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March 2011 Archives

Dissent: "American Jews & Israel" by Sarah Leonard

Sarah_Leonard.jpgI know well enough that the feelings toward Judaism and Israel instilled through my upbringing stalk my rational disinterest. These deep-rooted feelings give rise to such impossible desires as that the Jewish state should be different--more just, more compassionate, more understanding of oppression and tragedy--than any other.

Sarah Leonard is an editorial assistant at Dissent and an editor at The New Inquiry. This article first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Dissent Magazine.
Jo-Ann_Mort.jpg"Why would you want to live in Israel?" Irving Howe asked me, his voice rising in bemusement.

It was 1981, and we were at Leo's Coffee Shop on Madison Avenue near 86th Street. I was two years out of Sarah Lawrence College, struggling to be a poet in New York City, but enveloped in my quest for Jewish identity, as I had been pretty much my whole life.

My first trip to Israel--two intense weeks--had made me obsessed with the country and confused about my place: was it in Israel or in New York? I was certain that Irving would have an answer for me.

Minority and Civil Rights in Israel

The American Task Force on Palestine, 
Americans for Peace Now, Churches for Middle East Peace, Foundation for Middle East Peace, New Israel Fund and Project Engage

invite you to a Panel Discussion on 

"Minority & Civil Rights in Israel: Working Towards a Shared Future" 
Tuesday, April 5, 9:00-11:00 AM
Choate Room, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Featuring the following Panelists:
Mr. Jafar Farah
Director, The Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel
Ms. Amal ElSana AlHjooj
Co-Executive Director, Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED)
Founding Director, Arab Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC)

  Ms. Einat Hurvitz 
Director of Legal & Public Policy Dept., Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) 

Dr. Alla Shainskaya 
Chairmwoman, "Our Heritage, Charter for Democracy"

Ms. Tammy Katsabian
Legal Expert, Tmura Center, The Israel Antidiscrimination Legal Center

The panelists, prominent civil society leaders and representative of several different ethnic and religious groups within Israel, will discuss many of the challenges they face in their struggles for civil rights and their role in the larger conversation about democracy, stability and peace in the Middle East.

To RSVP please email: or call 202-887-0177.
Americans for Peace Now, New Israel Fund, The Mossawa Center: The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, and Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)

invite you to a discussion on

Democracy in the Middle East: 
Implications for Israel and the Palestinian Minority, and Moving Toward a Shared Future  

The Busboys and Poet's Peace Café
Busboys and Poets at 5th & K (The Cullen Room)
1025 5th Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
Wednesday April 6, 2011
6:00 pm- 8:00 pm
RSVP to Sarah (
Event is free.

Join us for a panel discussion as part of Busboys and Poet's ongoing series, Peace Café, which brings together Arabs, Jews and those working toward a resolution to the conflict in the Middle East. The focus is on encouraging individuals from various backgrounds to share food, conversation and discussion.

The evening will feature a panel with: 

Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel
Amal ElSana AlHjooj, Co-Executive Director of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED) and the founding director of AJEEC - NISPED's Arab Jewish Center for Equality.
Einat Hurvitz, Director of the Legal and Public Policy Departments at the Israel Religious Action Center.
Alla Shainskaya, Chairwoman of the Board of "Our Heritage, Charter for Democracy" and member of the B'tselem Board. 
Tammy Katsabian, an L.L.M candidate at Yale Law School. 

The A-Word in Hebron

By Letty Cottin Pogrebin

You've probably read about the situation in the West Bank city of Hebron, where some 800 Jewish settlers live in the midst of 170,000 Palestinians. But being there is something else. Being there can make you sick to your stomach; being there you can't help thinking of the "A-word."

[Kahanist] Skinheads in Jerusalem

Maariv, one of Israel's major Hebrew-language newspapers, reported this week on a new and disturbing development: Jewish skinheads in Jerusalem who, among other things, are "travelling to particularly sensitive spots and inciting against Arabs." 

The article, which has not been picked up by the English-language press, notes that "One expression of the new phenomenon was seen last Wednesday, after the terror attack in Jerusalem: Several skinheads attacked Arab passers-by near the site of the attack outside the Jerusalem International Convention Center, including one Arab woman from East Jerusalem." 

