What is the One Million Voices campaign all about and could peace in the Middle East be a reality? Also, what role is the internet and blogging playing in this mass movement, which over 500,000 Israelis and Palestinians have signed up for so far?
Global Voices Online caught up with campaign Communications Coordinator Erin Pineda who discusses with us the ambitious project, which aims to amplify the voices of the ‘moderate silent majority’ caught up in the conflict.
Q – What is the One Million Voices campaign about? How and why was it launched? Who is responsible for it?
A – The One Million Voices Campaign really consists of two parts – the People’s Summit on October 18, 2007, and the year-long campaign that will follow it.
The People’s Summit is a parallel event held simultaneously in Tel Aviv and Jericho, internationally-linked to solidarity events held worldwide, to give a platform to the moderate majority of Israelis and Palestinians who wish for an end to the conflict, as they propel their elected representatives to sit down and negotiate a two-state solution. The Summit will be free and open to the public; the only “cost” of admission is signing on to the OneVoice Mandate – which calls upon the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to initiate ongoing, immediate, and uninterrupted negotiations, to reach a two-state solution on or before October 18, 2008. There are currently well over 500,000 Israeli and Palestinian signatories to the mandate (in roughly equal numbers on each side), and over 10,000 International supporters – a more detailed and complete breakdown of the numbers is available here.
Thus begins the One Million Voices year-long campaign to make it happen. The process is a two-pronged approach that involves: 1) continuing and intensifying our recruitment process on the ground – we are aiming to get one million Israelis and Palestinians on board through the process – in addition to strengthening the network of youth leaders and activists already in place; and 2) relaying this momentum to the leadership, so that when they sit down to negotiate, they do so knowing that they have a groundswell of support from their constituency – hundreds of thousands of people who are demanding progress and results from them. In the weeks after October 18, 2007, the signed mandates will be physically delivered en masse to the steps of the PLC and the Knesset by delegations of OneVoice volunteers and activists.
One Million Voices is an initiative of the OneVoice Movement, a mainstream nationalist grassroots movement with over half a million signatories in roughly equal numbers both in Israel and in Palestine, and 3,000 highly-trained youth leaders. It aims to amplify the voice of the overwhelming but heretofore silent majority of moderates who wish for peace and prosperity, empowering them to demand accountability from elected representatives and work toward a two-state solution. For One Million Voices, we have been working in conjunction with a world-class Production Team (including Michael Lang of Woodstock and Chris Wangro of Concerts in Central Park) and a host of dignitaries and luminaries who have agreed to be Honorary Co-Chairs and Board Members – such as Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum; Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland; and Stuart Eizenstat, Former Under-Secretary of State.
Q – What do you aim to achieve and are such goals possible?
A – What we aim for is no less than: 1) the broadest, largest simultaneous mass mobilization of citizens in both Israel and Palestine for the sake of ending the conflict; and 2) a two-state solution agreed upon no later than October 18, 2008.
It is an enormously ambitious goal – some might say unrealistic. But the truth of the matter is, we have no other choice but to work for it. The alternative of continued, escalating cycles of violence, terror, occupation, and war is no alternative at all. If the past 40 years of stalemated negotiations have taught us anything, it is that it is not enough for the leaders to be ready to sit down; it is not enough for international diplomats to push for negotiations. For there to be results, the will of both peoples for resolution – both Israelis and Palestinians – has to align, and has to be made manifest. The leaders need to know their people support them and demand results from them; Palestinians need to know Israelis want to end the conflict; Israelis need to know the same of Palestinians. One Million Voices aims to create a shared reality in which Israelis, Palestinians, international supporters, and their leaders clearly see the reality of the moderate majority on both sides, taking an active stand for a two state solution.
Q – Why are you holding a bloggers meet up in New York today (September 24)? What role do you anticipate the bloggers will play? Have you witnessed any positive reconciliation attempts between Palestinian and Israeli bloggers and how vital is building such bridges between bloggers and citizen journalists to your peace initiative?
A – Internet technology and alternative media are making the world an increasingly accessible and interconnected place – allowing international interaction between people on different sides of the globe, or on different sides of a regional conflict. Alternative media like blogs not only create a way for ordinary people to interact, but also to become an active part of ‘making the news’ – as Blogs and the “blogosphere” gains prominence and popularity, it is also changing the way that we think of media, news, and reporting. Now the people can really take part in that process – in determining what is ‘newsworthy’.
Unfortunately, the old adage “if it bleeds, it leads” usually proves true in terms of gaining media attention for positive, non-violent efforts to change the way things are. Blogs are both a compliment and an alternative to traditional media coverage – one that is participatory and user-defined. We hope that bloggers who believe in what we do will use their blogs and their networks to help spread the word – to use their blogs to reach out to other communities and to keep in touch with what we are doing.
Q – How successful has your online campaign been and how much impact is your online activism having on the ground?
A – Well over 500,000 Israelis and Palestinians have signed on. The vast majority of these sign-ups have been on the ground in Israel and Palestine – but with the launch of www.OneMillionVoices.org at the beginning of August, we are beginning to gear up towards a big online push to get people to sign up online. As I mentioned above, the internet provides an incredible opportunity for collaboration between those separated by distance or conflict. A great deal of our International Supporters have come to us through one of our online platforms – which is vital to our programming on the ground. It is critical to demonstrate to Israelis and Palestinians that the international community is with them, is behind them supporting their efforts. And one of the best ways to highlight this is online.