra One Voice's 'two sides' distortion, there's actually an Occupier and an Occupied here. And the former is visiting unspeakable suffering on the latter.

As Falk reminds us: "Silence is not an option." One Voice would prefer that we all remain respectfully mute on these key, crisis issues; that we 'moderate' our language to 'accommodate dialogue'; that we, in essence, eschew the words spoken by Falk and international others on Israel's "apartheid system", "illegal actions" and "war crimes" against the Palestinian people.

One Voice's optional silence on all this is not just an illustration of fake moderate-speak, it's a stark reminder of how the disguising of such basic truths and language amounts to actual complicity in those crimes.

Time, indeed, to "pick a side": the side of the occupiers and oppressors or the occupied and oppressed.


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