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June 2011 Archives

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and Americans for Peace Now (APN) are today starting their joint summer internship program.
ATFP is hosting an Israeli student, and APN is hosting a Palestinian student. This is the third time that ATFP and APN, a pro-Palestinian organization and a pro-Israeli organization, are cooperating on a joint internship program, making it a tradition intended to underscore that Americans who care about Middle East peace - be they Arab or Jewish - have more in common  than what sets them apart. 

Cottage Cheese?

The headlines in Israel today are all about cottage cheese. I'm not kidding. See for yourself. The story is about Israeli popular protest over the rising price of dairy products. Cottage cheese became the symbolic focal point for the protest, and for weeks it has been in the headlines.

Our colleagues in the Israeli Peace Now movement took advantage of the public debate to make the point that Israel's economic situation is directly impacted by the economic costs and the fiscal burden of settlements.

Peace Now released ads in print and through social media channels with the simple message: "This Cottage Costs You More!"

cottage.jpg The ad is based on a picture of cottage-style homes under construction in the settlement of Revava. The photo was taken by Peace Now's Settlement Watch team earlier this year.

Peace Now opposes settlement expansion because it undermines the prospects for resuming peace talks, burdens Israel's limited security resources, and makes a two-state solution more difficult.

APN to Huntsman: Don't be fooled about American Jews

APN today sent the following letter to Governor Jon Huntsman to clarify that most American Jews want to see American policy promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, even if it means that  America sometimes places pressure on all parties -- including Israel -- to achieve this goal. APN's letter follows media reports that the Republican Jewish Coalition has voiced concerns over Huntsman's affiliation with realist foreign policy experts.

APN on the New Gaza Flotilla

Flotilla_Ship_2011_186x140.jpgOn May 31, 2010, Israel confronted an international flotilla seeking to challenge its blockade of Gaza, with tragic results. At that time American for Peace Now (APN) called on Israel to investigate the operation that led to these results and to reassess its Gaza policy. APN noted that the difficult situation presented to Israel by the flotilla underscored the extent to which the continued policy of blockading Gaza was untenable and increasingly indefensible.

Now Israel is facing another flotilla, and it appears that another potential debacle is in the making.

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending June 24, 2011

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Members Weigh in on 1967 lines, Gilad Shalit, the Flotilla, Syria & Egypt
3. HFAC Hearing on Iran and Syria
4. Upcoming HFAC Hearing on aid to the Palestinians
5. Wanting Something for Nothing: The Real Reason Behind the Outrage Over Obama's Reference to 1967 (Shameless plug for my latest oped)
6. Odds & Ends

On the fifth anniversary of the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and with little hope for his near repatriation, what are the lessons for Israel? of the potentials for conflict between Israel and Lebanon that you mentioned recently is gas discoveries under the Mediterranean seabed. What's the short-term issue, and what's the bigger picture? Where does Israel's resource advantage lie? Israel has always been considered a country almost entirely bereft of natural resources.

APN Interview with James Besser

James_Besser.jpgThe New York Jewish Week's Washington correspondent last week published his last column after 24 years of exploring the intersection between the organized Jewish community and Washington politics.

Matti Steinberg on Palestinian Unity

Yesterday, APN cosponsored a standing-room only briefing featuring Professor Matti Steinberg, Israel's preeminent expert on Hamas. 

The other cosponsoring groups were the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the Middle East Institute.  The video for the event is here:

It's not about Zionist summer camp anymore

I've been tempted to write something about Allison Benedikt's piece in the Awl since the moment I read it. It is a brutally honest story of an American Jew who has had to come to terms with the reality that Israel does not always live up to the values that we cherish.
Her story is not unique. Many of us struggle with the dissonance between our values and the image of Israel that we were raised with on the one hand, and what we know of the reality of occupation on the other.

Huffpost_World_Lara_Friedman186x140.jpg(My new piece posted on the Huffington Post)

The outrage over Obama's reference to 1967 lines in the May 19th speech isn't truly about "defensible" borders.  It's about greed. 

