One voice: an unfortunate oxymoron

One Voice
Eliran and Mohammed pose with the American Flag. Photo courtesy of Elda Dagan.

When Mr. Max Alexander, History teacher, asked me to help promote and facilitate discussions for the November 10th One Voice event on campus, I was thrilled to be involved with an activity which would help bring perspective to a central issue for the Milken Community: Israel. One Voice, an organization that aims for a two state solution in Israel, brings an Israeli and Palestinian speaker to help the youth understand that a two state solution will help solve the problem in the Middle East.

Given this hopeful context, I walked into the auditorium thinking I was about to meet an Israeli and a Palestinian who had put all preconceived notions of hate aside for the sake of making peace. Unfortunately, the event was far off from my prediction, and, in the end, only proved that peace will never occur in the Middle East. The organization obviously has good intentions, but it is ironic that the speakers themselves still hold animosity towards each other. I was disappointed when Mohammed Asideh, the Palestinian Voice, was talking in regards to Eliran Eyal, the Israeli voice, and he said, “We do not have a friendship, but we respect each other.” I was further irked when Mohammed continued to refer to Israel as the “Holy Land” or “Palestine” instead of just calling the land Israel. Furthermore, the two representatives would not pose for a photo putting their arms around each other, so they opted to have the American flag serve as a symbolic union. How disingenuous could an organization be? I pride my self on being equitable and open to original perspectives so that I can have a thorough understanding before making a decision, but this event showed me that even when one tries to stage a peace conference, something will go wrong. This event revealed to me that I do not even want any more perspective on the Middle East, but rather I would prefer to mentally block out any news about the region. Why invest so much time and emotion to a cause which seems to have no end?

There was only one statement during the entire forum that I found interesting, and although there was a constant language barrier throughout the event, Mohammed put this quite eloquently: “We were born, and immediately found ourselves to have enemies before we had a single friend.” But, I fear for Mohammed and Eliran that their children will be born into a world of enemies unless they can see each other as friends. Otherwise, the year 2018, the year which One Voice has set as its goal for the two state solution, can be in inverted to 8102 and still seem like an unlikely dream.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Matt,
    First of all, I really appreciate your desire to promote multiple perspectives in this area, and I am sorry to hear that the meeting with the group was such a disappointment for you.
    I did one to address one thing, which is something I myself did not understand about OneVoice until recently, and I take full blame for not doing a better job of framing: OneVoice is NOT a “dialogue” group, which brings Israelis and Palestinians together. Instead, the run two different, but parallel, movements in the region for both Israeli and Palestinian youth. What they do is inspire and train Israeli and Palestinian youth to have hope in a peaceful and sustainable two-state solution, and then go out into their own communities to build capacity for such a future. The fact that Eliran and Mohammed said they are not necessarily friends but do respect one another is more about the fact that they only met a couple weeks ago when they began this trip together to the U.S. But they share a very common goal which they are each working hard toward within their own communities: a time when they and their communities can live side by side in peace. I think we need to understand that, while it would be incredible to see that these two young men, despite the long conflict between their people, had managed to forge a deep friendship in just a few short weeks, the reality is that the fact the two of them have mutual respect and are working together to achieve the same goal, given the conflict, is pretty incredible in and of itself, and should absolutely inspire hope in us that there could be an end to the conflict.
    I will also say this…it was really unfortunate that we ran out of time, and you all did not have the chance to ask them questions and engage in dialogue, and have the chance to ask them some of these things directly, so that they had a chance to respond. Again, here, I apologize to you and everyone else who showed up for not providing a better forum for you to engage with them.
    Again, I implore you not to let your disappointment from this meeting, which had a large part to do with the forum and inability to learn about the group in more detail, and really engage with them, cause you to now mentally block out news from the region, and leave you with a sense of futility and lack of hope–if anything, I believe their message was that, it is up to the youth of Middle East to HAVE hope, and work within their communities build a place for that hope to become a reality.

  2. Alisha
    I appreciate the thorough response. Yes, it would have been nice to know that information prior to the event, but, nevertheless, my opinion holds firm. Yes, time was working against us, and that is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate how time is working against our friends over in the Middle East with all the moratoriums and such, but that’s just how diplomacy works. I am not trying to be political but what I am trying to do is convey the thought that, in a set time frame, achieve something (I am addressing both diplomats over seas and “one voice”.) I did not hear anything new during the seminar which rather felt like a recruitment convention with the “I would like to participate in One Voice in the future” check box, which I dim-wittedly checked because I was yet to see the underlying problem in the event: a lack of “hope”. Neither Eliran nor Mohammed gave a reassuring or coherent speech.
    The fact that the two just met weeks ago has infinitesimal relevance at all. If they are truly from two separate but parallel organization (which should really mean “One voice” be renamed to two voices) they should come in with the mindset of “I am here to make a friend” not merely a “live and let live” agenda.
    For nearly 5770 years hope hasn’t morphed into reality (even through achieving a homeland in Israel several problems arose); I don’t see how hope can achieve a two state solution by 2018. I apologize for sounding cynical but it seems to be an unfortunate reality.

  3. To Ms. Pedowitz,
    I see where you are coming from in the sense that they just recently met and were not fully able to build somewhat of a friendship. I also understand that it is very difficult to set aside all that you believe (and were raised to believe) in order to deliver a strong, coherent and united message — but isn’t that why it’s called OneVoice? Isn’t that what their mission is?

    Maybe Eliran and Mohammed were not the best representation of what OneVoice stands for. Maybe they needed to become closer before they attempted to deliver the powerful and hopeful message that they claim to promote.

    The tension between them was evident. I did not know that they refused to put arms around each other – a simple gesture of respect for one another (which they also claimed that they had). Posing next to the American flag, on the other hand, has nothing to do with their message. It’s kind of absurd if you ask me…

    But I appreciate your viewpoint on the organization. I’ll be sure not to base my judgments about them only on my experience at the meeting. I will further explore than organization and it’s intentions, but at this point, this is how I feel.

    To Matt, and about the article in general:

    “This event revealed to me that I do not even want any more perspective on the Middle East, but rather I would prefer to mentally block out any news about the region.”

    I do not agree that you should block out the conflict. If anything, this meeting should serve as motivation to find a better answer. To keep working towards something until it works.

    I commend OneVoice for trying, because what they have created is in a sense a step ahead of many organizations. But what they fail to do is truly create OneVoice. Like you said Matt, they should be called TwoVoices, because in reality, there is currently not one voice. I would go even further and say there are more than two voices.

    Peace is far away. But if we lose hope and stop trying, then we are all guilty of the ongoing conflict.

    What do we do next? What is the answer? What is the solution? I sure don’t have the answer, and neither does OneVoice.

  4. Dear Matthew: Yours is amost laudable initiative. I love your comments and share your angst. There is hope. When five years ago we projected “Ghandi” dubbed in Arabic to 70,000 Palestian youths, then followed with Youths Centers in remote villages and One-netbook-per-child to 280,000 school children, we had no idea how this will all turn out. I am happy to report that we have many youths engaged in building a future, not fighting an enemy. Most recently, we co-hosted eight Israeli and eight Jordanian companies in Silicon Valley to brain storm on entrepreneurship developments in Social Media and iPhone apps. The dialogue and willingness to work together cross border were extraordinary.

    If you host another meeting, pls let me know. All the best. O

  5. Ossama, your philanthropic work makes me believe that through entrepreneurship perhaps peace will be achieved. Thank you for sharing.

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