On Yom Ha'Shoah - A Dad to us, hero to all

Yahrtzeit Candle

Our father, Arthur Stern (z”l), was a Holocaust survivor, so like many Jews, today’s Yom Ha’Shoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – touches us personally.

The SternsDad was born and raised in Hungary as a highly-educated and traditional religious Jew, whose father was a prominent leader of the Budapest Jewish Community. While he studied law at the University of Budapest in 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary, and our father and his family were deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Near the end of the war, he and surviving family members were sent to a refugee camp in Switzerland where he began to put his life back together. He continued his education, and best of all, met our mom Edith (he was her bridge instructor!), who had arrived in Switzerland as a refugee from Germany after Kristallnacht. Since we were young, our parents shared many stories about their upbringing in Germany and Hungary, the war, and its implications to their families.

Like many survivors, dad was able to miraculously “move on”, and spectacularly so. He became an accomplished electrical engineer and inventor, and was the first Jewish president of the International Association of Electrical Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology.

Dad applied lessons from the Holocaust to a commitment to human rights, equality and justice in the US and in Israel.

While he saw Israel's survival and security as supremely important for the Jewish people, he believed that Israel's conduct was just as crucial. As a Holocaust survivor, he saw both of these as fundamental. He started the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce to help strengthen Israel’s economy, and his most central commitment to Israel became his leadership role with Americans for Peace Now, where he served as a Board and Executive Committee member and as co-chair, and then chair of its regional activities in Southern California.

Stern Collage 400

His experience had led him to hold the Jewish people and Israel to the highest of standards with regard to their use of power and treatment of others, believing we should rise above the tendencies and inclinations towards suppression when confronted by obstacles. Dad found particularly abhorrent those in the Israeli settler movement and their supporters who elevated land over human rights and peace, and particularly those who did so using Jewish religious justifications. He would not sit idly by while such arguments were made and such actions taken. We are loathe to imagine his disappointment in the recent “Regularization Law” that transfers ownership of private Palestinian land in the West Bank to the Israeli Jewish settlers who took the land and established outposts contrary even to Israel’s own law.

On this Yom Ha’Shoah, it is profoundly troubling to think about dad in the context of the “Entry Law,” recently passed by the Knesset. This law, which prevents entry to foreign nationals who support peaceful protest by way of a boycott, including a targeted boycott of Israeli settlement products, is beyond the pale for a democracy. It ostensibly bars people from visiting Israel because they have different political views from those currently in power. In this most absurd reality, our Holocaust survivor dad, who cared so much about Israel, would actually be prevented from visiting Israel.

Americans for Peace Now has just decided to cancel its Israel Study Tour in June because of the "Entry Law." This trip has particular significance to our family. Dad participated multiple times, a couple with our mom and with one of us. Our parents gave the experience to a granddaughter as a college graduation gift, and soon after dad died, we all made plans to join the next APN Israel Study Tour. The joy that dad experienced and enrichment he received from being in Israel, meeting with leading Israelis and Palestinians from the political and activist worlds, the media, and other areas, was a highlight in his life.

Today, as we remember the Holocaust and our dad who was so fortunate to survive it, we also remember the lessons he learned and passed on to us, and we redouble our commitment to working for a better Israel, which proudly manifests the best of Jewish values, and for a better world.

Sincerely,

Claude Stern, Daniel Stern, and Jacqueline Stern Bellowe

April 24, 2017 - Israel’s most volatile borders, on Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

This week, Alpher discusses the assertions of a Hezbollah spokesman that Israel is now on the defensive, fearing Hezbollah attack; whether Israel should have launched a punitive attack on Syria after Assad's Sarin gas attack on his own people; and the recent spat in the Knesset between a mother who blamed the Netanyahu government for not retrieving the body of her son, which has been held by Hamas in Gaza since the summer 2014 war, and two Likud MKs who answered her with brutal language.

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Americans for Peace Now cancels its annual summer trip: ’The law is a stain on Israeli democracy’ 

Concerned that its delegates might be stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport and denied entry into the country due to recently enacted legislation, a prominent Jewish-American organization has cancelled its annual summer trip to Israel.

Americans for Peace Now is the first organization that regularly brings groups to Israel to respond in this way to the law, passed last month in the Knesset, that would bar from Israel any foreigners who have publicly expressed support for a boycott of the country, even if that boycott only includes the West Bank settlements.

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Peace Now Settlement Watch: A New Outpost Is Being Built East of Ramallah

News from Peace Now:

For maps and pictures see here: http://peacenow.org.il/en/new-outpost-adam 

Peace Now has learnt that presently a new outpost is being established. The outpost is located beyond the fence surrounding Adam settlement (aka Geva Binyamin), southeast from Ramallah and beyond the Separation Barrier.
 
