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What did you do today, to promote peace?
Silent - no longer:
Call It Enlightened Self-Interest

Daniel Lubetzky

Israelis and Jews have for years been calling out for moderate voices to emerge on the Palestinian side in order to bring about an end to the bloody conflict that plagues the region. If only the silent majority of Palestinians were to denounce and isolate forces of terror, many Israelis think, the conflict could be resolved.

Israelis witnessing the Intifada equate all Palestinians with terrorism and increasingly doubt that there is a partner to talk to. The tragedy is not only that a minority of violent extremists have succeeded in overshadowing the majority of moderate Palestinians, but that a symmetrical dissonance pervades the Mideast conflict. For as much as Jews and Israelis may not realize it, Palestinians' perceptions are diametrically opposite, and they also only make out the most extremist agendas on the Israeli side.

The vast majority of Palestinians do not believe that Israelis are serious about ending the occupation and permitting Palestinians to achieve independence and dignity. Most Palestinians cannot fathom that the overwhelming majority of Israelis are willing to accept a two-state solution. Most Palestinians equate every Israeli with intentional subjugation and dehumanization. Forces of terror and violent absolutism have hijacked the political process and dominated the agenda, often amplifying their influence by manipulating the media through coverage of their dehumanizing atrocities, at the expense of the frustrated majority of Israelis and Palestinians who would choose coexistence. The result is false polarization, where each side perceives the distances to be greater and the hatreds to prevail on the other side.

Positive intentions from frustrated Palestinian farmers to heartbroken Israeli schoolteachers are drowned out by grief of the victims claimed by the conflict. It seems to the beleaguered people of the region that there is no way out of this hell. And yet there is. OneVoice is a fast-growing movement whose goal is to isolate the forces of terrorism and violent absolutism and change a seemingly hopeless equation by giving the overwhelming but heretofore silent majority of Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to have their voices heard and seize back the agenda from the minority that creates and sustains the current intractable situation.

The OneVoice public negotiations referendum, officially launched on February 24, will help craft a clear, popular vision on how to resolve the conflict – a vision derived by offering all Israelis and Palestinians the unique opportunity to cast ballots and offer their positions on the key issues at the heart of the conflict, through an iterative process that allows us to refine proposals based on feedback from experts and from the people. OneVoice provides an unprecedented effort to craft and deliver a grassroots mandate to the political leadership of both sides, to propel politicians to confront the forces of terror and dehumanization knowing they have a clear constituency of support behind them.

The effort is not based on cherishing peace and love but on fostering enlightened self-interest from both sides, recognizing that both Palestinians and Israelis need the cooperation of the other side to achieve their legitimate aspirations for freedom and security. What is remarkable about the movement is the degree to which such parity of effort has been achieved and the fact that those included demonstrate that OneVoice is not just preaching to the converted. OneVoice is a growing movement: It is backed by over forty mainstream organizations, from the National Israeli Union of Students to the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee.

Fifty-two global business, religious and community leaders serve on its boards, ranging from Ambassador Thomas Pickering to former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat; from World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman Sr. to American Arab Institute President James Zogby; from Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Jonathan Sacks to American Sufi Muslim Association founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. In spite of their different agendas, they all join for a non-violent and concrete resolution to the conflict that will bring an end to terror and to the occupation. Israeli board members transcend political parties. They include Likud Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Mickey Ratzon, Labor MK and former IDF General Matan Vilnai, Meimad MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, Shinui MK Eti Livny, Likud MK Gilad Erdan, Rabbi David Rosen, Ben-Gurion University President Avishay Braverman, and a host of business leaders. Palestinian board members include Dr. Fathi Arafat, the head of the Red Crescent Society (and brother of President Arafat), business leader Yasser Mahmoud Abbas, Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, Father Attalah Hanna, and Palestinian Minister for Women Affairs Zehira Kamal. This democratic effort is also personally blessed by Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath. So far 25,000 OneVoice members have been taking risks to change the reality on the ground by standing up and being heard.

This summer over 7,000 people joined in Gaza and 3,000 joined in Jenin, often after heady confrontations and transformational discussions where a lesson about the strength of non-violent conflict resolution prevailed. Within Israel, recruitment efforts saw both Likud and Labour party activists recruit members from their parties. We will not waver nor rest until moderates have seized back the agenda. If enough of the unheard Israelis and Palestinians participate, we will succeed. In mid-February, Jason Alexander visited Israel in support of the OneVoice referendum. He came not as a celebrity proclaiming to have the answers, as was suggested by at least one self-proclaimed analyst who did not have the courtesy to do a modicum of research on what OneVoice is. Instead, he came as a dedicated and concerned supporter of peace and security using his celebrity to spotlight the opportunity for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. But in the end the only voices that really count are the voices from the ground that will be heard if OneVoice is successful. May those concerned citizens who are fed up with their lives being taken hostage by a minority of terrorists and absolutist extremists rise up and join at www.silentnolonger.org.

The writer is founder and President of the PeaceWorks Foundation's OneVoice movement. Source: Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2004. www.jpost.com

Unilateral detachment from Gaza:
In a Small Piece…

Gershon Baskin, Israeli Co-Director of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, reflects on the potential repercussions of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Baskin advocates that “the main thing is to get the [authority transition] process moving in the right direction by planning for it now in parallel with any Israeli planning for disengagement and redeployment.” (Source: IPCRI, March 4, 2004)

Israel - Palestine:
It's Time to Internationalize the Solution
Discussing past failed attempts by Israelis and Palestinians to partition, A. Benn states that “in light of the failed performances by the sides, which have prevented its [partition] execution, it is worth considering the alternative of internationalization: expropriating the authority to determine the borders and security arrangements from the Israelis and Palestinians and giving the authority to the superpowers, led by the U.S.” (Source: Ha’aretz, March 4, 2004)

The Geneva Accord Series VII/VIII:
Penetrating the Stagnation

Even those who oppose the Geneva Accord in the Palestinian and Arab mass media, for whom Arab satellite channels open their arms and screens, cannot deny that the initiative has stirred the stagnant waters in the lake of a frozen peace, since the extremists and hardliners from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides took matters into their own hands.

The Geneva Accord Series VIII/VIII:
Hope and Glory - Geneva
In this last article of the Geneva Accord series, former speaker of Israel's Knesset Avraham Burg presents the reason for the collapse of the previous peace initiative - Oslo, including the conclusions that are required for the rescue and success of the next attempt - Geneva. (Source: CGNews, March 5, 2004)

Common Ground News Service – February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-03-2004



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