Full article (translation by Israel News Today), after the break.

Tel_Aviv_Conference_3-11.jpgOver 700 people attended a first-of-its-kind peace camp conference last Friday, which Israel's Peace Now movement hosted and organized.

In the settlement of Kiryat Arba, Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project, told our delegation from Americans for Peace Now, "From here, only Israelis can enter Hebron by car; Palestinians have to go on foot." I thought she was joking. She wasn't.

Pogrebin is a founding editor of Ms. Magazine, the author of nine books, and is a past president of Americans for Peace Now.

Articles on the Knesset Hearings on J Street

The outrage of holding these hearings was best expressed by the head of Americans for Peace Now. "The attempt to delegitimize an American organization that supports Israel and works tirelessly to engage tens of thousands of Americans in pro-Israel activity is bad for Israel," said Debra DeLee.

Washington Jewish Week: "For The Love Of Israel?"
Chicago Jewish News: "Nutty, crazy, wackadoodle"

Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgIs the growing unrest in Syria more significant for Israel than similar developments elsewhere in the Arab world?

Why is the September 2011 deadline for declaring a Palestinian state seemingly so "sacred" to the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank?

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa is generally understood to be the leading candidate to be elected the next president of Egypt. How significant is this for Israel?

The garment unions went on to build a type of unionism nearly unique then, providing a pathway into the American dream and eventually the American middle class.

March 25, 1911, started out like any other Shabbat for the scores of immigrant workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.

Palin's Common-Sense Ignorance (or Indifference) on Settlements


...there is nothing common-sense about Palin's comments during her recent visit to Israel, where she reportedly
criticized President Obama for objecting to Israeli settlement expansion, suggesting that settlement construction is simply a local Israeli "zoning issue."

Jerusalem bombing must be a wake up call

Yesterday's bus bombing in Jerusalem -- the first bombing inside Jerusalem in four years -- needs to be a wakeup call for us and for the Obama administration: Unless there is progress towards peace, violence will fill the void.

Click here to read APN's statement condemning the Jerusalem bombing.

Indeed, this bombing is one more sign of a dangerous escalation in Israeli-Palestinian violence: Rockets fired from the Gaza strip this week struck Ashkelon and Beer Sheva, far deeper into Israeli territory than any rocket fired since the end of the 2009 Gaza War. Israel has stepped up military strikes in Gaza. One such strike unintentionally killed 4 Palestinian civilians (3 of them teenagers) on Monday.

APN Condemns Jerusalem Bus Bombing

APN Condemns Jerusalem Bus Bombing; Calls on President Obama to Act to Prevent Escalation and Re-launch Peace Talks

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now strongly condemns the bombing in Jerusalem today. APN extends its condolences to the family of the woman killed in the horrendous attack and wishes fast recovery to those injured.

This latest attack - the first major terrorist attack in Jerusalem in three years, coupled with the recent attack in the settlement of Itamar and the escalating security situation between Israel and the Gaza Strip - underscores the danger posed by the current stalemate on the Israeli-Palestinian track.  APN calls on the Obama administration to engage urgently to prevent further escalation and bloodshed.

APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee said:

"Today's terrorist attack in Jerusalem is reprehensible and outrageous. Coming on the heels of last week's terrible murders in the settlement of Itamar and the recent rocket attacks from Gaza, it demonstrates the urgent need for decisive action to end the stalemate and re-launch credible Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

"Recent history demonstrates how quickly Palestinian terrorism and Israeli retaliation can escalate into far more intense and deadly conflict, with dire implications not only for the safety and security of civilians on both sides - already the casualties include a family massacred by terrorists in the West Bank last week, four Palestinian civilians unintentionally killed by a stray Israeli mortar shell in Gaza this week, and now today's repugnant terrorist attack.

