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Blog: May 2011 Archives

Soon after 1967's Six Day War, Israel annexed the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem, extending Israeli law over all the city's inhabitants. In subsequent years, it became a standard part of the Israeli narrative that Jerusalem was unified that day, and that the city is Israel's "eternal and undivided capital." The annual holiday of Jerusalem Day marks that reunification, and falls this year on June 1.

What the holiday and official Israeli pronouncements gloss over is the fact that the city is, in fact, very divided -- and always has been.
There has been a lot of discussion of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's  speech to Congress yesterday - what he said and what his words actually meant.  To aid in understanding, here is the speech, annotated to reflect what perhaps was going through the Prime Minister's mind as he gave it.  Annotations are in italics/bold.

[Disclaimers: (1) The annotations in this piece are not derived from any direct access to the Prime Minister's inner thoughts, bur reflect realistic assessments of the Prime Minister's intent; (2) This is satire, but satire is of course funny because it is true.]

Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, distinguished senators, members of the House, honored guests, I'm deeply moved by this warm welcome, and I'm deeply honored that you've given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time. Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time that we were the new kids in town? (Laughter, applause.) And I do see a lot of old friends here, and I see a lot of new friends of Israel here as well -- Democrats and Republicans alike. (Applause.)

Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel [and don't you let Obama forget it]. (Applause.) We stand together to defend democracy [except when, like with Egypt, we have mixed feelings about it]. We stand together to advance peace [except when your president asks me to do things I don't want to do]. We stand together to fight terrorism [and anyone who suggests that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in any way provides a rallying cry for extremism, well, they are anti-Semites trying to delegitimize of Israel].

Got a question for James Carroll about Jerusalem?

JamesCarroll186x140.jpgJune 1st is celebrated in Israel as Jerusalem Day. This is a good opportunity for reflection on what this city means to Israelis and to Palestinians, about the role that it plays in the conflict between the two peoples, and about the relationship between the celestial and the terrestrial Jerusalem.

To address these and other questions, APN is preparing for a discussion with author, historian and journalist James Carroll of the Boston Globe, whose new book, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" explores the multiple dualities of this fascinating city.

'Tis the season. The season when members of Congress are lobbied hard to support positions presented to them as the epitome of "pro-Israel" - but that in fact are anything but.

Tell Congress to get past blame

action_alert_186x140.jpgToday, Tuesday, May 24, AIPAC supporters will be on the Hill lobbying Congress to support resolutions - H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 - taking the Palestinians to task for seeking UN recognition and for trying to put together a new government that can govern both Gaza and the West Bank.

These resolutions will no doubt be sold as the "pro-Israel" thing for Congress to do. But, rather than promote Israel's interests or peace, the resolutions seem to be primarily about casting blame.  That's no way to support Israel.
We need your help to tell Congress not to score political points at the expense of Israeli-Palestinian peace.  

Today, APN's Director of Policy and Government Relations Lara Friedman sent the following message to every congressional office.

Dear Colleague,

Tomorrow AIPAC supporters will be on the Hill lobbying Congress to support resolutions - H. Res. 268 and S. Res. 185 - taking the Palestinians to task for seeking international recognition and for trying to achieve national reconciliation.   

APN urges members of Congress to refuse to cosponsor these resolutions and to vote "no" when they are brought to a vote.  

APN Applauds Obama's AIPAC Speech

ObamaSpeech186x140.jpgAmericans for Peace Now applauds President Obama's courageous speech at AIPAC's policy conference in Washington today.

"President Obama again demonstrated that he is a staunch friend of Israel, deeply concerned about Israel's future as a democracy and a secure Jewish state," said APN's President and CEO Debra DeLee. "The President enumerated, to great applause, the many concrete steps that his administration took to bolster Israel's security and its standing worldwide."

Yesterday President Obama stood up at a podium and said a thing or two.

To my mind, one of the most powerful take-aways from the President's now famous/infamous Middle East speech is to be found in the long list of countries he talked about well before he got to the Israel/Palestine part.

The fact is, as important as Israel/Palestine is, it is part of a much larger region, and the United States acts all across that region. Indeed, the United States is currently trying very hard to get on the right side of history as that region changes before our very eyes. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, whether we like it or not, part of a bigger picture.
Many people are still busily parsing the text of yesterday's Obama speech to determine what they like - or don't like - about what he said. APN has already put out analysis of the things in the speech that we believe are important and constructive. Having had more time now to parse the speech, it is worth adding two more points to this analysis.

What Obama should tell Netanyahu

The following article was published today by the (link has expired) Los Angeles Jewish Journal

May 18, 2011

What Obama should tell Israeli Netanyahu when they meet in the White House Friday

by Ori Nir, Spokesperson, Americans for Peace Now

(...) Anyway, Bibi, in the past several weeks I've been working with my staff on Mideast policy speeches. So, the Middle East has been on my mind. And I've actually reached conclusions and made decisions. Now, please, hear me out. You know that this is coming from a friend and ally.
Netanyahu186x140.jpgResponding to news that an Israeli Ministry of Interior committee - acting with the authorization of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - will today consider approving the construction of more than 1500 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee issued the following statement:

"By proceeding with settlement approvals in East Jerusalem today - precisely when Prime Minister Netanyahu is headed to Washington to meet with President Obama and address Congress, and when President Obama is about to make a major Middle East speech - Netanyahu is sending an unmistakable message: he values settlements more than peace.

