APN to Trump: Fire Ambassador Friedman!

Washington, DC -- Americans for Peace Now (APN) is calling on President Trump to recall US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for making statements that blatantly contradict long-held United States policy, as well as objective facts and international law. Ambassador Friedman continues to damage US efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, a chief US national security interest and avowed goal of President Trump.

In a video interview with Israeli news service Walla News, referring to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, Friedman said: “I think that the settlements are a part of Israel.”

Friedman added that since the United Nations adopted Resolution 242 in 1967, “the expectation” was “that Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security.” According to Friedman, “There was always supposed to be some notion of expansion into the West Bank, but not necessarily expansion into the entire West Bank, and I think that’s exactly what Israel has done.” Friedman further asserted that Israel is “only occupying two percent of the West Bank.”

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Peace Now Protests Israeli Government's pro-Occupation Rally

Peace Now organized a vociferous demonstration on September 27th, in the West Bank to protest a government-organized rally celebrating fifty years of Israeli rule there. Dozens of activists chanted anti-occupation slogans and beat drums, driving the message that the occupation was not something to celebrate.

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Press Release: Don't Penalize Palestinians for Interpol Recognition

Americans for Peace Now (APN) rejects calls by senior members of the Israeli cabinet to penalize the Palestinian Authority for its move to gain membership in Interpol, the international police organization.

The move passed today at the Interpol General Assembly in Beijing by a majority of 75 member-states, with 24 opposing and 34 abstaining. Subsequently, senior members of the Israeli government called for various punitive measured to be taken against the Palestinian Authority (PA) on a broad range of issues.

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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 odds that the two geographical parts of the Palestinian Authority will be reunited; where Israel stands on the reunification issue; a new era of Israeli-Arab relations; the upcoming vote among the Kurds of northern Iraq for forming a separate Kurdish state; and where Israel stands on Kurdish independence.

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I was a radical settler

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

My name is Shabtay Bendet. I am forty-four. I have six children and I live in Jaffa.

I recently joined Peace Now as the director of the Settlement Watch team, after several years of working as the West Bank correspondent of Walla, Israel’s most popular news site.

This move, for me, is a closure of sorts. I see it as a tikkun, repairing a chapter in my life in which I was a settler and took part in the injustices that West Bank Palestinians suffer as a result of the occupation and the settlement enterprise.

About 20 years ago, with an eight-month-old daughter, I decided to move with my family to establish the first unauthorized outpost in the West Bank, Rahelim. During the years we lived in the Occupied Territories, I worked in the adjacent settlement of Yitzhar, studied at the Joseph's Tomb yeshiva in Nablus, and worked in agriculture near the illegal outpost of Shvut Rachel, in areas that paved the way for the establishment of more outposts. In fact, during those years, I devoted my life, my whole life, to activity (today, perhaps, I would call it being an activist) in order to advance the ideology in which I believed.

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The Berkshire Edge - EDITORIAL: Neal surprisingly unschooled on free-speech issues

It has been said before that — and forgive us for channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald — politicians are different from you and me. Nowhere is the simple maxim of the Lost Generation’s preeminent writer more evident than in U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s performance during Friday’s town-hall-style forum at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. Click here to see the full forum on video.

The congressman is a smooth-talking operator fluent in a variety of issues, most notably tax policy — an expertise borne no doubt from his 24 years on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. But despite his extensive knowledge of tariffs and revenue raising, Neal showed a troubling unfamiliarity with free speech issues in fielding questions from audience members about his sponsorship of a bill that raises obvious First Amendment questions.

Neal co-sponsored a highly controversial bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which opposes a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution urging countries to pressure companies to divest from Israel. The controversy lies mostly in the second part of the bill, which prohibits Americans engaged in interstate or foreign commerce from supporting an international boycott of Israel. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to a $1 million and 20 years in prison.

On its face, the prohibition against participating in boycotts sounds like a glaring departure from the American tradition of free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has attacked the bill as “antithetical to free speech protections enshrined in the First Amendment” and urged the Senate to reject it.

On the other hand, some reputable legal scholars have argued that “federal law has for decades generally banned participation in boycotts of friendly nations” and that such bans only place prohibitions on commercial activity, not on actual speech.

