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Blog: January 2011 Archives

Egypt_Million+_Rally.jpgWASHINGTON (JTA) -- There is the old joke that "denial is not just a river in Egypt." And indeed it is true.

The Nile is the longest river in the world, along whose shores the Egyptian people continue their unprecedented protests, demanding an end to the Mubarak era. But denial also is the increasingly discordant notes sounded by some elements in the American Jewish community and in Israel seeking to attack and discredit the protests and lobby for a return to the pre-Jan. 25 status quo in Egypt.

Q&A on Developments in Egypt - Professor Stephen Zunes at MSNBC

These days it seems like suddenly everyone who gets in front of the camera is presenting him-/herself as an expert on Egypt -- its history, its domestic politics, its people -- and is offering "expert" analysis about what the current developments mean and what will likely come next.  Some of these people are, indeed, real experts, but many more are late-to-the-issue pundits serving up opinions and predictions that are based on a flimsy grasp of what is going on, the players, and the issues involved.

For those who are looking for a political primer and some educated insights into what is happening, why it is happening, and what is likely to come next, I recommend this Q&A interview with Professor Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, posted on MSNBC.

Below is my op-ed on the current developments in Egypt, published on +972 online magazine on January 29:

Concerns about Israel mean getting on the right side of history

By Lara Friedman

Today Egypt is undergoing historic, organic change led by the people of Egypt.  The Egyptian people - not led by any single party or individual - are demonstrating through their actions that the longstanding political status quo in Egypt cannot continue.  It is still unknown how these protests will end and what Egypt's government will look like in both the short-term and longer-term.  What is clear, however, is that the will of the Egyptian people will not be denied, either by the Mubarak government or the international community.

For those who view the Middle East primarily through the prism of Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict, the developments in Egypt provoke understandably complicated feelings.

Egypt through Israel's Eyes

Israel-Egypt Flag Pin2.jpgAPN's Ori Nir writes from Jerusalem, where he is preparing for the APN Israel Study Tour

When Israeli government officials follow their prime minister's instruction to refrain from public statements on a certain issue, you know that the situation is serious. This has been the case over the weekends with regards to the developments in Egypt. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed his Cabinet ministers and other senior officials not to comment on the dramatic events unfolding across the border, at Israel's chief regional ally. And official Israel indeed is silent.

Stand for peace. Prevent U.S. veto of UN settlements resolution.

SusanRice320x265.jpgA key resolution on Israel and the peace process is now before the UN Security Council. The resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the two-state solution, and condemns Israeli settlement activity.

We need your help to make sure that the Obama administration doesn't veto the resolution.

Write to Susan Rice, America's ambassador to the United Nations and a long-time friend and adviser to President Barack Obama.

WINEP's New Study on Future Borders

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, arguably America's most influential Middle East think tank, today published a new study examining future options for drawing borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Defend Israel's peace and human rights groups

action_alert_140x180.gifKnesset Member Michael Ben-Ari suggested last week that those who support organizations like Peace Now are "the greatest Israel haters" and to threaten that the Knesset will pass a law to "eradicate" peace groups and to target their funding. "Such a germ can destroy Israeli society," he said.

Write Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Tell her to put Israel on notice that America is concerned about the deterioration of democracy.

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today condemned the settlers' move to demolish the Shepherds Hotel in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  The demolition makes way for the first settlement construction in this Palestinian neighborhood since 1967, and dovetails with intensive efforts by settlers to target this neighborhood through evictions of Palestinian residents and takeover of their homes.  It also parallels growing confrontations in Silwan and harassment of Silwan's residents to accommodate a growing stream of settlers into this East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood. All these developments are part of a concerted settler campaign, abetted by the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality, to expand and consolidate their hold on the neighborhood at the expense of its Palestinian residents.


APN Calls on Conference of Presidents to Denounce Knesset Witch Hunt

Today APN sent the following letter to the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations - an umbrella organization that includes representatives of 52 Jewish organizations (including APN).

Alan Solow, Chairman
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
533 Third Avenue, 21st Floor
New York, NY 10017
January 7, 2011
Dear Alan and Malcolm,
This has been a terrible week for Israeli democracy.  The Israeli Knesset voted to investigate funding of "left-wing" groups, in what can only be described as a politically-motivated witch hunt.  An Israeli Knesset member, Michael Ben-Ari, was subsequently caught on tape inciting against Peace Now and other progressive groups, going so far as to call them "germs," calling their supporters "the greatest Israel haters," and threatening to pass a law "to eradicate this dangerous enemy."  And in an almost Orwellian twist, it was revealed that the Israel Airports Authority is blocking Peace Now's website - and those of other organizations deemed to be "dangerous" - at Ben Gurion Airport.
On behalf of the tens of thousands of people who support APN and who, through us, support Israel's Peace Now movement, we are outraged and sickened by these attacks.  Peace Now, as well as other organizations Ben-Ari and those like him are attacking, are an essential component of Israeli democracy.  American supporters of APN and Peace Now are among Israel's truest friends.

