It took Donald Trump less than a year. Now – after setting ablaze every sensitive issue in American public life and after alienating some of our closest international allies – he has tossed a firebomb into Jerusalem, the most combustible place on earth.
For those who had illusions about his ability to strike what he calls "the ultimate deal," Trump’s unilateral, reckless and diplomatically useless recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital serves as a bitter reality check.
Since Trump’s announcement last week, I’ve heard many doomsday expressions. The hyperbole, as well as the cycle of disappointment, violence and bloodshed make it easy to succumb to "hope fatigue."
Please read the following letter I’ve written for Americans for Peace Now about the remedy for such fatigue - it is being mailed now to tens of thousands of American households - and please consider including APN in your end-of-year giving.
If APN represents your voice, as it does mine, please consider joining me in making a generous year-end donation.
Like many activists in the peace camp, I’m occasionally afflicted with “hope fatigue” as I watch the Israeli government give up on the pursuit of peace.
When I think back to the high hopes we had for the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Summit, the Clinton Parameters, and the Quartet’s Road Map, a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more remote today than ever before.
I can’t help feeling distressed that both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have permitted the extremists on both sides to dominate the political agenda. My despair deepens as I watch Israelis gobble up land in the West Bank and take over Palestinian property in East Jerusalem that’s supposed to be subject to negotiation in a future peace agreement between the two parties.
But the staff and supporters of Americans for Peace Now—and the young leaders and volunteers at Shalom Achshav, our sister organization in Israel—refuse to succumb to hopelessness and fatigue. They just keep plugging away. And because of them and their work, I keep getting reenergized and recommitted to the struggle to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Without the intrepid efforts of our colleagues in Shalom Achshav, the Israeli government would be unchallenged in its relentless expansion of settlements, and Bibi Netanyahu would answer only to his right-wing ministers and supporters.
The fact is, none of us has the luxury of fatigue or hopelessness. There’s simply too much at stake.
Israel’s security depends upon a negotiated peace and an end to the occupation. Palestinian human rights and dignity depend on a negotiated peace and an end to the occupation. The future stability of the region depends on a negotiated peace and an end to the occupation. The moral mandate and ethical conscience of the Jewish people depend on a negotiated peace and an end to the occupation.
While the Israeli government rattles its sabers and underwrites extremists’ dreams of biblical conquest, Israel’s generals and intelligence experts in the security establishment promote diplomacy over confrontation, separation over entanglement, and mutually negotiated borders over the hubristic expansion of settlements.
Fatigue? Fuggetabout it. Hopelessness? No way.
In the face of the right wing’s master plan, none of us can afford the luxury of fatalistic defeatism. And thanks to a newly energized Israeli peace movement, our hopes have been rekindled.
Shalom Achshav (Peace Now in Israel) has been revitalized by a cadre of creative, highly motivated young leaders, among them its new Executive Director, Avi Buskila (pictured standing between two activists), and its new Settlement Watch Director, Shabtay Bendet (formerly an activist settler who has now joined the struggle against the occupation). The Peace Now staff has been crisscrossing the country and meeting with thousands of Israelis to bring their message to community centers and living rooms, and to activate young people to join the movement.Peace Now’s latest initiative, Hazon (Vision) trains young Israelis who are contemplating a career in public life by educating them about the history and politics of the conflict and giving them the skills necessary to become effective spokespersons and community organizers who can influence public opinion and convert anger into action.
Hopeless? Nope. Fatigued? Not with all the energy emanating from APN and our Israeli partners.
Americans for Peace Now takes heart not just from our interactions with Shalom Achshav but from what we ourselves have accomplished here in the United States. We’ve changed the discourse, clarified the pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda, and defined the main issues: two states for two peoples, ‘67 borders with land swaps, concern for the isolation of Israel in the global community, bedrock support for Israel but strong condemnation of its government’s violations of international law and disregard for Palestinian human rights.
We’ve raised consciousness about the dangers of continued settlement expansion and the alarming erosions of Israeli democracy.
We’ve encouraged and supported non-violent means of protest by both Palestinians and American Zionists.
Our Israeli colleagues have succeeded—through Israel’s court system—in removing illegal construction in settlements like Amona.
We’ve helped bring global attention to Israel’s land grabs by amplifying the work of Shalom Achshav’s Settlement Watch and by our significant testimony in the UN Security Council.
We’ve challenged commentators and government officials when their remarks are willfully inaccurate or incendiary. For instance, the bizarre claim by David Friedman, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who said “the settlements are a part of Israel”—a statement that is not just false but a flagrant contradiction of long-standing American foreign policy. APN is leading the effort to oust Ambassador Friedman from his post. Join us by asking President Trump to tell Friedman, “You’re fired!”
We continue to deliver the message that Israel’s support of illegal settlements brings the country closer to chaos and conflagration than to peace and security.
Fatigued? Nope. Hopeless? Not as long as APN is there to sustain the dream of peace, resist the policies of Netanyahu, Trump, and anyone else whose nationalist agenda would turn Israel a one-state, colonialist power with two separate justice systems for its two peoples: Jews and Arabs.
But we need your help so that APN can continue to educate the public, policymakers, thought leaders, and members of the American Jewish community about what’s happening on the ground in Israel and how the Zionist dream of Israel’s founders has been distorted and betrayed.
We need your help so APN can continue to produce timely, comprehensive resources, op-eds, and policy analyses.
We need your help so APN can continue to improve and enhance our mobile app for the iPhone and Android, “Facts on the Ground,” which provides visual proof of settlement activity and why it’s a clear impediment to peace. (Download the app. You’ll be amazed at its detail.)
We need your help so we can continue to provide:
- access to political, security and intelligence experts
- frequent briefing calls on relevant political developments
- our podcast (PeaceCast)
- the informative weekly Q&A with veteran Israeli security analyst, Yossi Alpher
- our periodic fact-finding trips to Israel and the surrounding region
- News Nosh, an up-to-date aggregation of Israeli media coverage of issues related to the conflict as well as commentaries by astute opinion makers
This is only a sampling of what APN has done and will continue to do. We know we have made a difference. And we’re going to keep up the struggle for peace and against fatigue and hopelessness. And that’s where you come in. Many of you have been supporters of APN for a very long time. Some of you are relatively new to our organization. And some may be reading about us for the first time. Regardless of where you fit into our history, we need you now. I’m sure many worthy causes and disaster relief efforts are competing for your attention and your dollars. I’m in the same boat. But I always put APN near the top of my philanthropic priority list because I know that its work is urgently necessary and its voice uniquely important. Especially now.
So please resist fatigue and keep hope alive. Send APN your tax-deductible donation today.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
P.S. For an extra dose of inspiration, please read the story of Shabtay Bendet, the new director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project. Years ago, Shabtay was a leader of the West Bank’s most zealous settlers, and helped establish illegal outposts deep in the West Bank. Having realized how damaging his actions were for Israel’s national security and how devastating they were for West Bank Palestinians, he made an about-face and, first as a journalist and now as a peace activist, is exposing the price that the occupation exacts from both Palestinians and Israelis. Shabtay is living proof that Israelis’ hearts and minds can be changed, even among those who are the most ideologically committed to the settlers’ agenda.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a founding editor of Ms. Magazine and the author of eleven books, most recently the novel, Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate. She is a current board member and past Chair of Americans for Peace Now.