This is the first outpost that is being established since the Israeli government declared a new policy towards settlement construction. The policy stated that settlement construction would be limited to within the “built up area” or "the footprint" of a settlement and that creation of new illegal outposts would be prohibited. Needless to say is that by being constructed outside the fence of Adam, the new outpost is not only a new outpost, but also beyond the “built up area” of the settlement, regardless of the lack in a clear definition to what “built up area” means.

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APN's Ori Nir in The Forward: Israel’s Settlement Blocs Block Prospects For Peace

"Everybody knows,” goes the argument. “Everybody knows that under any future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, West Bank settlement blocs will be annexed to Israel.” And because everyone knows that, the argument goes, Israel should be allowed, even encouraged, to continue unhindered with settlement construction in the “blocs.”

Proponents of construction in settlement blocs argue the following. There is an Israeli consensus around the future annexation of the blocs once a peace agreement is signed. Even the PLO gave a nod of approval for such a scenario. Both Israelis and Palestinians have accepted the principle of “land swaps” (Israel compensating the Palestinians for lands it will annex east of the Green Line with Israeli land West of the Green Line). The US has made it clear that it will not insist on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Given all that, they say, why not build in areas that “everybody knows” Israel will end up keeping and annexing? How could that damage future negotiations?

This logic is becoming so rampant that a prominent Washington expert on the conflict recently said: “If settlements are the problem, then the blocs are the solution.”

Really? Is more settlement construction here the solution to the problem that settlement construction there creates?

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April 19, 2017 - Marwan Barghouti and the Fatah prisoner hunger strike

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

This week, Alpher discusses Marwan Barghouti's op-ed in the New York Times about the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike; why only 1,200 of the 6,000 prisoners convicted of terrorist offenses in Israeli jails are participating; the intra-Palestinian tensions at play; Barghouti's point about worsening conditions in Israeli prisons; the accuracy of some of Barghouti's assertions; why Israel can't release Barghouti and negotiate with him; and possible strategic implications of the strike and the background struggle for Palestinian leadership.

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Ori at CNUside-350x371APN’s director of communications and public engagement, Ori Nir, spoke at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University On March 30. He delivered the annual Borgenicht Fellowship Prize Lecture, sponsored by CNU’s Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. His talk focused on shifting attitudes toward Israeli-Palestinian peace among the Israeli and Palestinian publics.

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There is a long way which is short and a short way which is long.

Seidemann Collage

Why did the Jews wander in the desert for 40 years before reaching their homeland? The Talmud teaches, “There is a long way which is short and a short way which is long.” What does that mean? Sometimes one sees what seems to be a better way — “the short way” — but it turns out to that, in reality, the way which seems easier is wrong. The shortcut taken ends up forcing one to go back and do what seemed at the outset to be harder, but was, in truth, the only legitimate way. It was from that seemingly tortuous, lengthy, journey that the Israelites learned to leave behind their slave mentality and do what was right, rather than what was easy or tempting. The Israelites’ journey turned out to be one in which there were important lessons to be learned.A Long Road

If 40 years in the desert was to teach us a lesson, what are the lessons we’re to learn from 50 years of occupation (10 years longer than the Jews wandered in the desert!)?

The lesson certainly can’t be that occupation brings security for Israel. Israel’s security establishment overwhelmingly believes that without bold political leadership, the occupation will lead to Israel’s destruction. Those tasked with Israel’s security — Mossad, Shin Bet, and officers in the IDF — overwhelmingly believe that occupation does not bring security, but does just the opposite.

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

This week, Alpher discusses the settlement construction restrictions that Netanyahu just imposed upon his government in deference to the Trump peace effort; the lack of substance in the self-imposed restrictions; whether Netanyahu is pulling the wool over Trump’s and Greenblatt’s eyes; the likelihood that Trump and Greenblatt will soon put a peace proposal on the table; and changing US military and diplomatic behavior in the Arab world.

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There will be no "restraint"

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It's been a good couple weeks for supporters of West Bank settlements. On March 22, it was reported that new construction in settlements had risen by 40% in 2016. The next day, the U.S. Senate confirmed David Friedman – a staunch supporter of settlements – as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

It didn't end there.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a new settlement would be established – in the heart of the West Bank – for evacuees from the illegal settlement outpost of Amona. In effect, Netanyahu rewarded them for breaking Israeli law, which outlaws these outposts, by breaking international law under which all settlements are illegal.

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