Yesterday, Arutz Sheva (the settlers' media outlet) reported the following:

"Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin - a member of the Likud party who is known to be seeking the Presidency - came out against the inquiry committee. 'The body responsible for investigating the organizations that collect information on IDF soldiers [for use by Israel's enemies] is the police and law enforcement agencies,' Rivlin said, 'not the Knesset... This will be nothing more than a show trial, since it is known in advance what the majority wants.'

Writing today in Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea reports:

"Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin loves the Land of Israel.  He loves it in its entirety, with all its territories, with all of its population.  He does not need to bring proof of his right wing record.  On Wednesday, when the Knesset passed by a large majority another divisive, demagogic and ugly motion, he said to me that the Knesset he headed was dangerous.  'The danger posed by those who are trying to enforce their opinion is greater than the danger posed by those who want to give up the Land of Israel,' he said..." [translation by Israel News Today]

Ma'ariv Satire: Investigate David Ben-Gurion & Natan Alterman

Writing in Ma'ariv today Nadav Eyal sarcastically suggested: 

"...We need a commission of inquiry to reevaluate the subversive political activity of David Ben-Gurion and Natan Alterman.  Alterman wrote a poem during the War of Independence, the toughest war in Israel's history, in which he accused the IDF soldiers of committing war crimes, and proposed executions of offenders ("For this").  Ben-Gurion, as a traitorous defense minister, instructed that this poem be sent to all IDF soldiers, thereby damaging Israel's reputation and undermining their confidence in its morality.  They served Israel's enemies knowingly in time of war.  The commission of inquiry can discuss the matter and recommend, let's say, that the writings of the traitors be burned and the name of Ben-Gurion Boulevard be changed to Kirschenbaum Boulevard [LF: for Faina Kirschenbaum, the member of Knesset from the Yisrael Beiteinu party - and settler - who introduced legislation to establish a commission of inquiry into "left-wing" groups]...."

Translation by Israel News Today.  Links added by me.

Following is the full translated article:

We Will Not be Silenced

Responding to recent developments in Israel, including comments by Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari, who was caught on tape inciting against Peace Now and other progressive Israeli organizations; responding to news that the Israel Airports Authority was blocking Peace Now's website at Ben Gurion Airport; and responding to the decision of the Knesset to launch an investigation into funding of "left-wing" groups in Israel, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee released the following statement:

Hasbara Can't Kosher Anti-NGO Witch-Hunt [Updated]

[see Jan 7 update at the end of this post]

In response to criticism over yesterday's Knesset decision to investigate "left-wing" groups in Israel, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon - often the leading edge of Israeli hasbara efforts to the English-speaking world - wrote/tweeted the question "who's afraid of transparency?" Coincidentally - or not - one of the Israeli Right's most loyal voices in the U.S. had tweeted hours earlier, "When a simple transparency bill is being denounced as McCarthyism, you know the NGOs have something to hide."

This hasbara effort is so ham-handed it almost defies belief.  It comes on the heels of last weekend's stunningly inept (and wholly ineffective and ultimately counterproductive) hasbara effort trying to convince the world that, even without any investigation, Israel had determined that it bears not even the tiniest responsibility for the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmah of Bili'in.  Now, days later, Israeli officialdom - which eagerly threw out all sorts of ugly rumors that demonstrated nothing more than a total disregard for the dead and her loved ones - has had to back off its accusations and innuendo.

Given this very recent failure, you might think that the "Israel-right-or-wrong" folks (in Israel and the U.S.) would have considered their strategy carefully before jumping to the defense of this latest Knesset action.  But apparently they didn't.

"It is Dark Here"

Peace_Now_Ban_Graphic_320x265 (2).jpgThe quote of the day goes to Israel's Knesset Member Benny Begin, a Likud hawk but a liberal democrat, who is a minister without portfolio in Binyamin Netanyahu's cabinet. In an interview with Israel Radio, Begin said: "It is dark here." He was referring to yesterday's Knesset vote (not a final vote, thankfully) to investigate the funding sources of human rights organizations. The Knesset bill, by the way, for the first time explicitly singles out "left wing" organizations.

Do You Want to Intern at APN this Spring?

Are you passionate about achieving Middle East Peace? Are you ready to take your activism to the next level? Are you a college student who is looking to get some work experience? Maybe you should apply for an internship at Americans for Peace Now.

Touring Settlements with Peace Now

Israel's Channel 2 TV news magazine recently aired a special segment documenting their tour of the West Bank with by Peace Now. See the video (below with English subtitles) that was broadcast throughout Israel. It highlights realities of life in the West Bank and demonstrates Peace Now's ability to make its case against settlements directly to the Israeli public.