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March 2012 Archives

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending March 30, 2012

1.  Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2.  Reid tries to Rush Through New Iran Sanctions
3. Hold lifted on part of Palestinian aid (with conditions)
4.  Hearings & Confirmations
5.  Members on the Record
6.  From the Press

Note: On 3/27/12 the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a new report on Iran, entitled "Israel: Possible Military Strike Against Iran's Nuclear Facilities".  The report was the subject of a lot of media coverage.  Rather than include that coverage here, we prefer to recommend that people read the report for themselves.

The Story of Passover is the Story of a Journey

Passover2012a186x140.jpg The story of Passover is the story of a journey. As told in the Haggadah, the events leading to the Exodus follow a pattern. But that's in retrospect. Viewed in the moment, the journey must have seemed as inscrutable as the Mideast peace process does today. Even as told in the Torah, it is peopled with multiple characters playing on many stages over many years, with fitful progress followed by inevitable setbacks.

APN Board Elects James Klutznick as its Chair

APN_Logo_Magnifying_Glass_2012_186x140.jpgJo-Ann Mort Vice Chair; Mark Silverberg Secretary/ Treasurer; New Board Members: Rabbi Andy Bachman and Mik Moore

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now announced today the election of James B Klutznick of Chicago as the new Chair of its Board of Directors. In addition, APN's Board re-elected Jo-Ann Mort of New York as its Vice Chair, Mark Silverberg of Cleveland as its Secretary/Treasurer, and approved the appointment of two new Board members: Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn and Mik Moore of New York.

Op-Ed: Stop the excuses, boycott the settlements

boycottwhat186x140.jpgPeter Beinart's recent New York Times article advocating a settlement boycott has sparked a spectacular public display of Jewish angst. Apparently for many who view themselves as the judges, advocates and juries of what is "kosher" progressive Jewish activism, his suggestion is beyond the pale.

They agree that settlements are a problem, even a shonda, but boycott fellow Jews? Heaven forbid. And even if it weren't Jewishly distasteful, it wouldn't work anyway, so don't go there.
Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgAlpher discusses the Israeli high court rejection of the Migron compromise, why Israelis seem oddly relaxed about the dangers of war with Iran, what the murder of Jews in Toulouse by an Islamic extremist tells us about tells us about Islam in Europe that we didn't already know, why the several important dates from this week are indeed so important, and why the Tuareg revolt in Northern Mali may have significance for the Arab revolutions.

With Peace Now, on the Hills of the West Bank

WB SA tour ori map186x140.jpgThere was a lovely surprise at Peace Now's tour of West Bank settlements Friday. Several students from the settlement of Otniel, one of the ideological bastions of the settlement movement, boarded the bus in Jerusalem. Peace Now staffers were concerned that the young settlers and settler-sympathizers were hecklers. "We've had problems in the past with hoodlums who joined our tours only to disrupt," Peace Now's National Activities Coordinator Etai Mizrav told me. 

Legislative Round-Up: Week Ending March 23, 2012

1.  New, Resolutions, and Letters
2.  Hearings
3.  Members on the Record
4.  From the Press

Note:  Last week Jon Stewart's The Daily Show focused on something that has been covered a lot in the Round-Up - the cut-off of aid to UNESCO due to UNESCO's admittance of the Palestinians (based on a law that dates back from an era when the PLO was an FTO and when the term "Palestinian state" was radioactive).  The Daily Show devoted two segments to the topic - both are well-worth watching.  America's Problem with UNESCO Pt. 1; America's Problem with UNESCO Pt. 2

Also of special note:  Reuters 3/23/12: U.S. lawmaker [Key Granger] releases hold on aid to Palestinians

Not Everything that Waddles is a Duck

No Ducks186x140.jpgYusef Munayyer's essay today in Zion Square suggests that it is unhelpful and distracting to debate whether Jewish-Arab relations in the area that is under Israeli rule between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean are Apartheid-like. He goes on to argue that they actually ARE Apartheid. That assertion, somehow, is supposed to be helpful and non-distracting. 

