Written before the elections, our Passover letter noted how wealthy extremists like Sheldon Adelson support programs based on their right-wing values. We ask in our letter how those of us who support peace can do the same. It's time to step up.
In case you missed it, I include our passover message below, as well as a link to Israeli security expert Yossi Alpher's warning against complacency. You do not need to be a billionaire to make a difference; you only need to act!
For pro-peace American Jews and Israelis, billionaire Sheldon Adelson is the object of both fear and scorn.
He’s certainly an easy target. Crass and richer than Croesus, he seems to get a blank check for irresponsible remarks, such as calling the Palestinians “an invented people” and advocating a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran. He has made it his mission to thwart a peace deal that would bring a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Equally galling is his bankrolling of Israel Hayom, a free newspaper widely criticized as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Netanyahu that has turned the economics of Israel’s traditional newspaper industry on its head.
Yet none of this is illegal. Adelson is putting his money where his mouth is. Attempts in the Knesset to ban Israel Hayom (which helped usher in Israel’s March 17 elections) smack of censorship and do nothing to help pro-peace Israelis. In wringing our hands over Sheldon Adelson and trying to silence him, we seem to be suffering the plague of complacency in thinking that, by shutting the paper down, peace will blossom all over.
To promote our pro-Israel, pro-peace message, we as a community need to put our money where our mouths are. We need to respond to the right wing’s well-financed efforts with ones of our own. Americans for Peace Now and Shalom Achshav are poised to lead that response.
To shake off the plague of complacency, we can recall our ancestor Nachshon who, according to the Midrash, stood with the Children of Israel at the shore of the Red Sea as the army of Pharaoh closed in. Nachshon, like all his people, was faced on one side with annihilation by the Egyptians and on the other with drowning by an apparently unfulfilled promise by God to part the waters
Nachshon did not curse Pharaoh for being crass or rich. He wasn’t complacent. He entered the sea. When he was nearly under water, the sea parted and our less visionary ancestors crossed on dry land.
Nor was Yossi Alpher, whose letter follows, complacent. In a very different era, his path to becoming a preeminent Israeli security analyst and contributor to Americans for Peace Now was anything but complacent.
In 1964, Yossi was a 21-year-old kid from Washington, D.C. who followed his beliefs and made aliyah. Yossi was not complacent when it came to Israel and its security. He joined the IDF and became an intelligence officer. From there he went to the Mossad, where he worked for 12 years, and then moved to Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies where he ultimately became director. His half-century fight for Israel’s security has come at personal cost: Yossi lost much of his hearing from the sounds of gunfire during his IDF service.
These are examples of people who analyzed the risks, made their decision, and jumped in. Now, at Passover, I call on you to abandon complacency. We can go toe-to-toe with the Sheldon Adelsons, and the Irving Moskowitzes – another right-wing American millionaire whose strategy to kill an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is to buy Arab-owned land in East Jerusalem and transfer it to Jews.
We are more numerous than they are. We don’t have to work to shut down Israel Hayom. What is stopping us from making our own headlines?
We know that a majority of Israelis continue to support a two-state solution, reflected even in polls conducted by Adelson’s Israel Hayom. We also know that most Israelis understand that the two-state solution is the only way to preserve Israel’s character as a secure, Jewish, democratic state. In fact, another recent poll shows that over 60 percent of modern Orthodox Israelis believe that safeguarding Israel’s Jewish character is more important than maintaining control of the West Bank.
APN and our sister organization, Peace Now, are working every day to bring about the vision of these pro-peace Israelis. But we need your support.
Because we lose by being complacent, by ceding the fight to the right and its bankrollers. By being complacent, we lose to the BDS movement, which thrives on Israel’s seeming indifference to the occupation and endless settlement building. Worse, the situation is pushing those who are merely frustrated with Israeli policies into the arms of those BDS-ers who genuinely hate Israel or cover their anti-Semitism with anti-Zionist rhetoric.
We need the pro-Israel, pro-peace community to step up to the plate. If you are dismayed and alarmed by Adelson, Irving Moskowitz, and others working to kill the two-state solution, then don’t just say it — show it.
Be like Yossi Alpher. Be like Nachshon. Make a splash. Help support APN today.
P.S. Your donation is tax-deductible. APN is a 501 (c)(3) organization and has received a 3 star designation from Charity Navigator. And for a donation of at least $250 we are pleased to offer you a copy of Yossi Alpher’s new book Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies. All but $15 of your donation will be tax-deductible with this offer.
When the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations failed last year, many on the right said the best Israel could do is “manage” the Palestinian problem. They were, in effect, inviting their fellow citizens to be complacent as settlements continued to be built and the possibility of a two-state solution receded into oblivion.
But Israel, and its supporters, cannot be complacent because the absence of a Palestinian state is a threat to Israel.
Without an Arab-state political affiliation for the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will continue to be seen as an occupier and, increasingly, as an apartheid state that is losing its Zionist, Jewish and democratic nature. Israel’s ties to its allies in Europe will continue to weaken and the BDS movement will continue to feed on frustration with an Israel that does not attempt to adhere to the norms of the West. —Yossi Alpher
Since 2001 I have filed more than 600 weekly “Hard Questions, Tough Answers” columns for Americans for Peace Now that frequently deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I’ve also recently published a book, Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies, which focuses primarily on dynamics that developed in Israel’s early decades when, surrounded by a hostile Arab nationalist “core” spearheaded by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jerusalem formed strategic links with non-Arab actors on the outskirts or “periphery” of the region like Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia and the Iraqi Kurds.