"Clearly, President Obama and his Mideast policy staff have a lot on their plates with the US engagement in Libya and the turmoil in Bahrain, Yemen, and other parts of the region. Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, left unattended, will make their lives increasingly complicated and their efforts elsewhere in the region much more difficult.  Such an escalation has dire implications, too, for the unsettled political situation in countries across the region.  At this important and delicate juncture in Middle East politics, it is vital to U.S. credibility and U.S. interests that such an escalation be prevented.  The Obama Administration must be able to multi-task if it is to avoid such an eventuality.

"We call on President Obama to urgently address the situation. He must deal with this personally, engaging with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Abbas, and rallying regional allies like Egypt and Turkey to convince Hamas to end rocket attacks on Israel.

We reiterate our call on the Obama Administration to take dramatic action and demonstrate leadership to re-start a credible, productive peace effort - one that will restore hope among both peoples and one that will pave the way for a peace agreement in the near future."
Jslem_Bus_Bombing_3-23-11.jpgAmericans for Peace Now strongly condemns the bombing in Jerusalem today. APN extends its condolences to the family of the woman killed in the horrendous attack and wishes fast recovery to those injured.

Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgWhat are the ramifications...of the past week's turn of events in the Arab revolutionary wave, with Saudi troops entering Bahrain and the western powers attacking Libya on the basis of a UN mandate for international intervention? The "solution" for Libya seems radically different. Why?

Connection between new wave of Palestinian unity efforts and escalated mortar attacks from Gaza?

The Missing Elements in the Debate Over Palestinian Incitement

In a development that should surprise no one, letters are circulating this week in both the House and Senate denouncing Palestinian incitement - actions or words that impel Palestinians to commit acts of violence against Israelis - and connecting such incitement to last week's heinous murders in the settlement of Itamar.  The House letter, being circulated by Reps. Rothman (D-NJ) and Austria (R-OH), calls on President Obama to do all in his power to "insist that President Abbas reenters peace talks, without preconditions, and demand that President Abbas eliminate all vestiges of incitement coming from his government, Palestinian entities, or officials."  The Senate letter, being circulated by Sens. Kirk (R-IL) and Gillibrand (D-NY), addressed to Secretary Clinton, demands that the Palestinian Authority "stop allowing the incitement that leads to such crimes [as the one committed in Itamar]."

Yes, incitement is a serious issue and it is right for Congress to be concerned.  Palestinian endorsement of violence and hate speech continue to be a problem.  APN has consistently called on - and continues to call on - the PA to address this very troubling issue.

However, both letters are flawed, focusing solely on this one aspect of a problem that has many facets:  

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 3/18/11

APN Legislative Round-Up
     for the week ending
      March 18, 2011

1.  Bills & Resolutions
2.  House & Senate Letters Condemn Palestinian Incitement (and ONLY Palestinian Incitement)
3.  Blatantly Partisan RSC Effort to Exploit Murder in Settlement
4.  Ackerman on Egyptian Gas Shipments to Israel
5. Members of Congress "Interpret" the Itamar Murders
6. Senator Kerry on the Middle East (at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
6. Odds & Ends

Originally published in Haaretz

On quite a few occasions this week, my mobile phone vibrated with text messages from the settlers' lobby, Yesha. Once it was a quote from Minister Gideon Sa'ar (we must resume construction in Judea and Samaria ). Another time it was a quote from Minister Gilad Erdan (stop holding up the construction tenders in Judea and Samaria ). The third time it was a quote from MK Zeev Elkin (it's time to build cities in Judea and Samaria ). The fourth time it was a quote from MK Yariv Levin (I demand the cabinet and Minister Barak approve construction in Judea and Samaria cities at once! ). The fifth time it was a quote from Minister Moshe Ya'alon (out of the mourning we must build and develop the settlements in Judea and Samaria ). "Not Every Day is Purim"


"when it comes to Israel, there are those in our US Jewish community who not only choose to live in a delusional virtual reality, but insist on dragging others into their la-la land. It is bad for Israel and bad for America."

Read the entire opinion piece by Ori Nir, APN Spokesman:

A Man, A Plan by David Remnick

Psychobiography in politics is ordinarily a mug's game. Sometimes, though, an assessment of inherited traits and ideologies can be telling. For years, Israeli and American commentators have been waiting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave behind the right-wing Revisionist ideology of his father, Benzion, a historian of the Spanish Inquisition, and, like Nixon leaving for China, end the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Just as Nixon set aside decades of Cold War ideology and Red-baiting in the interests of practical global politics, Netanyahu would transcend his own history, and his party's, to end the suffering of a dispossessed people and regain Israel's moral standing.