Israeli High Court Hearing Tomorrow: Migron or Rule of Law?

Last month I wrote in the Huffington Post that "As the Illegal Outpost of Migron Goes, So Goes All of Israel."  I noted: "...This decision [on Migron] will be a litmus test of Israeli rule of law and, ultimately, of Israel's capacity to make peace with the Palestinians....should the Israeli government find a way to 'kosher' the settlers' land theft in Migron, it will give a green light for the settlers to build illegally everywhere in the West Bank, knowing that no one, not even the Supreme Court, can or will stop them. In such a case, even if a future Israeli government is more serious about peace than the current one, settler actions on the ground will undoubtedly seek to block any agreement."

That time for that litmus test is now upon us. 

Zionism, Meet Feminism

gender segregation186x140.jpgLetty Cottin Pogrebin is a board member and past president of Americans for Peace Now.  (originally published in Peter Beinart's ZION SQUARE blog on The Daily Beast, February 14, 2012).

In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf wrote, "As a woman my country is the whole world."  I used to believe this; I thought divisions of nation, race, class, and faith could be trumped by a universalist vision of gender equality, justice, and peace.

Then came the UN's Decade for Women. In 1975, its first international conference famously produced the "Zionism is racism" resolution.  Five years later, when the second conference saw virulent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric, threats, and violence, I asked myself, why am I working to liberate women if they're going to turn around and  attack Jews?

APN's Jo-Ann Mort - a Progressive Voice Against BDS

Tonight APN Vice Chair Jo-Ann Mort will take part in a panel discussion in Brooklyn's Temple Beth Elohim entitled, "Progressive Voices Against BDS." If you're in the area and want to attend, you can rsvp here.

Progressive Voices Against BDS.jpg

Call to boycott settlements picks up steam!

Today Peter Beinart, the author of a new and much anticipated book, The Crisis of Zionism, (available on March 27th) published a blockbuster op-ed in the New York Times entitled, "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements". We strongly encourage people to read Peter's piece.  His suggestion - that people who love Israel and care about Israel as a Jewish state and democracy should boycott settlements - is completely consistent with a call APN made in July 2011.  Our call came in the context of the Israeli Knesset passing a disgraceful piece of legislation effectively criminalizing such a boycott - a boycott law that is unlike anything that exists in the U.S. or other progressive, democratic countries. 

Alpher186x140.jpgAlpher discusses escalation between Israel and jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip, assesses the danger that a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Egypt would seek to cancel the peace treaty with Israel, and the trending course of Arab revolutions from Libya and beyond.

Threats on Israel's borders

Don't Prove Walt and Mearsheimer Right

obamaaddressesAIPAC186x140.jpgA recent Saturday Night Live episode opened with a sketch that said a lot about America's views on war with Iran. In the sketch, Andy Samberg, playing Rick Santorum, tells the audience that the coming presidential campaign is about two things: "One, making the family once again the center of our nation's public policy, and two, starting a war with Iran, as a favor to Israel, whether Israel asks us to or not." Samberg forgot to add: "and whether or not it's actually good for the U.S., Israel or the Jews."

Legislative Round-Up: February 18 - March 16, 2012

1.  New Bills & Resolutions
2.  Action on Old Bills & Resolutions
3.  Letters
4.  AIPAC on the Hill
5.  Upcoming Hearings
6.  Past Hearings
7.  Members on the Record
8.  From the Press

Tell Congress to Support Iran Diplomacy, not Iran War

congress320x265.jpgRecently, we asked you to contact your members of Congress to tell them that AIPAC and its supporters don't speak for you when they call for ever-more belligerent U.S. policy on Iran.

Since we sent you that original action alert, there has been an important development: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced HR 4173, the "Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War through Diplomacy Act." This extremely constructive legislation calls for sustained, robust U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis with Iran, including calling for the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran.

