Peace Now director Avi Buskila: "Todah Rabbah"

Avi BuskilaAs the Jewish calendar brings us to the end of another year, I am looking back at an extraordinary twelve months. The political environment in Israel gives us very little cause for celebration, yet Peace Now is indeed making a difference. We are confronting the extreme right and the occupation, advancing the cause of peace and democracy, and keeping the door open for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our highlight event was the May 27th "Two States – One Hope" demonstration in Tel Aviv, marking 50 years to the occupation, which attracted over 30,000 peace activists from across the country. It was a huge success, thanks to the support of many of you.

Our flagship program, Settlement Watch, which analyzes and publicizes information on the Israeli government's role in the construction of settlements, was particularly prominent. We took policymakers and policy-shapers - including Israeli and international politicians, diplomats and journalists - on tours of the settlements. The British government wanted us to show its Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, on a private tour, what the settlements look like. Our legal department repeatedly took the government and the settlers to court, and scored several victories enabling us to make our case against the settlements and the occupation.

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West Bank settlements "benefit" Palestinians?!

Earlier this week, a private lawyer hired by the most right-wing government in Israel's history defended the new "Expropriation Law" before Israel's High Court of Justice. His defense of the law – which allows for the legalization of hundreds of illegal West Bank settlement outposts built in part on privately-owned Palestinian land – was that it would actually benefit the Palestinians.

Yes, you read that correctly. No wonder that the government’s Attorney General refused to defend the law before the Court.

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Support APN's new settlements app and help "win the peace"

wall

Fifty years ago this past week, the state of Israel erupted in collective celebration after conquering the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights. Having defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in six days, the elation and relief felt by the entire country was immeasurable – and nearly universal.

I remember, right after the war, my parents taking the family for euphoric trips to biblical sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. My parents, both teachers, marveled at the historic significance of each site, sometimes reading the relevant passages from the Bible. There was a genuine joy of re-connecting to our national heritage.

The irony is that, in the wake of its greatest military victory, Israel was led to its greatest political defeat: five decades of conflict and occupation that have left Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state severely threatened.

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Our rally was a success-- please help us pay for it

Two States One Hope

Avi BuskilaSaturday’s historic rally at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square was a stunning success.

I use the term "historic" both because the rally marked 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and because the high turnout – estimated at 30,000 – sent a resounding message to the skeptics and the cynics.

Proud, patriotic Israelis came from all across the country to show support for a two state solution, to oppose the government's policies toward the Palestinians, and to demand an end to the occupation that is devastating both our Palestinian neighbors and us, Israelis, as well.

The huge crowd of peace activists that you can see in the photo below sent an important message to the Israeli government and to the Israeli public that there is a large, vociferous constituency for peace, willing to fight for it. Addressing the crowd, I urged Israelis, in the words of the famous Shir La-Shalom (Song of Peace,) which Prime Minister Rabin sang moments before he was assassinated at the same place 22 years earlier: "Don't say 'a day will come'/ Bring the day about!"

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A campaign to support; A video to watch

Two States One Hope

Marking 50 years since Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel’s Peace Now movement is organizing a mass demonstration this Saturday, May 27th, to protest against the occupation and in support of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

I am flying to Israel Friday, and will be at Tel Aviv’s Rabin square the next day, together with tens of thousands of Israeli peace activists, to help show Israelis, Palestinians and the world that there is a robust Israeli constituency for peace.

I will be there to bring you the sights and sounds of the Israeli peace camp’s show of force, and to convey your support.

Your support helps Peace Now cover the cost of this production – ranging from printing thousands of picket signs to renting expensive sound-amplifying equipment.

Donate now to help restore hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Thank you for your support,

Ori Nir
Americans for Peace Now



We're hitting the streets

Two States One Hope

On Saturday, May 27th, Peace Now will bring thousands of Israelis - as well as prominent public figures, artists, and musicians - to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv with one simple message:

Enough of 50 years of occupation!