Comments by Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman

This is a translation of an excerpt of his comments as shown by the Israeli news site Walla:

"Where are all those who incite against the Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria?

"There's a need to study the link between the unending incitement from within Israel -- the people of Peace Now, the human rights (groups), doctor's rights (a possible reference to Physicians for Human Rights?), the rights of whatever. I want to see what they say and whether there's a connection between their statements and the despicable murder that took place here...

Where is (Peace Now Director Yariv) Oppenheimer? ... They are delegitimizing the people who live here and grant legitimacy to the people who attack them."

"This silence, including the Supreme Court, including the judiciary, including the law enforcement system, who do not deal with the inciters from within and those who are responsible for everyone on the internet being able to see how to prepare explosives tomorrow, and how to murder."

Click here for the video footage.
Yossi Alpher 3.jpgYossi Alpher writes about the effect the murders at the Itamar settlement will have on the peace process, and on the new peace initiative Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed to be preparing prior to the attack. 

Israel's Peace Now movement is publishing this ad on Monday, March 14th in the Jerusalem Post. Similar ads in Hebrew are published in the Hebrew language Israeli press.

APN Press Release: Condemnation of Murder in Itamar

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now strongly denounces the murder of an Israeli couple and their three children at the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank on Saturday. APN extends its condolences to the families of those murdered in the attack.

"This attack is horrifying. We strongly condemn it. We hope that the Israeli and Palestinian security forces will act to find the perpetrators," Said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO. "The leaders of the Palestinian Authority acted appropriately by immediately and unequivocally condemning the attack, and Prime Minister Netanyahu appropriately warned Israeli settlers against acts of retribution," DeLee added.

APN urges the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to fight violent extremists on both sides, while redoubling their efforts to negotiate peace.

For more information contact Ori Nir at 202-408-9898 or

Itamar_Funeral_B&W186x140.jpgWashington, D.C -- Americans for Peace Now today strongly denounces the murder of an Israeli couple and their three children at the settlement of Itamar in the West Bank on Saturday. APN extends its condolences to the families of those murdered in the attack.

Thank you!

Thank you for writing to Congress.

Your letter helps us show Congress that there is a big constituency in America that wants peace and encourages vibrant - and fact-based - debate.

Help us spread the word!

Click here to share this Action Alert on Facebook.

"No Israeli occupation" in the West Bank?

Congressman Anthony Weiner said last week that there was "no Israeli occupation" in the West Bank and that there were no Israeli troops there.

Click here to see what he said.

His comments reveal either a lack of knowledge about the situation on the ground or a disregard for the facts in order to appeal to a constituency that is not willing to hear the whole story.

Either way, it's unacceptable.
Anthony_Weiner_'No_Occupation'.jpgAPN's Debra DeLee sent Rep. Anthony Weiner (far right) the following letter after he claimed that there was "no Israeli occupation" and no Israeli troops in the West Bank:

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 3/11/11

APN Legislative Round-Up
     for the week ending
      March 11, 2011

1.  Bills & Resolutions
2.  House Doubles Down on Jerusalem (undivided capital, embassy, settlements, etc)
3. HFAC/MESA Middle East Hearing - Statements and Ackerman's Plea for Egypt
4.  President Obama Nominates Dan Shapiro to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel
5. APN Defends UNRWA Funding
6. Secretary Clinton Back on the Hill
7.  Odds & Ends

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed outrage at the Israeli Knesset's decision to hold a hearing on the activities of J Street, a fellow pro-Israel organization that works in the United States to advance peace for a secure and democratic Israel.

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today warmly welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to nominate Daniel B. Shapiro to serve as the US Ambassador to Israel.
"Dan Shapiro is an excellent candidate for this important position. He knows Israel, knows the issues, feels strongly about the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and about the importance of peace for a secure and democratic Israel," said Debra DeLee, APN's president and CEO.