One of the striking aspects of Israel’s periphery alliances of the 1950s and ‘60s is that they had virtually nothing to do with the Palestinian issue.
After all, at that time in Middle East and international history, Jordan ruled the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, and Arab citizens of Israel were quiescent under IDF military government. Back then, Israel could link up with allies on the Middle East geographical and ethnic periphery without discussing the Palestinian issue.
Today, Iran and Turkey are associated with a hostile new Middle East Islamist core, while Israel’s political leadership professes to be moving toward a new and different regional alliance, this time with “moderate” Arab states like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Here, unlike in the past, the Palestinian issue is very evident. According to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman, Cairo, Amman and Riyadh will now help Jerusalem resolve the Palestinian issue with a minimum of Israeli concessions because they need Israel to stand with them against Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
These Israeli leaders consistently misread the Arab Peace Initiative put forward in 2002 by Saudi then-Crown Prince Abdullah, which makes it pretty clear what sort of two-state solution Israel has to come up with if it wants the friendship of the Arab world. Never mind that all three Arab “allies” constantly repeat the mantra that without a two-state solution they cannot deepen their ties with Israel. Never mind that Cairo and Amman are so traumatized by the Islamist threat, by Israel’s wars with Hamas and by the total absence of a peace process that even as they cooperate with Israel at the security level, Egypt no longer maintains an ambassador in Israel and Israel cannot reopen its embassy in Cairo.
Never mind that even the non-Islamist “Arab street” in those capitals will never countenance closer cooperation with Israel until and unless there is a two-state solution. And ignore the fact that, as the propagator of extremist Wahabi Islam throughout the Arab world and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia is part of the militant Islamist problem, not the solution.
Sixty years ago, our potential friends could ignore the Palestinian issue; today, nobody can. Sixty years ago, we were so self-assured in our Jewish and democratic identity that we didn’t even need to talk about it. Now we desperately need a Palestinian solution in both contexts: making and maintaining friends, and remaining who we want and need to be. We need a Palestinian solution to survive, not in the immediate security sense but in the most profound existential sense.
Periphery touches only once on the Palestinian issue. In drawing conclusions from Israel’s attempts to reach and maintain regional alliances, I made this observation:
Is Israel as isolated as a villa in a dangerous jungle? Or is it a successful global player? In a way, both descriptions fit. Yet what is striking about both questions is that they perforce ignore the issue closest to home, the one generating the impression of growing isolation: the Palestinians. While in the near future the Palestinian issue is not liable to precipitate a major Arab-Israel war, the demographic existential threat it projects to Israel’s very being as a Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state only grows with every new Israeli settlement, every neighborhood encircling Arab East Jerusalem, and every new expression of Palestinians’ frustration with the prospects of a state of their own — even if the Palestinian camp bears a significant portion of the blame for this state of affairs. Soothing reassurances from the pro-settler camp to the effect that this problem will somehow solve itself are, to put it mildly, lacking in strategic objectivity — indeed, lacking in strategic essence, insofar as they are messianic.
If Israel cannot separate itself from the Palestinians. . . it risks drifting into de facto apartheid or some form of bi-national Jewish-Arab state. . . The apartheid-like state increasingly contemplated by Israel’s dominant and complacent pro-settler right wing would be a repugnant partner internationally.
And if, eventually, after failing to separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel folds into a bi-national state where the Jews are destined to become a minority…it will simply fit all too nicely into the Muslim Arab Middle East core.
This is where complacency will lead us. And this is the challenge confronting Americans for Peace Now (APN) and Shalom Achshav.
At a time when both the Israeli and the Palestinian political systems — each in its own very different way — are seemingly incapable of agreeing on the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, APN proceeds every day to remind the Obama administration and Congress that the Israeli policies they tolerate are moving Israel toward disaster.
It is very much in the U.S. interest that Israel continue to be a Jewish and democratic state. The absence of a solution to the conflict jeopardizes that American — and Israeli — need.
In Israel itself, Shalom Achshav, which is supported by APN, is anything but complacent. It makes sure the public and the courts hear about the construction of every additional settlement housing unit that implements those policies and every one-sided ministerial move that favors the settlements over the needs of the vast majority of Israelis.
We need to prevent a hyper-messianic faction of Israelis from destroying the fabric of Israel, turning it into a conflicted and violent bi-national entity that no longer has any use for grand strategies and, as a disastrous byproduct, orphaning the Diaspora. Toward this end, nothing could be more important than supporting APN.
You are not complacent, so please make a contribution that will allow APN and Shalom Achshav to continue their work.
Chag Pesach Sameyach,
Yossi Alpher is an Israeli Security expert. He writes “Hard Questions, Tough Answers”, a weekly Q&A for Americans for Peace Now, and “The Strategic Interest”, a monthly column for The Forward. Yossi Alpher served in the Israel Defense Forces as an Intelligence officer, followed by 12 years in the Mossad. He was associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS) at Tel Aviv University, ultimately serving as Director of the Center. Since 1992 he has coordinated several track II dialogues between Israelis and Arabs and during the 2000 Camp David Summit, Alpher served as Special Adviser to Israeli PM Ehud Barak. In 2001 he wrote And The Wolf Shall Dwell With The Wolf: the Settlers and the Palestinians.
In February of 2015, Yossi Alpher published PERIPHERY: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies. Periphery explores Israel’s search for alliances in the early days of the state and today. By looking at Israel’s search for Middle East allies then and now, Periphery explores a key Israeli grand strategy and provides a better understanding of Israel’s role in the Middle East region and its Middle East identity.