Recording- Getting Aid Into Gaza: With SmartAid’s Shachar Zahavi

Over the last few weeks, the subject of humanitarian aid has dominated conversations about the Gaza War. Headlines depict aid trucks being stopped or blocked altogether from entering Gaza and global experts warning that Gaza is on the verge of famine with Northern Gaza likely already experiencing famine. Some individuals and organizations are still managing to offer food and support, providing some measure of relief. To discuss the situation on the ground and the logistics of providing aid, we spoke with Shachar Zahavi, the founder of SmartAid: an international aid agency that leverages technologies to enhance humanitarian efforts worldwide. 

In addition to his role at SmartAid, Shachar Zahavi was the founder and Chairperson at IsraAID, where he served as Executive Director for 16 years. There, he spearheaded the organization's global strategy, overseeing its expansion and operations in over 50 countries for both disaster relief and long-term sustainable programs. Shachar is also credited with co-authoring in-depth research on Israel's foreign aid and its impact in the context of foreign government relationships.

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Shalom Achshav Bravely Takes a Stand

Dear Friend of APN,

On Tuesday (4/9/2024), our friends at Shalom Achshav  – Peace Now – did something remarkable. They stood up and loudly and clearly voiced their support for President Biden’s efforts,  for an end to the war, and for a better, fairer, and more peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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Action Alert- Is Israel In Compliance with US Aid Law?

At the end of March, the United States made the preliminary determination that the IDF’s conduct in Gaza does not violate US and international humanitarian law. This determination followed months of elected representatives, intergovernmental bodies, international courts, Israeli and global human rights observers, and members of the Biden Administration themselves persistently expressing grave concerns regarding the actions of the Netanyahu government.

Preliminarily finding Israel in compliance with President Biden’s National Security Memorandum (NSM-20), which requires that all countries receiving US security assistance comply with US and international humanitarian law before receiving US assistance, means that the United States will continue to send weapons to be used in the war in Gaza.

Now, in advance of the May 8th deadline for the State Department to report to Congress about Israel’s compliance with NSM-20, Congresswoman Escobar and Congressman Castro are circulating a letter addressed to Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and Director Haines expressing deep concern over the State Department’s preliminary determination and seeking their responses to a series of questions about whether have produced any substantive analysis related to Israel’s actions in Gaza as it relates to NSM-20.

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Reps. Castro and Escobar's Letter to Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and Director Haines:

The Honourable Lloyd J. Austin


U.S. Department of Defense

Washington, DC 20301


The Honourable Antony Blinken


U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC 20520  


The Honourable Avril Haines

Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

McLean, VA 22102


Dear Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, and Director Haines:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the U.S. Department of State’s recent comments regarding assurances from the Israeli government, under National Security Memorandum (NSM) 20, that the Israeli government is using U.S-origin weapons in full compliance with relevant U.S. and international law and is not restricting the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In the face of mounting credible and deeply troubling reports and allegations that Israel has used U.S arms in ways that violate U.S. and international law, including international humanitarian law as it relates to civilian protections and aid flow, we believe a failure to question, at minimum, the Netanyahu government’s assurances, violates the very spirit of the NSM-20 process. The NSM requires the Secretaries to report to the President if their validity has been called into question. As such, we would like to understand whether and how the State Department and Department of Defense (DoD), in collaboration with U.S. intelligence community, have been provided with the opportunity to contribute substantively in support of this, and related, policy processes.

For months, elected representatives, intergovernmental bodies, international courts, Israeli and global human rights observers – along with government officials themselves – have persistently expressed grave concerns regarding the actions of the Netanyahu government. These include its conduct throughout the war in Gaza, its policies regarding civilian harm and military targeting,  unauthorized expansion of settlements and settler violence in the West Bank and potential use of U.S. arms by settlers in additional to limitations on humanitarian aid supported by the US. We are concerned that some of Israel's actions may not be consistent with international humanitarian law, which the United States has an interest in consistently upholding.