Book Review: Jerusalem: The Biography

This is the first in a series of reviews of new books on Middle Eastern affairs. We asked Dr. Gail Weigl, an APN volunteer and a professor of art history, to review Simon Sebag Montefiore's new book Jerusalem: The Biography. Following is her review.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem: The Biography (New York: Knopff, 2011) 650 pp. $35.00

A tour de force of names, dates, dynasties, battles, massacres, archaeology and urban minutiae, Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: The Biography is aptly titled, for the book is a sweeping survey of individuals and their impact on the holy city from antiquity to the present. Readers thus should be forewarned:  if you are looking for a coherent, contextualized study of the history of Jerusalem, this is not the book for you.  If, however, you would enjoy a gossipy narrative of every actor, even tangentially involved with the city -- from the Maccabees to the Ottomans, from American Evangelicals to British anti-Semites -- this irreverent "biography" will not disappoint. 

Peace Parsha: The Character that Creates Peace

peace_parsha_logo186x140.jpg By Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater from the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center in Pasadena, CA.

I had the honor of hearing Israeli President and elder statesman Shimon Peres last week in Los Angeles. Coming off a week where the tenor for war against Iran was being ramped by Prime Minister Netanyahu and in the halls of AIPAC, it was refreshing to hear President Peres say that diplomacy is always the preferred option, that Israel is a nation that values and cherishes peace, and that the morals of our people, based on the Torah, call us to a higher purpose in life than political expediency.

APN to Obama: Prevent Gaza Escalation

Iron-Dome-Israel-320x265.jpgWashington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on the Obama Administration to work with Israel, Egypt, and Palestinian leaders to urgently advance diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire on the Israel-Gaza border. 

Will Nonviolent Protest Spark a 'Palestinian Spring'?

LaraRTR2Y03L-186x140.jpgIt is a now famous story: A young Arab man, fed up with the injustices of life under a military regime, decides he's had enough. By demonstrating his readiness to die to protest these injustices, the man powerfully asserts his own humanity and that of millions of his compatriots. His dramatic display of self-sacrifice inspires millions and his name becomes known across the Middle East and beyond.
Alpher 320x265.jpgAlpher discusses last week's AIPAC conference and Obama-Netanyahu meeting and the talk about Israel, the US and Iran and what happens next.

Amos Oz's Voice of Reason

Amos_Oz_Interview186x140.jpgJerusalem - Last night I watched here a hypnotizing interview with the world's favorite Israeli author, Amos Oz. He mainly spoke about the writing process, about his novels and his childhood and about his friendship with author David Grossman. Oz told Channel Two interviewer Ilana Dayan that after Grossman lost his son, Uri, during the very last hours of Israel's Second Lebanon War in 2006, he drove to Grossman's home at a Jerusalem suburb and begged him not to stop writing. Oz was anxious that losing Uri might paralyze Grossman and silence him as a writer.  

Israelis Skeptical on War with Iran

warIran320x265.jpgJerusalem - On Purim 2012, Israel does not look like a country on the verge of war. Certainly not like a country on the brink of a nuclear holocaust.
Tens of thousands were out on Thursday, in perfect weather, to enjoy marches and masquerades, feasts and festivals. At the entrance to the emergency room of Jerusalem's Shaare Tzedek Hospital, a covered lot that is supposed to turn into a mass triage center in case of a non-conventional war, there were groups of children dressed in colorful costumes, preparing to fan out at the large medical center and entertain the patients.

Tell Congress AIPAC doesn't speak for you on Iran and Israel

congress186x139.jpgRecently, thousands of activists were on Capitol Hill, brought there by AIPAC. They told members of Congress and their staff that they speak for all Americans, and especially American Jews, who care about Israel. These activists told Congress, in effect, to call for war with Iran. They also sent a message that achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace shouldn't be a priority.

Contact your own members of Congress today to tell them: AIPAC's activists don't speak for me.

threelogos186x140.jpgMarch 7, 2012

Americans for Peace Now, J Street and the New Israel Fund today issued their first-ever joint statement condemning the unseemly attack on President Obama by the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. Stephens focuses on the President's association with our organizations and some of our key supporters. This is simply the latest in a litany of partisan attacks on the President for standing for and with the values that are actually at the very heart of the Jewish community.

