Chicago youth message to OneVoice: ‘We will not work with you’

ActivismIsrael/Palestine

The following letter was sent over by the Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights.

Open Letter to OneVoice from Chicago Youth-led Palestinian Solidarity Organizations

Dear OneVoice,

We are youth-led Palestinian solidarity organizations in Chicago, many of which have been contacted by OneVoice to work together. Our response to these requests is simple: We will not work with you.

OneVoice aims to bring Palestinians and Israelis together to achieve “peace.” [1] However, you bring them together while ignoring Palestinian history, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian calls for struggling against colonialism, and the power imbalance between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. We believe that the only way to achieve a just peace is by addressing all of these issues.

OneVoice avoids the history and the roots of the “conflict.” For example, mention of Israel’s ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of the Palestinian population during the Nakba in order to create a Jewish state in 1948 is completely absent. You claim that “the idea of focusing on the future instead of clinging to the past is paramount to the philosophy of both OneVoice members and its programs.” [2] This approach towards viewing the conflict ignores some of its most foundational elements. For Palestinians under occupation and in the diaspora, the past remains their present, and to ignore the history is to ignore and neglect the Palestinian plight today.

OneVoice also advocates for “a two-state solution to end the conflict.” [1] However, considering Israel’s continued settlement construction and land confiscation, the two-state solution has no realistic geopolitical configuration. Additionally, among your justifications for a two-state solution, you prioritize preserving a Jewish majority in Israel.[3] Not only is this Israel-centric, it is racist in nature. A recent advertisement posted on the OneVoice Hebrew Facebook page urges the Jewish community to vote in the Israeli elections for a two-state solution to maintain an ethnically Jewish majority.[4] We find this position as disturbing as we would a position that advocates maintaining a white majority in the United States.

In the OneVoice mission statement, you claim to be a grassroots movement. However, your advocacy for a two-state solution is incompatible with grassroots organizing. OneVoice takes a top-down, “solution”-based approach grounded in border negotiations put forth by politicians. Your campaign for a two-state solution only serves the interests of those in power, rather than the people.

Unlike you, we come from a rights-based approach grounded in human rights, civil rights, and equality. We believe that peace and justice will come from the bottom up, not top down. As such, we support the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) issued by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005, asking the international community to implement boycotts and divestment initiatives against Israel until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land, recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respects the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as stipulated by UN resolution 194.[5]

In regard to Palestinian citizens of Israel, OneVoice does not address their systematic discrimination, or their lack of basic civil rights within Israel. In fact, one of the only times we found any mention of Palestinian citizens of Israel on your website was in a poll, asking Israelis if “Israeli Arabs should be transferred to Palestine/the West Bank and Gaza”.[6] We feel that your complete disregard for Palestinian citizens of Israel ignores the structural racism and discrimination that is the driving force behind the continuous occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. We also believe that the two-state solution you advocate will likely perpetuate the second class status of Palestinians living in Israel.

Unfortunately, while OneVoice actively advocates Palestinian “nonviolence,” you simultaneously oppose the BDS movement. BDS is a key part of Palestinian nonviolent resistance today and we, as Palestinian solidarity organizers, are supporters and participants of the global BDS movement. Although you do not explicitly take a position on BDS, you have called campus divestment initiatives “destructive campaigns aimed at de-legitimizing Israel.”[7]

Moreover, It is highly problematic that OneVoice is advising Palestinians on resistance without fully acknowledging the oppression faced by Palestinians. You cannot refuse to acknowledge apartheid and colonization, while at the same time dictating what type of resistance of the oppressed is “acceptable”.

OneVoice gives Israel’s violent occupation and colonialism a more pleasant face by framing the “conflict” as symmetrical without explaining the power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinian people. Israel is the military occupier and Palestinians are occupied. Presenting both sides as equals is both dishonest and harmful, and it creates the illusion that the colonizer and the colonized are equally responsible parties in this “conflict.”

We support the 2010 statement against normalization issued by Palestinian youth organizations in commemoration of the anniversary of the Nakba. The appeal mentioned OneVoice as one of the organizations that “specifically target Palestinian youth to engage them in dialogue [sic] with Israelis without recognizing the inalienable rights of Palestinians, or aiming to end Israel’s occupation, colonization, and apartheid.”[8] The statement reflects young Palestinian voices on the ground who are experiencing Israel’s policies firsthand. To them, your organization serves to normalize oppression and injustice.

Until you change your positions on the issues raised above, we do not have any interest in working with OneVoice, or any other similar organization, until you recognize the power imbalance and refuse to perpetuate it by denying the colonial and apartheid reality in Palestine. We hope you understand.

Sincerely,

Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights
Students for Justice in Palestine – Northwestern University
Students for Justice in Palestine – DePaul University
Students for Justice in Palestine – University of Chicago
Students for Justice in Palestine – University of Illinois at Chicago
Students for Justice in Palestine – Loyola University of Chicago
Students for Justice in Palestine – Northeastern Illinois University
Students for Justice in Palestine – Benedictine University
Students for Justice in Palestine – St. Xavier University

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