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Jewish Journal

OneVoice speaks mistakenly on achieving peace

by Arthur Cohn

November 15, 2007 | 7:00 pm

Again and again, private organizations appear on the scene, promoting agendas designed to advance the peace process in the Middle East. In many cases, their intentions may be good; unfortunately, however, they generally lack a minimal understanding of the situation, and their programs and proposals are based on mistaken assumptions. As a result, their contribution to an easing of the prevailing tension between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is of little or no value.

Let us examine one of these peace efforts.

A recently founded movement that calls itself OneVoice plans to encourage the leaders of both sides -- Israel and the Palestinian Arabs -- to isolate the extremists in their respective camps and to take the necessary steps to implement a two-state solution.

Sound plausible? It certainly does. After all, who would not want to see their leaders take active steps toward ending the conflict?

Moral Equivalence

However, a closer look at the agenda of the OneVoice movement reveals a very different -- and very troublesome -- picture. In its overarching desire to adopt a balanced approach to the conflict, the authors of the movement's program have based this program on a totally unwarranted and unacceptable moral equivalence. To cite just three examples:

1) OneVoice calls for "an immediate cessation of all violence from both sides in all forms."

Can an honest observer of the Middle East scene equate the carefully nuanced military strikes carried out by Israel's security forces with the wanton violence against innocent civilians perpetrated by the terrorists on the other side?

If the one is the direct and necessary response to the other -- as obviously is the case -- how can they be put on an equal footing? Can a town like Sderot, for example, come under daily attack from Qassam missiles without eliciting an adequate response by Israel to protect the lives of its citizens? It is not difficult to arrive at an answer to these questions.

2) Another demand of OneVoice is to act "against incitement on both sides."

We are all only too painfully aware of what is written in the Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, broadcast in the PA's official TV programs and preached in the mosques about the necessity of eradicating Israel and killing Jews. No such incitement against Arabs is practiced in Israel. And if now and then we hear in Israel about an individual outburst or action directed at Palestinian Arabs, Israel's leaders and media immediately condemn such acts in the strongest terms, and those who engage in them are duly punished.

3) One Voice stresses "the importance of ending terror and occupation."

What we are told here, in other words, is that "terror" and "occupation" are on the same level and need to end simultaneously. To begin with, this equivalence lends a basic legitimacy to terror. Besides, the use here of the term "occupation" flies in the face of the historical and legal facts of the case:

  • The 1967 Six-Day War, as a result of which the territories in question came under Israeli control, was a war of Israeli self-defense initiated by Egypt and Jordan.
  • Until then, they had been occupied illegally by Egypt and Jordan, having been earmarked for Jewish settlement by the League of Nations Mandate of 1920, as reconfirmed later by the United Nations (Article 80 of the U.N. Charter).

Disputed Territories

Factually stated, therefore, these are territories in dispute, whose ultimate fate will have to be decided in future peace talks. This was the underlying assumption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 adopted after the Six-Day War, which called for an Israeli withdrawal from "territories" (Note: not "the territories") occupied during the war to "secure and recognized borders." Resolution 338, adopted by the Security Council in 1973, called for negotiations between the parties to achieve the aims outlined in 242.

If all the territories taken over by Israel in 1967 were to be considered under occupation, and thus had to be returned to their legal owners, what would be the point of negotiating "secure and recognized borders," as mandated by resolutions 242 and 338?

Moreover, for many Arabs and their supporters there really is no difference between Israel before and after the Six-Day War. So far as they are concerned, all of Israel is illegally occupied territory. The Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964 already -- that is, three years before the Six-Day War -- set as its goal the liberation of Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa and all of what was once known as Palestine.

And now, One Voice offers us the questionable equation: occupation = terror. Can one be expected to relate to this as a serious basis for a meaningful peace effort?

Love Truth and Peace

In point of fact, any effort to promote a true and meaningful breakthrough in the Arab-Israel conflict is to be welcomed. But if the assumptions on which such an effort is based are entirely false and the existential and historical truth is distorted in the process, what good can come of such an effort? There are many issues on which, in a genuine future peace negotiation, Israel will be able and ready to compromise -- as must happen in any negotiation. But Israel has no right to compromise on its past or to ignore flagrant distortions of the Jewish people's history and heritage.

So long as the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is based (as far as the Arabs are concerned) on the denial of Jewish history in this land (viz. Arafat's insistence that "there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem"), on the denial of the Holocaust (Mahmoud Abbas and company) and on the infamous blood libel and other anti-Semitic slanders (the forged "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" are still being disseminated by "moderate" Arab regimes), there is no chance for serious progress in our efforts to achieve peace in this region. A serious peace process must begin with the acceptance of historical events of the past, on which a better future can be built.

The Bible says, "Love truth and peace" (Zechariah 8:19). There is a direct connection between the two. The leaders and followers of One Voice ought to realize that the acceptance of the historical and existential facts of the Arab-Israel conflict is an indispensable prior condition for the establishment of true peace in the Holy Land.

Arthur Cohn is an international film producer, whose films include "The Garden of the Finzi Contini," "Central Station" and "One Day in September."

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