Let's Not Gamble on Israel


This year, we have seen the Israel Defense Forces, the institution that binds Israel together, attacked - not by Palestinian terrorists or by neighboring armies, but by Israeli citizens, Jewish settlers in the West Bank. In Israel and throughout the world, Jews responded in shock as we saw Jewish extremists attacking not just Palestinians, but other Israelis, including with violence and death threats, as part of an insidious strategy these extremists call "price tag".

Israelis Reluctant on War with Iran

IranMap186x140.jpgWith the drumbeat of war against Iran growing louder in Washington, and as thousands of hardline activists prepare to flood Capitol Hill on Tuesday, the voice of the Israeli public on this issue is all but lost. A new poll by Maryland University and the leading Israeli Dahaf polling firm shows that Israelis, realizing the dire consequences of a military strike on Iran, are not as gung-ho as one might expect.

Yossi Alpher 186x140.jpgAlpher opines on what the Assad regime prevailing in Syria would mean for the Middle East, what Israel and the American Jewish community can do to influence whether or not the Alawite regime in Syria survives, and how Islamist electoral victories thus far (in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait) have already affected civil rights and freedoms.

APN Commends Obama for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Speech


Americans for Peace Now (APN) commends President Obama for an AIPAC speech that was staunchly pro-Israel, unabashedly pro-peace, and responsible yet sober on Iran.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee said: "The President's speech today, before a crowd of thousands at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was a valuable reminder from the leader of Israel's greatest ally that supporting Israel means supporting peace and sparing no effort to avoid war.

Read the letter from APN to Congressional staff on the importance of amending the initiatives being discussed with them by AIPAC, followed by the specific flaws and suggested fixes as seen by APN.

Brian Reeves, a graduate student who interned with APN over the summer, is pursuing his graduate studies at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Following is the second in a series of blog posts commenting on his experience in Israel. Brian is a graduate of Brandeis University, where he was the President of J Street U. Brian_Reeves186x140.jpg

Last week, I joined a group of some 100 Peace Now supporters at a special Knesset session over the future of the illegal outpost of Migron in the wake of the Israeli High Court's verdict to evacuate it by the end of March.

Jo-Ann Mort is vice chair of Americans for Peace Now and a frequent Forward contributor. She is CEO of ChangeCommunications, which works with clients in the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Basil_Pesto186x140.jpgPicture: "Is this pesto really the enemy?"

While I am not a member of the Park Slope Food Coop, I can't help but be pulled into the controversy surrounding a prized neighborhood institution as it debates whether or not to take a position on boycotting Israeli food products.

The following essay was written by APN intern Sarah Oakes: 

As events in Egypt, Syria, and Iran capture media headlines, the Arab-Israeli peace process is at risk of being forgotten by many.
While addressing Iran's nuclear quest or Syria's humanitarian crisis is of utmost importance, it is also crucial that we not give up the fight for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. At such times, it is imperative to remember that not only political differences separate Israelis from Palestinians but also deep-rooted fears and mutual distrust. 

Periods of diplomatic lull, such as the current one, typically further deepen the emotional schism between the two societies, with potential dire consequences. 
ObamaSpeech186x140.jpgIn a few days, President Obama will be speaking in front of thousands of people gathered in Washington for the annual AIPAC policy conference. The day after his speech he will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. It is vital that President Obama hear from you before these events.

Right now, given election politics, it is unrealistic to expect any dramatic U.S. initiative to try to break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock. And for the same reason, President Obama is now under tremendous pressure to "walk back" many of the pro-Israel, pro-peace positions he has staked out over the past three years. Moreover, as the drums of war with Iran beat ever louder in Congress and from AIPAC, Obama is under pressure to lower the bar for U.S. military action against Iran.

Tell President Obama to stay committed to his pro-Israel, pro-peace positions, and his responsible approach on Iran.