My name is Etai Mizrav. I'm an Israeli who is currently taking time out from Israel to complete a Master's program in Public Policy at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Up until recently I was the activities manager of Israel's Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) movement. My position put me at the forefront of progressive efforts to fight the extremism that has been creeping deeper and deeper into Israel's public arena. I am also a reserve officer, a Major in the IDF, and a proud Zionist. For me, serving my country in the military and managing Peace Now's activities nationwide both stem from the same conviction: A deep concern for Israel's future as a Jewish state and a democracy, a deep commitment to the Zionist dream.
If you are reading this letter, you've probably been supporting Americans for Peace Now (APN) in one way or another. And as you probably know, a large portion of APN's budget supports Israel's Peace Now movement, and typically accounts for more than half of our annual budget. I'd like to tell you what my colleagues and I have been doing in Israel with this assistance.
You know Shalom Achshav as Israel's peace movement, but under Prime Minister Netanyahu's government we were compelled to struggle not only for peace but also for democracy. Populist extremists in Netanyahu's party and among his right-wing coalition partners have been systematically working to shatter Israel's democratic icons--its civil society, its Supreme Court, its freedom of expression and its traditional tolerance of non-Jewish minority groups.
These Knesset members--some of them are prominent politicians--tried to pass legislation that would deny organizations like "Peace Now" their right to petition the Supreme Court against West Bank settlement construction on privately-owned Palestinian land. They changed the criteria for selecting the President of the Supreme Court, enabling them to appoint a judge who supports their ideology. They tried to thwart the implementation of Supreme Court decisions that they didn't like through legislative machinations.
Peace Now confronted these alarming challenges head-on. We acted on calls from our supporters and became the leaders of the fight to protect Israel's democracy. We led large demonstrations on the streets and held private meetings with Knesset members. We handed out bumper stickers and pamphlets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. We had numerous appearances in the media to educate the public and at the same time to show the world that most Israelis care about the future of their state's democracy.
We did not stop--even for a moment--our struggle for peace and the two-state solution. We fought against the Netanyahu government's policy of no-negotiations and against the ever accelerating pace of West Bank settlement construction. Even at a time of complete diplomatic stalemate, we succeeded in putting the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace back on the agenda. Our most prominent victory was the evacuation of Migron, the West Bank's largest illegal outpost. After years of legal struggle in the Supreme Court, this outpost was finally evacuated and the land was legally (albeit not yet practically) returned at long last to its Palestinian owners. The evacuation of Migron was a crucial accomplishment because it showed that the Court and the government have the authority and the ability to remove illegal outposts, that the settlers are not above the law, and that most Israelis are not sympathetic to the settlers.We could not have accomplished any of this without support from APN.
- Without that support, we would not have been able to take hundreds of college students to the West Bank to learn about the danger the occupation poses to Israel's future. • Without that support, we would not have been able to bring thousands of people to demonstrate against the Israeli government's policies. • Without that support, we would not have been able to continue the vital work of Settlement Watch. • Without that support, we would not have been able to demonstrate against Glenn Beck's provocative rally at the Western Wall in the summer of 2011.
- Without that support, we would not have been able to flood Israel with blue and white signs calling upon our government to say "Yes" to a Palestinian state. • Without that support, we would not have been able to organize the largest Knesset conference that has ever held been held on illegal outposts. All Knesset parties that support a reasonable compromise with the Palestinians participated.
- Without that support. we would not have been able to turn out a demonstration that was the largest ever on the issue of government and Knesset members' attacks on our democracy.
- Without that support, we would not have been able to convene a peace conference with the participation of hundreds of activists, lawmakers, leading intellectuals and political figures. APN Board Member Mandy Patinkin was a special guest, delivering a powerful speech that galvanized conference attendees and garnered tremendous media attention.
In the past several years, Peace Now has become the strongest and clearest voice in Israel calling for peace and democracy. Our principled positions have in recent years attracted many more Israelis--many of them young people, unwilling to let go of the vision upon which their country was founded: A Jewish state that is a real democracy, living in peace and security as a dignified member of the family of nations. With your help, we will attract even more, and turn the vision into reality.
Your contribution is tax-deductible!
P.S. Far too many well-intentioned American friends of Israel seem bent on "fighting to the very last Israeli." That last Israeli could be me or one of my fellow IDF soldiers. We are willing to fight, and we do. But we understand that real security for Israel also means fighting for a two-state solution and achieving this goal. American public opinion is vital in Israel. Believe in Israel. Believe in Peace. Support a two-state solution.
Etai Mizrav was until recently the National Activity and Development Manager of Israel's Peace Now movement. He was born and raised at an agricultural moshav in northern Israel, served in a combat unit at the IDF and is a Major in reserves, commanding an infantry unit. As a first hand witness of the tragedies of war, he began promoting Peace Now's agenda as soon as he finished his military service, five years ago. He is a political science graduate of Jerusalem's Hebrew University and currently studying for a Master's degree in Public Policy at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.