I was very happy to take part on a J Street conference panel examining the question of "linkage" between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and broader American interests in the region and around the world.   My fellow panelists were Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (ret), Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress.  The panel was moderated by Mort Halperin (Vice-Chair, J Street Board of Directors) and the panel's chair was Ken Bob (President of Ameinu).  Video of the panel can be viewed here.  The audio isn't great, so be prepared to turn up your speakers...

Tell Congress: Cutting this aid could come back to bite us.

An effort is underway in the House of Representatives to cut U.S. funding for a UN group that provides key humanitarian support for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Cutting U.S. funding risks destabilizing an already rocky situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Tell your Representative to support President Barack Obama's request to continue U.S. funding for UNRWA at last year's level.

OutpostLieverman.jpgToday the Israeli press was full of headlines reporting that the government of Israel has declared that it will remove all West Bank outposts on private Palestinian land by the end of the year.  This sounds like great news, until you read a bit further, and notice that the second part of this new policy is that the government plans to legalize ALL other outposts in the West Bank.  Peace Now's Hagit Ofran and I prepared the following analysis of the new policy:

What's Behind Netanyahu's "Peace Plan"

BiBiWB 186x140.jpgIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is reportedly seeking an invitation to speak to both houses of Congress in the coming weeks to unveil a new political plan. Netanyahu was initially planning to present the plan at AIPAC's annual conference on May 22, but he is now reportedly planning to come to Washington earlier.

Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgAlpher discusses the reported new Israeli peace initiative from Netanyahu, and what is behind it. Also, what explains the small amount of 'revolutionary actions' on the Palestinian and Syrian street.

Outposts_with_Flag186x140.jpgNetanyahu's government responds to petition submitted by Peace Now regarding six contentious outposts; homes built on non-private still subject to debate.

By Chaim Levinson

READ Ha'aretz

See Related Articles from Bloomberg and Ynet
Last week I was interviewed by the Arab American Institute's Maya Berry on a live episode of Viewpoint, commenting on the J Street conference, the peace process in general, the Obama Administration, Congress, etc.  You can check it out here.

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending 3/4/11

APN Legislative Round-Up
     for the week ending
      March 4, 2011

1.  Bills & Resolutions
2.  Secretary Clinton on the Hill
3.  Ros-Lehtinen Keeps Her Sights on the UN (and UNRWA)
4.  CENTCOM Commander Articulates "Linkage" at SASC Hearing
5. HFAC/MESA Subcommittee Hearing 3/10/11 on the Middle East   
6.  Pro-Peace Funding Letter Circulating in House
7.  Weiner Picks a Fight with the State Department Over Jerusalem
8.  Gohmert - At It Again (another incomprehensible rant)
9.  Odds & Ends

CENTCOM Chief Emphatically Articulates Linkage

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 3/1/11, Gen. James Mattis, Commander, US Central Command (CENTCOM) spoke at length about the Middle East (video of the hearing can be viewed here).  He noted that among a host of external influences on the CENTCOM area of operations, the "most significant" include issues related to Middle East Peace (or the lack of progress toward it).  Not only did Gen. Mattis explicitly make this linkage, but Middle East Peace was FIRST on his list of external influences.

Specifically, General Mattis testified (emphasis added):

Weiner_Collage2_186x140.jpgRoger COHEN: "No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right?"
U.S. Representative Anthony WEINER: "Yes."

Cohen: "You're saying there's no IDF presence in the West Bank?" Weiner: "Yes"

The post utilizes and provides a link to APN's "Facts on the Ground" interactive map to illustrate the false claim...

READ and see the VIDEO from
February 26, 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery. 

The Talmud says that what cannot be accomplished by reason is often accomplished by time. For us, sadly, the opposite is true. What reason cannot preserve, time will destroy. I'm talking about the democratic state of Israel.

At least 70 outposts are located on private Palestinian land

Hagit_Lara_Wallpaper186x140.jpgBy Hagit Ofran and Lara Friedman

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday declared his intention to evacuate illegal settlement outposts that are located on private Palestinian land.  This declaration reportedly applies to "at least 3 outposts."