Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East

 

who we are

Recognizing that almost 20 years after the Oslo accords (1993) were signed, we are no closer to peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,  Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East (PVPME) grew out of a recognition that a new generation of obstacles to peace has arisen in the form of "lawfare", the abuse of law exploited as a political weapon for illegitimate advantage in a conflict. And so a few similarly concerned citizens in Brooklyn formed Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East (PVPME), a Brooklyn based initiative working towards a durable peace in the Middle East in an era of obstacles from a new generation of adversaries. These are most notably (1) ideologically-driven NGOs masquerading as human rights groups and (2) global rejectionist movements such as BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel), both exploiting lawfare and what we call a “fog of venom” in the constant repetition of hyperbolic, and selectively and disproportionately demonizing charges of heinous human rights and international law violations by Israel, while all other regimes are either ignored or exonerated. The language of BDS and anti-Israel-biased so-called NGOs includes: apartheid, racist discrimination, colonialist exploitation, ethnic cleansing and genocide, war crimes and an entire “playbook” of mix-and-match vilification.

The specific catalyst of our formation stemmed from our observations. What, we asked, allows so many otherwise or seemingly intelligent people, some known to us personally, to accept that Israel has and continues to commit the most heinous offenses? What we learned from observing and interacting with these folks, was that they were almost without exception under the spell of what we term the “NGO halo” effect. Surely, they reasoned (and told us), this must be so, since what could be wrong with these allegations when they stem from such “noble” sources as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), the UN, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and others in the spectrum of right-minded human rights NGOs and related organizations? (Some even cited such “trusted” sources as Wikipedia!). It must be true, it appears, not because they know it – they manifestly lack the knowledge and expertise in international law to know any such thing – but rather because of the sayer, and if the sayer is trusted as they assume, then what’s said must also be trusted. And this common deep fount of misperception has been observed by other independent organizations studying the matter as we did. This is of course, as we always acknowledged, distinct from fair and honest legitimate criticism of Israel.

This misplaced and uncritical reliance on ideological and prejudicial sources has evolved to be a formidable obstacle to peace in the Middle East. It has led to what others have termed a new “soft powerlessness” for Israel whose legitimacy has been successively eroded and who stands accused and convicted in the international arena. And it helps account for the current moribund state of peace negotiation. We therefore realized that what is needed to overcome these barriers to peace is effective confrontation through the exposure and refutation of lawfare as practiced by anti-peace NGOs and obstructionist initiatives like BDS. This will in turn require a new rational and equitable discourse in addressing the clash of competitive nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same land, in order to achieve a fair and durable peace in the Middle East for Israel, and for the Palestinians.

We were convinced that new and progressive voices for peace and accommodation across a broad spectrum of perspectives must be heard such as those of our eminent speakers in the conference we organized and presented, The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict Today: Obstacles and Opportunities, with noted political thinker and author Michael Walzer; lawfare and human rights expert Brooke Goldstein of The Lawfare Project; and Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). These and other speakers we will sponsor will give voice to a new equity in geopolitics that eschews disproportionate approbation of one actor to the exclusion of all others and opens new opportunities for engagement, negotiation and shared accommodation. Hence, PVPME, is targeting the message in any form of rejectionist ideology, whether it be lawfare, or cross-faith misunderstanding and suspicion between Islam and Judaism, or failure to use potentially transformative Israeli-Palestinian engagement and cooperation, or confounding nationalist mythologies.

Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East | 2012.  All rights reserved.