Dov Weissglas: The Last Chance

Last Chance - by Dov Weissglas

The coming days are a final chance to stop or, at the very least to slow down, Israel's political setback. From the day that Arafat died and the Palestinian Authority desisted from terrorism, its standing in the world has only strengthened. The demand for independence, for a demilitarized state within the 1967 borders (with agreed border revisions) with East Jerusalem as its capital, is accepted by nearly all the countries of the world, and it will almost certainly win sweeping recognition by the UN General Assembly in September.

The World Needs More Than Words From Obama on Mideast Peace

obamaisraelflag320x265.jpgThis week President Obama will talk a lot about the Middle East. Not only will he deliver a major foreign policy address aimed at the Arab and Muslim worlds, but he will also offer remarks after meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and make a speech at AIPAC.

People around the world -- and particularly in the Middle East -- will be listening closely and critically.

Violence filling the void?

Nakba_Protest_Collage186.jpgThe events that took place in connection with yesterday's "Nakba Day" demonstrations - in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and on Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon - should be a wake-up call to all those who foolishly believe that Israel can indefinitely continue the occupation. They should be a wake-up call to those who believe that Israel can continue to live as a "villa in the jungle" - an expression first coined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak - immune to the regional forces that sparked and are fueling the Arab Spring.

George_Mitchell_w_Logo186x140.jpgWashington, DC - Reacting to the news of Senator George Mitchell's resignation from his position as President Obama's special Middle East Envoy, Americans for Peace Now's President and CEO, Debra DeLee, today issued the following statement:

I did you a small disservice two weeks ago: I recommended Baruch Kimmerling's excellent The Palestinian People: A History, without first recommending the foundational text on Palestinian nationalism: Palestinian Identity, by Rashid Khalidi.

There's a method to my madness, though. I find it's easier to take in theory and analysis after first grappling with the facts, figures, and humanity of history - The Palestinian People is heavy on the latter; Palestinian Identity is heavy on the former. Both, however, are irreplaceable contributions to the literature on Israel/Palestine.
obama state of the union 320x265.jpgAmidst reports that President Obama will in the coming days deliver a major Middle East foreign policy speech, APN President Debra DeLee today issued the following statement:

The following article was published in Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel:
By Ori Nir, APN Spokesman

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Israel's Independence Day is a good time to revel in what such a small country has achieved in such a short time and under such trying circumstances. But it is also a time to resolve to do more.

Real Independence for Israel


On Israel's Independence Day, APN's Ori Nir looks ahead to real independence for Israel, noting that "Israel is not truly independent as long as it denies the Palestinians their independence."

Israel's Independence Day, May 10th, is a good time to revel in what such a small country has achieved in such a short time and under such trying circumstances. It's also a time to resolve to do more.

Statement on CUNY's rejection of Tony Kushner

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee responded today to the decision by the City University of New York to deny playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree because of critical comments that Kushner has made regarding Israel:

"The decision by CUNY's trustees is troubling. Tony Kushner is a talented playwright who has contributed tremendously to American literature. He has been willing to use his enormous talent to speak out on some of the most important and painful issues of our times.

"Americans need and deserve an open, honest debate about Israel. Too often, self-proclaimed guardians of acceptable discourse on Israel try to enforce their skewed political correctness through intimidation. Such efforts are simply wrong. Worse yet, they threaten to needlessly divide Americans who are largely supportive of Israel and want to see it achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on a territorial compromise."
This week's recommendation comes days before we greet Yom Atzma'ut, Israeli Independence Day, and the Palestinian Yawm al-Nakba, Day of the Catastrophe. Among supporters of Israel (regardless of our take on Palestinian nationalism and the two-state solution) it can be painful to take in that Israel's establishment is held in the hearts of Palestinians as a catastrophe - and yet if after two decades of peace efforts we've learned nothing else, we've certainly learned this: As we celebrate, others mourn.

I think this is the very fact that stands in the way of peace activism for many -  I think there comes a moment when some feel they must choose between their own joy and someone else's sorrow, and it can feel more right to focus solely on our own people's joy. I think I understand that - but I also think it gets in the way of resolving the conflict.  
But I also think it gets in the way of resolving the conflict, of finding more joy.

APN Deplores Hamas Leader's Embrace of Bin Laden

APN today issued the following statement:

May 2, 2011

Washington, DC - Americans for Peace Now (APN) today denounced Gaza Strip Hamas leader Ismail Haniya's statements condemning the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and lauding Bin Laden as an Arab holy warrior.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee stated: "Haniya's embrace of Bin Laden is detestable. His decision to align Hamas with a man who has the blood of literally thousands of innocent people on his hands is an affront to every American. It is also an insult to every Palestinian, whose struggle for self-determination and peace will in the eyes of many be sullied by this revolting action. President Abbas' swift move to applaud the elimination of Bin Laden is thus all the more important and commendable.

"Last week APN welcomed news of Palestinian reconciliation. We did so because we recognize that a united Palestinian polity is vital to peace, and we recognize that, no matter how much we wish it were not so, Hamas is an important player in this polity that cannot be wished, or sanctioned, into irrelevance. This remains true today, even as we deplore Haniya's decision to embrace Bin Laden."