Purveyors of right-wing hasbara know Obama didn't demand that Israel return to the 1967 lines or try to impose any border. 

Alpher gives an overview of political developments in Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey; and analyzes the current status of Palestinian unity.

APN Legislative Round-Up: weeks ending June 11 & June 17, 2011

1. Bills, Resolutions and Letters
2. More Grandstanding on Israel, Borders, and Obama
3. Former Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) Defends Obama on Israel
4. New Latino-Jewish Caucus Launched in the House
5. AIPAC Event for Hill Staff on Palestinian UN Effort
6. Odds and Ends

Today, I recommend a slim and eminently readable volume that should be required reading for anyone who ever plays any role in Middle East diplomacy, in either the American, Israeli, or Palestinian governments: How Israelis and Palestinians Negotiate: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Oslo Peace Process.

Don't let Glenn Beck set Jerusalem on fire!

becksmall.jpgShock jock Glenn Beck is planning to hold a rally in Jerusalem in August.

He's calling the event "Restoring Courage." But the location he's chosen shows that what he really wants to do is foster conflict. He's decided to hold the event in East Jerusalem, just outside the Old City, one of the most politically sensitive locations in the world.

VIDEO: "What do you really know about Jerusalem"

Jerusalem_Video_Graphic320x265.jpgThe Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem are getting out of control and endanger the two state solution.

See Peace Now's simplified primer on the status of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu's "insoluble" conflict

If you want to understand why the Obama administration is so angry with Binyamin Netanyahu and his government, read what Netanyahu told Etgar Keret,  one of Israel's leading young authors.

Instead of Blocking, Forward Charge

By Ephraim Halevy 

Three policies have typified Israel's strategy in the region ever since the masses began forcing change all around us: blocking, rolling back and waiting. 

We blocked the masses who thronged on our borders solely by means of weapons; we are bracing ourselves for additional surges on our borders and are focusing our diplomatic efforts on blocking the Palestinian Authority's initiative in the UN General Assembly in September. We are trying to roll back the Fatah-Hamas agreement, and are demanding that Abu Mazen tear up the document of understandings as a precondition for the resumption of negotiations with Israel. We are stockpiling more efficient and new weaponry, and are preparing the troops for a series of identifiable threats, such as the Iranian threat and the threats posed by Hamas and Hizbullah, and for threats that have yet to be identified. Succinctly put, the troops are being prepared for surprises that are larger than the ones we have already had to cope with to date. 

The Palestinian Authority-Hamas Unity Agreement

Palestinian Authority-Hamas Unity Agreement:
An overdue step towards peace or another stone in the road?

A Presentation and Discussion with Dr. Matti Steinberg

A Letter to President Obama

Our letter to President Obama of January 24, printed below, was submitted to him just before the remarkable democratic revolutions began to sweep much of the Arab Middle East. We welcome the President's declaration in his speech of May 19 that these revolutions have made the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict "more urgent than ever." 

When President Obama said in his recent Middle East speech that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," it was treated in many quarters as if the President had introduced a new idea. On the right - in Israel as in the US - the reaction was one of fury; in the solid center, there has been a lot of talk of "Obama's peace plan."

Yet the simple truth is that Israel and the Palestinians have been negotiating on precisely that basis for as long as they've been negotiating - since the secret Oslo talks of 1993.

Alpher gives an interim assessment of what he calls the "Arab revolutionary wave."

Generals weigh-in on '67 lines

IDF General Dov Tamari rips apart the notion -- promoted in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington -- that Israel must retain parts of the West Bank for its defense.

Why is peace in Israel important to you?

Last month I attended an Israel Week event at the University of Maryland. I was there in two capacities: as an intern for APN and as a graduate student at Maryland.

On campus, we asked my fellow students to tell us why peace in Israel is important to them.

Their responses are powerful. There's pro-peace energy on campus. Many college students are like me: We know that without peace, Israel's very existence in danger.

Nimoy's APN Letter Makes News

Nimoy_Logo_Collage186x140.jpgActor and activist Leonard Nimoy's letter in support of a two-state solution and Americans for Peace Now has made news around the globe (and probably inter-galactically given the postings on "" and "TrekToday").

