One Voice and the Labor Party

One Voice claims to be non-partisan, but is in fact in close cahoots with labor party members. This incestuous relationship may be legal, but it stinks.

The organization known as One Voice promotes a two-state solution and presents itself as “non-partisan.” But is it? · A Mida investigation exposes the direct ties between the organization and the Labor Party, which uses it to promote party politicians. · This is how the world of NGOs plays dirty politics.

One jarring voice; Tal Harris and former Palestinian Prisoners' Minister Ashraf al-Ajarmi. Youtube Screenshot

One Voice, a “political and non-partisan” organization which promotes a two-state solution, has been in the headlines in Israel in the past few days. But a closer examination reveals significant ties to the Labor Party and raises serious suspicions that Labor has used One Voice to promote Labor politicians as well as diplomatic initiatives of the more radical branch of the party.

One Voice was founded in 2002 by businessman Daniel Lubetzky, with branches in Tel Aviv, London, New York, and Ramallah. Lubetzky and One Voice won the Hussein Leadership Prize for 2005, funded by the King Hussein Foundation. Present at the awards ceremony were former President Bill Clinton and Former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan.

Thus, One Voice initiates meetings with ostensibly moderate Palestinians such as Ashraf al-Ajrami, who stated in 2008 as the Palestinian Prisoners' Minister, that the language of peace is insufficient with regards to Israel and that more soldiers should be kidnapped. Statements such as this are ignored in One Voice, which has no problem making al-Ajarmi a member.

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

As of November 2013, the head of One Voice was Tal Harris. On his watch, Avishai Braverman, Labor MK, was appointed a head of the organization's executive in 2009. Around the same time in 2009-2010, Nadav Galon, son of Meretz MK Zahava Galon served as Braverman's media advisor and even tried to help him win the Party leadership in 2010. In 2011, Galon provided his services to businessman Arel Margalit, today a Labor MK, to help him run for the same job. In November of that year, a strange coincidence occurred, when One Voice recruited Galon – the media advisor of both Braverman and Margalit as the person in charge of foreign and government relations.

Margalit and Braverman’s warm relations with One Voice benefit both of them. In 2010, at an evening event at Tel Aviv University hosted by One Voice and featuring Braverman and Silvan Shalom, One Voice trumpeted its non-partisan nature without mentioning Braverman's leading role therein.

Another interesting coincidence happened in December 2012. During the primary elections of the Labor Party, in which Arel Margalit participated, One Voice, then under Harris and Margalit's former media advisor Galon, decided to host Margalit in a one-man lecture event at Tel Aviv University with the headline "Can Social Justice be Achieved Without a Political Settlement?"

A coincidence? Screenshot from the 'One Voice' facebook page promoting Labor member Arel Margalit

Promotion without Transparency

Such events do much to promote and increase awareness of politicians, yet One Voice never publicly notes the role of the same politicians within its own “non-partisan” organization.

Braverman's relationship with One Voice is legally problematic. Basic Law: The Knesset Members Immunity Law (1951) clearly states that an Knesset Member may not engage in any additional dealings – even voluntarily and for free – if this can result in a conflict of interest. As we saw, although One Voice presents itself as ”non-partisan,” there are close connections between Labor Party members who engage in openly political activity through it.

In addition to Braverman, Margalit, and Galon, here are a few more Labor officials who are active in One Voice: Assaf Halachmi, one of One Voice's founders and an active member in the Labor Party; Fara Khodorov, head of the Israel branch of UNICEF and Shimon Peres's advisor from 1996-2002; Collete Avital, former Labor MK; David Laflar, former director-general of the Science Ministry and Labor member; Efraim Sneh, longtime Labor member; and Alon Liel, who made an unsuccessful primary bid in the Labor Party, and today serves on the public council of B'Tselem.

The Work of One Voice Senior Members

Other senior members of One Voice have had no problem in participating in the Labor Party in ways which can in no way be defined as “political” but “non-partisan.” For instance, in May 2012 Harris himself ran for the Young Guard of the Labor Party, openly declaring that, "If Bibi wants to be Tourism Minister under [then party head Shelly Yachimovich]…we'll consider it." On September 2012, he was elected to the Labor Party branch in Ra'anana.

On January 2013, two days before the last general elections, Assaf Halachmi, one of the founders of One Voice, published a public call to action on the official Labor Party page:

Led by Shelly Yachimovich, the Labor Party…returned to a position of leadership in the opposition and is the only one to present a true alternative to right-wing rule in Israel.…[S]o let us unite around those who truly lead us honestly and with full faith in the rightness of our path – the path of the Labor Party.

Behind the scenes of One Voice: (from right to left) Avishai Braverman, Hilik Bar and Arel Margalit. Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90

Active in the Knesset as well

The constant efforts of the dual Labor Party-One Voice members continue unabated in spite of the fall of Shelly Yachimovich, now in the service of Isaac Herzog. In April 2013, General Secretary of the Labor Party Hillik Bar invited party representatives to its ninth conference. Among the issues on the agenda was the establishment of an "Ideological Diplomatic Committee." On the founding committee sits one Tal Harris, head of One Voice. A month later, Bar launched the political lobby to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along with One Voice – whose head had just been appointed head of the Labor Party's own "Ideological Diplomatic Committee." Two particularly prominent names in this lobby are Avishai Braverman and Arel Margalit.

Time and again, One Voice and members of the lobby claim that they are a cross-party initiative, in spite of the clear and prominent ties to one specific party. Even if all this activity is technically legal, it is also deeply deceptive, corrupting both the NGO and political sectors. It's time for a stronger separation of the two.

Response of 'One Voice' Spokesman Roi Neuman:

One Voice has never received money from any political party, and any hint of this is fundamentally incorrect. We are a non-partisan organization which always worked with parties from across the political spectrum – right, left, and center. All our conduct is done in accordance with Israeli law and its spirit.

We have not yet received responses from Avishai Braverman or Arel Margalit.

English translation by Avi Woolf.

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