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Blog: 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.

[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.

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."

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:  

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

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:

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.
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.

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):

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."