"Cotton’s bill aimed at settlements policy"

This week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced S. 2474, purportedly in order to ensure “fair” treatment by the United States of Israel and Israeli products. In truth, this bill has nothing to do with Israel or products made in Israel. It is about one thing only: reversing nearly five decades of unbroken U.S. policy opposing settlements built by Israel in territories it occupied in the 1967 war.  

Cotton’s bill is just the latest salvo in a broader campaign, taking place both in Washington and in state capitals, to exploit concerns about BDS (boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel), in order to legitimize settlements.

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Nahum Barnea in YNet: Israel's McCarthys

Op-ed: As Im Tirtzu's supporters saw last week, the fervent quest to implicate others as traitors can quickly go too far. Israel's witch hunters need to stop now, before it's too late.

"Let there be no hope for informers", says the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. That harsh saying has many different and interesting religious interpretations, but when I was young, me and the other kids at a secular school in Tel Aviv took it literally: Bad things are in order for people who inform on their buddies. We wrote the words on a large piece of cardboard paper, and hung it on the wall next to the principal's office.

Since his office was near the restrooms, one child made a slight change to the sign, switching the Hebrew words to mean "Let there be no hope for those who pee." It created a small controversy, one of many. The school itself closed down years ago. Its restrooms now service the coffee shop that has since opened nearby. Whenever I schedule a meeting there, I make sure to give that wall a respectful visit. Not because of the restroom: Because of the informers.

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(published 2/1/16 at LobeLog)

Attention is finally focusing on a bill pending in Congress that would make it U.S. policy to defend and support Israeli settlements. Known as the Customs Bill, this legislation regulates U.S. trade relations with foreign countries and includes the pro-settlement language in a provision that, ostensibly, is about defending the state of Israel against boycotts. It is part of a broader campaign, waged in Washington and in state capitals across the country, that seeks to undermine growing grassroots support for the boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and reverse Washington’s longstanding opposition to settlements in the occupied territories.

Back in July, Congress passed a similar provision as part of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill. The State Department responded with a statement rejecting the pro-settlements language, noting that “[e]very U.S. administration since 1967—Democrat and Republican alike—has opposed Israeli settlement activity beyond the 1967 lines.” The administration’s rejection provoked a harsh critique by one Washington Post blogger who writes on both legal issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The blogger, Eugene Kontorovich, testified on the BDS movement and ways to combat it before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last July. Now, with the Customs Bill in the spotlight and likely to soon come before President Obama, the arguments presented in his critique—which apply equally to the settlements-related provision in the Customs Bill—bear close scrutiny.

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I Shall Not Hate 
follows the story of the Gaza fertility doctor (nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize) who refuses to relinquish his commitment to coexistence, even after tragedy befalls his family during ISRAEL’S 2008-2009 WAR WITH HAMAS (Operation Cast Lead). The production, performed in Hebrew and Arabic by one of Israel's leading Palestinian actors, Gassan Abbas, brings humanity and heroism to the role of Abuelaish, in a script adapted and staged by one of  MOSAIC theatre's Festival's featured young artists, the Israeli director, Shay Pitovsky. 

On Sunday, February 7, following the 7:30PM performance, join us for a post-show discussion and talkback involving Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, and moderated by Americans For Peace Now's Ori Nir and APN board member Mary Ann Stein. More information can be found on MOSAIC’S  event page here.

I Shall Not Hate runs through Sunday, February 14 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center - 1333 H Street NE. Feel free to use the code below (ShallNot20) to receive a 20% discount on your tickets!
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Na’aseh V’nishma: “We will do, and we will hear.”

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By Lex Rofes

Two simple Hebrew words. I have heard them over and over again, from rabbis, Jewish educators, and lay-leaders. At my Jewish summer camp, we shouted it at the top of our lungs at the end of Bir’kat Hamazon every Shabbat. At a Reform congregation where I was a member, it was inscribed in huge letters on the synagogue’s ark.