See headlines and links to all the articles.

APN at NY Israel Day Parade

Dozens of our supporters marched yesterday at the annual Israel solidarity parade in New York. Click "play" for a short presentation.

Leonard Nimoy: I'm a supporter of APN


I reach out to you as someone who is troubled to see the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians continue apparently without an end in sight.

In fact, there is an end in sight. It's known as the two-state solution... The problem is how to reach that end point. It's something we should be concerned about--not only as world citizens, but as Americans.

Alpher answers questions about this weekend's breach of the Golan border fence, and the recent public comments of ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

Jerusalem: Facts and Figures

A new compendium of facts and figures about Jerusalem, published by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on the occasion of "Jerusalem Day," a national Israeli holiday intended to celebrate the so-called "reunification" of Jerusalem, shows how this holy city is becoming poorer, less developed and more religiously zealous than other Israeli communities.

First, population figures. The overall population - Jewish and Palestinian, in West and East Jerusalem - is 789,000 (2010 numbers), of them 285,000 are Arabs (36%) and 504,000 are Jews (and other non-Arabs (a negligible number of foreign workers and other foreigners), who account for 64% of the population.
June4Demo186x140.jpgAround 5,000 people participated in a march that was organized under the title 'Netanyahu said no - We say yes to a Palestinian state'.

The march ended with a rally at the Tel Aviv Museum. MKs Dov Khenin (Hadash) and Zahava Galon (Meretz) and playwright Yehoshua Sobol gave speeches.

"Members of the U.S. Congress won't be the ones who will pay the price of the next war," Sobol said. "When Netanyahu said no to the 1967 borders, he said no to peace."  Read more at
Jerusalem Day fell on June 1 this year, neatly between two Fridays and, for me, two editions (so to speak) of "Reading the Conflict." Last week I recommended The Hour of Sunlight, the remarkable memoir of a Palestinian Jerusalemite who moved from bomb-building to co-existence efforts, his story providing a powerful glimpse into the lives lived on the other side of Israel's "undivided" Jerusalem.

This week, I recommend Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem, because as important as personal stories are, the facts and figures point to a broader painful truth: Israel's discrimination against Jerusalem's Palestinian residents has been systematic, entirely intentional, and designed to create and hasten a mass exodus of Palestinians, from the earliest days of Israeli control.

By Uzi Baram

Even Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the choice facing Israel is not between the need to deflect Obama's positions and continuing life as we know it. The choice is between turning President Obama into a real partner and abandoning Israel to its fate against the nations of the world and the region, isolated and neglected like South Africa, which I visited right before the regime change in 1994. We must not interpret the applause at Congress as a sign of a strategic change. It will not determine the future.

James Carroll blasts Christian right, Netanyahu

JamesCarroll186x140.jpgAPN yesterday hosted award winning novelist James Carroll for a conversation about Jerusalem on the occasion of "Jerusalem Day," a national Israeli holiday marking the so-called "reunification of Jerusalem."

Carroll had strong words about the fundamentalist Christian right's support for of the most extremist Israeli ultra-nationalists, who reject any territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

Present at the Periphery: A Personal History

Fein video still 186x140.jpg
"Things today aren't the way they used to -- and they never were."

I'm no longer sure.  I think back -- way back, these days -- to a more innocent time, a time of ingathering the exiles, making the desert bloom, draining the swamps, a more or less egalitarian society, the centrality of the kibbutz, and all the revisionist histories notwithstanding, there remains a chasm between Israel pre-1967 and the last 44 years.  True, the early years were very far from the Heavenly Jerusalem, but hey, these were Jews who knew how to grab hold of history and turn it in the direction of their choosing.  

APN Briefing call with James Carroll

JamesCarroll186x140.jpgOn Jerusalem Day, APN hosted celebrated author James Carroll for a discussion about what Jerusalem means to Israelis and to Palestinians, about the role that it plays in the conflict, and about the relationship between the celestial and the terrestrial Jerusalem.

Today, the Israeli Peace Now movement organized a tour of Jerusalem for Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including members of parliament.