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Tolerance, please!

Our intern Benjamin Kasdan wrote the following piece about a disturbing experience, after helping us organize an event in Washington:

As I was leaving an event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sponsored by Americans for Peace Now earlier this month, an elderly man who noticed that I was carrying an APN sign approached me and asked me if I worked with APN. When I responded that I did, he called me a self-hating Jew, and told me that I should be ashamed of myself.

The encounter shocked me and has been troubling me ever since. Has our community really become that intolerant?

Our American-Jewish Stake in Israeli Democracy

This blog post was written by APN intern Brian Reeves.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's support for two upcoming bills aimed at preventing progressive Israeli non-governmental organizations from receiving anything more than token funding represents only the most recent in a string of anti-democratic measures that the current governing coalition has instigated against Israel's democratic character.

Washington, DC - As the Knesset prepares for a vote on yet another anti-democratic bill, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is calling on fellow American Jewish organizations to help protect Israeli tolerance, democracy and civil rights. 
Later today Israel's Knesset is set to vote on a bill that would establish McCarthy-like "parliamentary inquiry panels" to investigate human rights and social justice groups. One of the measure's chief supporters, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, earlier this week labeled such groups "terror organizations."  This vote comes after last week's vote, in which the Knesset passed a bill that in effect outlaws calling for the boycott of products made in West Bank settlements. Many more bills targeting Israeli civil society groups, including those fighting for peace, human rights and civil rights, are awaiting Knesset approval. 

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.

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.

APN on Criticism of Israel and BDS - New Policy Language

APN today released new policy language on the recently increasing growing public criticism of Israel, including the efforts to boycott Israel, divest from it and sanction it (known as the BDS movement).  The purpose of the new document is to clarify the often foggy discussion over this issue in America's pro-Israel community and to make clear what APN supports and opposes.  the full text of the policy is included after the break.

Ron Lauder Doesn't Speak for the Jews

Today World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder published an open letter taking President Obama to task over his Middle East policy.    Which is his prerogative - everyone is entitled to their opinion.  But Lauder goes a step too far when he claims to speak not only for himself but for Jews everywhere.  Lauder - as a Republican American Jew - is by definition part of a small minority of American Jews (the vast majority of American Jews are Democrats and voted for Obama), and part of an even smaller number of Jews the world over (who are not invested in American partisan politics).  

Lauder all but accuses Obama of being anti-Israel - of acting in ways that have caused the "deterioration of diplomatic relations" between Israel and the US.  But that's not all.  Lauder, still speaking on behalf of Jews everywhere, demands answers.  

What chutzpah!

US Christian Group Raising Funds to Block the Two-State Solution

Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) - a US non-profit organization dedicated to supporting settlements, and especially settlements in the West Bank heartland - is raising funds these days using a very simple message: help us block the two-state solution.  And we are not talking small money here: according to CFOIC's tax filings, in 2008 the group sent $1.1 million in cash support for West Bank settlers (as well as for settlers removed from Gaza).

CFOIC's latest fundraising pitch (click here to view/download a copy), sent out in an email this morning, ends with the following exhortation:

"Today even many who support Israel's right to exist and to have safe and secure borders have adopted the two-state solution concept.  But even if the whole world should choose this as the answer, as all major governments have, God's children must never compromise. Our only real choice is to stand firm on the word of God!  I choose to stand with the residents of Judea and Samaria. Will you join me? Even in these tough economic times, by making a generous contribution to support the people of Judea and Samaria, the people who are standing on God's word by living on His land, you, too, are choosing to stand on His word and to be blessed!Stand with Israel and Donate Now..."

For more fun from CFOIC, check out their "Save Israel" video...

The ADL Should Reconsider

The ADL's ad in yesterday's New York Times (August 4, 2009) was troubling. My colleague, Ori Nir -- who has known ADL National Director Abe Foxman for years -- wrote a heartwrenching post in response, concluding that:

In Friday's Legislative Round-Up I highlighted a new letter being circulated in the Senate by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and James Risch (R-ID).  The (link has expired) letter,  which is the top item on the "Take Action" page on the (link has expired) AIPAC website, focuses exclusively on President Obama's call for Arab states to take steps to normalize relations with Israel, making no mention of the president's call for Israel to stop settlement activity (and implying that steps Israel has already taken - like removing some checkpoints and PM Netanyahu's belated support for the two-state solution - are sufficient demonstration of Israel's commitment to the peace process).

This morning, APN sent a message to every Senate office urging Senators to refrain from signing the letter unless and until it is amended to also reflect the real steps to achieve peace the President Obama has asked Israel to take.  Full text of the APN letter to the Senate after the jump.