Be that as it may, Cheryl Hogan of Charlemont pleaded with Neal to reconsider his support of the legislation, noting to much applause that she sees “that law not only as really stepping on our constitutional rights to free speech, but also attacking the one powerful nonviolent resistance movement that there is to try to change what we see happening in the Middle East.”

Neal’s response was revealing. He said he would ask Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) for “clarification” in order “to eliminate the idea that there might be a problem with free speech.” Neal added that he had read the Congressional Research Service’s report on the legislation and “and I came to the conclusion that there is no threat to free speech” because “this is about commercial activity.”

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Hard Questions, Tough Answers (9.19.17) - Who wants to annex the West Bank?

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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 National Union's (a faction of the Jewish Home party) plan for annexing all of the West Bank and either expelling or disenfranchising its Arab residents; what other right-wing members of Netanyahu’s coalition say on the issues of annexation and the subsequent rights of West Bank Palestinians; what advocates of more minimalistic annexation say; whether anyone in Israel wants to annex everything and give all Arab residents of expanded Israel full democratic rights; and the bottom line.

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Compassionate Children of Compassionate Parents?

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

Each year at Rosh Hashana, we take stock of our actions from the past year. This year, we have additional reason to take stock as we head into the Days of Awe and the season of repentance: this is the 50 year of the occupation.

In Jewish tradition, the 50 year has special status. It is known as the yovel (Jubilee) year. In rabbinic writings the yovel is compared to Rosh Hashanah, with both set aside as time to reflect before beginning anew. The yovel consists of three major features: liberating slaves, setting free the land, and releasing all debts.

It is hard to conceive of a year in which yovel is more needed than the 50th anniversary of Israel’s rule over the West Bank and Gaza. Over this past half century, we have seen the occupation not only devastate Palestinians but also corrupt Israeli society. This past year alone, we have witnessed rising settler violence against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, the Israeli military, and Peace Now and other activists, as well as land theft and vandalism.

The poison of occupation has metastasized to the highest levels of the Israeli political system. In order to bolster the occupation, Netanyahu’s government passed the Legalization Law, which retroactively legalizes Israeli civilian construction in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, in violation of both Israeli and international law. For the sake of stifling protest against the occupation, Netanyahu’s government passed the Entry Law, which bans entry to Israel by anyone who supports boycotts of either Israel or the settlements. This doesn’t just stifle debate; it is yet another step in the attempt to erase the boundary between Israel and the West Bank.

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Special Rosh Hashanah Q&A: Peace Prospects for the Coming Year

Q. Does the absence of a Palestinian state threaten Israel? How?

A. Yes, it threatens Israel, and in more ways than one.

Without an Arab-state political affiliation for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel is universally seen as their occupier. Not a single state in the world recognizes the terms “Judea and Samaria” or Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The possibility of restoring a pre-1967 political link, say by affiliating the West Bank in some way with Jordan, has ceased to be realistic in Arab eyes for several decades. This is so despite the fact that some Israeli right-wingers cut off from regional realities and international standards of human rights argue that West Bank Palestinians could enjoy autonomy under Israel and vote in Jordanian elections.

Nor is the paternalistic proposal put forth by some on the Israeli right—to the effect that Palestinians in the West Bank can in perpetuity enjoy “human” rights but not citizenship rights on the land where they live-- viable in the eyes of Palestinians or anyone else in the world. Palestinian Arabs today identify as Palestinians in a political sense. If they cannot achieve sovereign statehood, the only fallback position they are likely to recognize is Israeli citizenship within the framework of a single state.

This brings us to the demographic issue. Most demographers today argue that there are already more Arabs than Jews in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Some on the Israeli right argue that the totality of Arabs is “only” 40 percent of the total population, meaning Jews constitute 55 percent (another five percent of Israelis are neither Jewish nor Arab). In some cases this figure is achieved by ignoring the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a highly problematic geopolitical determination. In other cases it is achieved by radically underestimating the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and ignoring the 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

One way or another, even an Israeli state with a 40 percent (and growing!) Arab minority cannot claim to be intrinsically Jewish. As for a non-democratic state that favors its Jewish over its Arab inhabitants, this is anathema to the vast majority of Jews, to say nothing of the international community. It places Israel in the global family of racist, fascist countries whose prospects for enlightened progress are zero.

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The State of Two States - Briefing call with Dan Shapiro, former US Ambassador to Israel

On September 14th 2017, APN hosted Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, America’s former ambassador to Israel, for a briefing call on prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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