What a week! Less than one week ago, we cheered President Obama's bold action on the pro-peace resolution in the United Nations Security Council. And earlier this week, Secretary of State Kerry delivered a stunning, comprehensive and courageous speech on settlements, and laid out the Obama administration's vision of a two-state solution and the imperative to achieve it. Not only do both of these remarks and actions represent positions long-advocated by APN, but both events contain and/or reflect the significant research of Lara Friedman (APN Policy and Legislative Director), which documents how an Obama administration abstention would be in line with U.S. policy in the UN and which was published in the New York Times. Both events reflect as well Lara's testimony on settlements delivered on behalf of APN to the United Nations Security Council in October. APN worked relentlessly and effectively to make these important events happen. Help us keep the momentum going!
I encourage you to read Lara's powerful and empowering thoughts (below) on what it means to continue to fight for peace after January 20, 2017. We can only continue our critical and singular work with your support. Before the year is out, please make a tax-deductible donation to support our fight for peace, security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians.
President and CEO, Americans for Peace Now
Why We Will Keep Fighting for Peace
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States raises serious questions about what the coming years will mean for efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. One thing that is not in question: APN’s determination to double down on the fight for Israel and its future.
Nothing in this election or its aftermath weakens our commitment to Israel or alters our conviction that peace is critical to Israel’s security and its survival as a democracy, animated by the proud Jewish values articulated in its Declaration of Independence -- Israel, as a state:
“based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
At the same time, members of Israel’s ideological right and their American counterparts – all of whom prioritize land over peace, settlements over security, and permanent control of the West Bank over democratic norms – are celebrating (in the words of Israeli right-wing leader Naftali Bennett) the end of “the era of the Palestinian state.” Make no mistake: They are celebrating what they hope will be the death of Israel as we know it, as we love it, and as its founders set out for it to be.
This is the crux of the matter.
APN has long said that to be “pro-Israel” means to be pro-peace and to oppose settlements and the occupation. These words were never merely a slogan. Democracy is incompatible with occupation. Human and civil rights are antithetical to land theft, home demolitions, and military rule over another people. Civil society is anathema to the delegitimization of non-violent activism. Absolving Israel of responsibility and insulating it from pressure for indefensible policies is a betrayal of progressive Jewish and American values.
We know the coming period will be difficult, but our positions and activism – like our extensive advocacy in support of pro-two-state action in the United Nations Security Council, as was finally taken last week – have never been dictated by political expediency.
We also know that during difficult times, our work is no less important and makes a critical difference.
We know this because we started fighting for peace long before the birth of the “peace process” in Madrid and Oslo. Back when most others comforted themselves with false mantras like, “there are no Palestinians,” APN and Shalom Achshav were reaching out to Palestinians and their leaders. We built relationships that broke through hatred and mistrust, paving the way for a new era in which both sides agreed that diplomacy, not violence, would be the only way to resolve differences, and in which zero-sum goals were replaced by the principles of compromise and coexistence.
Likewise, we started advocating for two states long before it was politically acceptable to even acknowledge the Palestinians’ right to national self-determination. We did so even when our position placed us far outside the American Jewish consensus. In standing up for what we knew was right and necessary for Israel’s future, we injected vitally important pragmatism and courage that helped move that consensus to embrace what is truly necessary for peace.
And do not forget: our fight against settlements dates back to the era when scant attention was paid to the issue. Since virtually the birth of the settlement movement, Shalom Achshav and APN have relentlessly challenged and obstructed the agenda of the settlers and their supporters. Thanks in large part to our efforts, while settlements today pose a serious challenge to peace, the settlers’ dream of “Greater Israel” remains unrealized. Settlements still remain distinct from Israel – legally, physically and cognitively. Settlers still comprise only a very small portion of all Israelis. Settlers living in the West Bank’s biblical heartland still represent an even tinier portion. Most Israelis still don’t care about or identify with the settlements. And the world still rejects the legality of settlements – as re-asserted by the United Nations Security Council just last week.
We also know that our work cannot now be put on hold, notwithstanding the many urgent concerns facing American progressives. Because today, Israel’s future – and Israel’s soul as a nation – is in greater and more immediate jeopardy than at any time since Israel’s establishment in 1948.
Over the past seventy years, Israel has decisively defeated the armies of its enemies. Yet, fifty years after the birth of the Occupation and the settlement movement, Israel is now at risk of being defeated no less decisively from within. The election of Trump and the continued domination of Netanyahu in Israel are emboldening the Israeli right and its American fellow travelers in their efforts to erase the very possibility of peace and to transform Israel into something bearing no resemblance to the Israel dreamed of by its founders.
As Americans who support Israel – who want not merely for Israel to exist, but who care deeply about what kind of nation it is and what impact its policies have on U.S. national security – we cannot and will not cede Israel’s future to them. If they are permitted to pursue this agenda unchallenged, the results for Israel – and for U.S. national security – will be devastating.