On March 23, over 20 major nongovernmental organizations issued a statement noting that “the humanitarian response in Gaza, including U.S. funded humanitarian assistance, has been consistently and arbitrarily denied, restricted, and impeded by the Israeli authorities. Bureaucratic constraints are preventing a humanitarian scale-up, on top of the conduct of the conflict. These constraints include the continued closure of vital border crossings, including crossings into northern Gaza; rejections of aid items for entry based on arbitrary, opaque and shifting justifications, including definitions of dual use; lengthy delays and unpredictable processes for the inspection of trucks; and denial of movement requests within Gaza. In addition, there have been repeated attacks on aid workers, convoys, distributions and humanitarian sites, including those submitted to the Israeli authorities as part of the humanitarian notification (“deconfliction”) process.

We remain concerned by the stark differences and gaps in the assessments being made by the State Department and White House on how Israel has not been found to be in violation of international humanitarian law, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or when it comes to the provision of humanitarian assistance, which are contradictory to those made by prominent experts and global institutions. Given the dire and catastrophic nature of this war, it is critical to ensure that the U.S. government is fully utilizing the expertise of State Department and DoD officials and legal experts, accounting important intelligence community assessments and data, in thoroughly assessing Israel’s actions in Gaza. Non-political experts’ substantive analysis is vital to ensuring the accuracy and credibility of any and all of the assessments under NSM-20, as well as in the arms transfer review process and security assistance obligation process. As such, we are seeking to understand whether, and how, legal experts and other officials within the State Department and DoD have been formally or informally tasked to examine these issues, and more specifically:

  1. Which agencies conducted or been directed to conduct any assessment of Israel’s conduct in Gaza, including whether the use of U.S.-origin weapons has been in accordance with U.S. best practices, or international law, or has violated any human rights? If so, what were the results of that assessment? Will the results of the assessment be incorporated into the first reports to Congress as required by the NSM on May 8th?
  2. Has the U.S. Intelligence Community been tasked with supporting the development of the Congressional Reports required under National Security Memorandum-20 (NSM-20)? If so, what were the results of that assessment? Will the results of the assessment be incorporated into the first reports to Congress as required by the NSM on May 8th?
  3. Has the Office of DoD General Counsel conducted, or been directed to conduct, any general assessment of whether Israel’s conduct in Gaza since October 7th complies with international humanitarian law or other aspects of international law? Will the results of the assessment be incorporated into the first reports to Congress as required by the NSM on May 8th?
  4. Has the Office of the Legal Adviser conducted, or been directed to conduct, any general assessment of whether Israel’s conduct in Gaza since October 7th complies with international humanitarian law or other aspects of international law?   If so, will the results of the assessment be incorporated into the first reports to Congress as required by the NSM on May 8th?
  5. Has the Office of the Legal Adviser conducted, or been directed to conduct, any substantive assessment in support of a decision on the authorization of a Foreign Military Sales case or issuance of a Direct Commercial Sales license to Israel, since October 7th, of whether Israel’s conduct in Gaza complies with U.S. law, international humanitarian law or other aspects of international law, or of whether the transfer of an armament may violate U.S. commitments, or any international convention or treaty to which the U.S. is a party, or the spirit of the Arms Trade Treaty, to which the U.S. is a signatory?   If so, will the results of this assessment be included on May 8th?
  6. Has the Office of the Legal Adviser conducted, or been directed to conduct, any assessment of whether Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act (22 USC  2378-1) has been or should be triggered by Israel’s restriction of U.S.-funded humanitarian assistance to, or in, Gaza? If so, will the results be incorporated in the May 8th assessment?
  7. As a part of the assessment of the assurances provided by Israel subject to NSM-20, was the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Department of State requested to provide, or did it otherwise provide any substantive analysis of the credibility of the assurances? If so, will the results be incorporated in the May 8th assessment?


Thank you for your attention to this matter. Given its urgency, we kindly request a response to these questions by May 1, 2024.  