Na’aseh V’nishma comes from this week’s Torah portion – Parashat Mishpatim. According to the most common interpretation of it (drawn from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer among other sources), the sequence of the words is of the utmost importance. According to this school of thought, the best translation is really “We will accept [God’s commandments], and then we will understand.” The words indicate, in effect, that the Israelites will do whatever the Torah says – even though they don’t even know what that is yet. Many have lauded the Israelites’ behavior in this Mid’rash. That our ancestors were so willing to trust God, obeying a document they hadn’t even read yet, is, in their opinion, praiseworthy.

I can’t agree. The reason is that, in today’s world, injustice thrives. It runs rampant, in our own society and all around the world. That includes the West Bank and Gaza, under military occupation by the Israeli government for almost fifty years. Our relationship to this injustice – all injustice really – cannot be one of “we will accept it, and then we will understand.”

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Let’s take a moment for a thought experiment. I do this days after more Palestinian attacks on Israelis, including the horrific murder of a mother of six children; soon after Israel announced the expropriation of another 370 acres of land near Jericho; and after Majed Faraj, the Palestinian security chief, announced that Palestinian security forces had intercepted 200 potential terrorist attacks against Israel. The thought experiment focuses on whether the “Plan B” for the Israel-Palestine dispute should be Israel’s annexation of the territories it occupied in 1967 and the extension of full citizenship rights to the Palestinians in those areas.

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The Campaign to Legislate Support for Settlements: Taking the Battle to the States

In 2014, opponents of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel began promoting legislation in various U.S. states denouncing the BDS movement.

In 2015, these efforts shifted/expanded to mirror efforts in the U.S. Congress to hijack concerns about BDS against Israel in order to pass legislation mandating that Israeli settlements be treated, in effect, as part of sovereign Israel.

At the outset of 2016, it is already clear that these efforts are continuing and building. Indeed, the clear trend at the state-level is moving away from anti-BDS resolutions in favor of binding legislation to – in effect – have states boycott, divest from, and sanction companies that engage in BDS against Israel, or that in any concrete way differentiate between Israel and the settlements.

This table  -- which will be updated regularly and which is based on data drawn from the websites of the various state legislatures -- is intended to help people understand and follow what is happening at the state level. 

(Do you know about legislation missing from the table? Please let me know - LFriedman@peacenow.org).

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Settlement Product Labeling Policies, U.S. vs. EU

The current U.S. and EU approaches are similar in that both bar producers and exporters of products made in settlements from indicating that the point of origin of the products is Israel. The approaches differ, however, in how far they go. U.S. labeling, in effect, differentiates between Israel on the one hand, and the West Bank/Gaza on the other. The EU differentiates not only between Israel and the West Bank, but within the West Bank between Israeli and Palestinian goods. This difference reflects, fundamentally, the different historical and economic circumstances in which the respective regulations were adopted.

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Michael Sfard in Haaretz: The Israeli Occupation Will End Suddenly

The strength of organizations working to end the occupation and their supporters is greater than we think.

One day the occupation will end. It will probably happen in one fell swoop. And when it happens, it will suddenly emerge that everyone was against it. That the politicians had actually worked to end it, that the journalists strove indefatigably to expose its injustices, that the cultural institutions condemned it courageously and that Israeli academia was a center of persistent resistance, from which the struggle drew ideological and moral backing. In short, everyone was part of the Resistance.

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January 26, 2016 - Palestinian issues revisited

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This week, Alpher discusses why he has had so little discussion on issues related directly to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects for new negotiations recently; whether, even if that’s the case regarding the PLO in the West Bank, we can ignore assessments regarding Hamas and Hezbollah activity there, alongside predictions regarding violence emanating from Gaza, extremist inclinations among the Israeli Arab community, and even a high-level forecast of ISIS activity against Israel; the angry Israeli reaction to US Ambassador Dan Shapiro's statement that Israel exercises a legal double standard in its approach to Israeli settlers as opposed to Palestinians in the West Bank; and whether Israeli-Turkish negotiations regarding normalization of bilateral relations hold out any hope for a better situation in Gaza.

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