Before we take to the streets to celebrate "Two States – One Hope," I urge you to watch a brief video featuring Peace Now's Anat Ben Nun. It demonstrates the difficult, on-the-ground work that Peace Now does every day, as well as the passion and commitment that will be on display next Saturday.

WATCH: Peace Now's Anat Ben Nun: Help support "Two States – One Hope"

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Furniture and Olive Trees

This Sunday – the 33 days between Passover and Shavuot -- is a Jewish holiday marking the cessation of a divinely-sent plague which killed thousands of people. According to one explanation, the plague was sent because people treated one another disrespectfully. This day is celebrated with bonfires and great joy. In Israel on Lag BaOmer a pall of smoke hovers over Jerusalem from all the bonfires throughout the city.

In past years, it has become a tradition among settlers in Hebron to break into the homes of Palestinians and steal property to use as fodder for bonfires. We hope that such abominations are not repeated this year. Destroying and vandalizing Palestinian property is unfortunately a matter of routine in the West Bank. A UN report notes that in 2016, settlers destroyed more than 1300 Palestinian-owned olive trees. This year, in April alone, over 200 trees were destroyed by settlers. This doesn’t include attacks on Palestinians who were working in their orchards, cultivating land, herding flocks, or even in their own homes. There is an average of two attacks per week against Palestinians.

Yes, a pall hangs over Jerusalem. But we have the power to help end this plague. This year, let Lag BaOmer stand for the end of the plague of violence against each other. Let this year see the cessation of the plague of destruction and xenophobia. Support Americans for Peace Now and our colleagues in Israel's Peace Now movement as we speak out against this shameful behavior.

DonateStand with us today.

Stand with us to send a clear message that settler malfeasance -- whether it is ransacking Palestinian shops for bonfires, attacking Palestinians, or cutting down olive trees -- is not acceptable. Stand with us and our commitment to you that we will continue to work for peace and a two-state solution, regardless of attempts to silence us, regardless of attempts to keep us out of the country, regardless of price-tagging and death threats to our tireless colleagues in Israel's Peace Now movement. Stand with us as we take a firm stance against violence, whether Israeli against Palestinian, or Palestinian against Israeli. Violence by either side is intolerable, and must end.

Americans for Peace Now will always tell you the truth, and we will stand with you until there is peace. Support us today with a tax-deductible donation.

B'vircat shalom - with a blessing of peace,

Rabbi Alana Suskin

PS. Recently we were forced to cancel our June Study Tour to Israel due to the "Entry Law" passed by the Knesset. This anti-democratic law prohibits entry into Israel by non-citizens who support boycotting the settlements and/or settlement products. While rejecting BDS, APN proudly supports boycotting the settlements -but not Israel- as a measure toward ending the settlement project. After announcing the cancellation we were subjected to hate-filled e-mails calling us all kinds of disgusting names. But we are undeterred: We are the true pro-peace, pro-Israel supporters that Israel desperately needs at the moment. On this Lag BaOmer let us remember the price of dehumanizing others.


On May 27th, we will bring back hope

Two States One Hope

After fifty years of occupation, Israel has reached a critical point in time. It is more important than ever to ensure that the two-state solution remains possible both on the ground and in public opinion. While a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, they do not believe it is possible right now. To bring about a fundamental change, we need to restore hope.

On May 27th, Peace Now will bring back hope.

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Yom Ha'atzma’ut: Hope

Hope

Ori Nir

On a recent visit to the doctor's office, the nurse asked me if I have recently felt depressed or hopeless. I paused and pondered the impact that developments in both Jerusalem and Washington have had on me. The nurse noticed my hesitation and said, "Oh, it's routine, sir. We are required to ask every patient about their emotional state." I had to think. How do you honestly reply without being sent to the psychiatric ward… Well, I said, "Hopeless? No, definitely not hopeless."

It's not hopeless. Not at all. Had I thought it was hopeless, I would have found something else to do.

Particularly today, perhaps more than any other day on the calendar, it’s important to keep this sense of proportions.

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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

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