Hadar Susskind on Haaretz Podcast (April 9, 2024)

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Statement by Americans for Peace Now on House Resolution 1117

April 10, 2024 - Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly opposes House Resolution 1117 which claims to oppose efforts to “place one-sided pressure on Israel with respect to Gaza.”

House Republicans are again using straw-man arguments to make a show of support for the Netanyahu government. The Hamas attack on October 7 was horrific and there is and can be no rationale to defend it. And Israel is and was entitled to self-defense. Neither President Biden nor anyone in the administration has ever suggested otherwise.

The Biden Administration’s decision to abstain on the UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the return of all hostages was both politically sensible and an expression of important American values. In the midst of a growing famine and with tens of thousands of civilians dead, the UN resolution was a reasonable attempt to restrain the Netanyahu government from continuing to pursue a war with no meaningful defined goals and no benefit to Israeli security.

APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “House Republicans can continue to throw meaningless tantrums on behalf of their political ally, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Or they can observe that Biden Administration pressure has provided for the opening of the Erez crossing, the immediate transfer of more humanitarian aid and possibly a step toward the cessation of large-scale hostilities. I remind them that the goal of all people should be ending the war and moving toward a real peace. We suggest they work with their Democratic colleagues to do whatever it takes to bring this war to a close, and begin working on long-term political solutions that sideline Hamas and resolve the conflict.”

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Legislative Round-Up- April 5, 2024

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

1. Bills, Resolutions
2. Letters
3. Hearings & Markups
4. Selected Media & Press releases/Statements

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Naomi Paiss

Naomi Paiss
Interim Director of Communications
Naomi Paiss is serving as Interim Communications Director for APN.  She retired in 2022 after more than 40 years running  public affairs  and communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the New Israel Fund, the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence,  the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and other organizations.

Based in both DC and Jerusalem, Naomi rejoined the working world to help APN through a period of transition and to participate in the serious issues now confronting both Israel and the U.S.  



News from APN- Ori Nir Retires

After 18 years at APN, our VP for Public Affairs Ori Nir is retiring. Born and raised in Jerusalem, before landing at APN Ori led a storied career as a journalist primarily focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He covered Palestinian affairs at Ha’aretz in the early days of the Intifada and through the implementation of the first phases of the Oslo Accords. As the Washington correspondent for both Ha’aretz and the Forward, he focused on US Mideast policy. Ori is widely known as a go-to expert on issues of Middle East peace and conflict, not only because of his vast knowledge and experience and his fluency in both Hebrew and Arabic, but because of his enormous sense of compassion and understanding for all involved.

Ori was an innovator and a storyteller at APN, bringing the organization into the podcast era with PeaceCast. His mellifluous voice and probing questions have made our podcast a must-not-miss week after week. His op-eds – appearing in numerous outlets including Ha'aretz and the New York Times– were filled not only with important information but also deeply personal stories. Those of you who traveled with Ori to Israel and Palestine over the years had the experience of learning from him every step of the way. While our communications and public affairs work will continue to grow and change, we will miss Ori deeply. He is one of those rare people you get to work with who is completely and utterly irreplaceable.

We’re sending Ori off b'hatzlacha, bil tawfiq, and good luck for the next stage of his journey.

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What the Killing of World Central Kitchen Workers Should Mean for US Aid to Israel

By Madeleine Cereghino- Director of Government Relations

The tragic and avoidable killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers on Monday has underscored the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the significant obstacles faced by relief efforts due to the actions of the Israeli government. While the IDF and Prime Minister Netanyahu have offered apologies for the airstrikes, labeling them as mistakes made by commanders in the field, José Andrés (the founder of World Central Kitchen) has asserted that the relief workers were deliberately targeted by the Israeli military.

President Biden has issued his strongest condemnation of Israel's conduct since the start of the war, including calling Israel’s failure to safeguard civilians and aid workers "a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult” and saying that” Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians."

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