As part of a group of non-Israeli academics assembled by Tel Aviv University, I visited the Temple Mount in July 2017. On the next day, two Israeli border police officers were shot there in a terror attack. I had the opportunity to make a condolence visit to Hurfeish, the Druze village in the Galilee from which the two policemen (who were cousins) hailed. In the intimate setting of the room in which female relatives were mourning, I told an aunt of the slain men that I was coming to work for the American sister organization of Shalom Achshav and wanted to help in any way I could.
She looked at me, grief-stricken and weary, and said, "Make peace."
A month later, I joined Americans for Peace Now as Policy Director. My path to APN was not conventional. I am a political scientist and Middle East politics expert by training. I came to APN following ten years of teaching at America’s second-oldest university (the College of William and Mary), as a specialist in foreign policies of Arab states. I never aspired to work for a Jewish organization. But with a mother who was born in a refugee camp in Germany in 1946 and as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, my Jewish identity is a core part of who I am and Israel has always been a central piece of that identity. Related to that is the abiding commitment I’ve made throughout my life to public service.
I left the Ivory Tower and came to work for APN in August 2017, when the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace weren’t exactly heating up. Am I a little nuts? Possibly. But no more so than the right-wing settlers who picked up their game when it looked like the Oslo process would defeat them. It’s precisely when the odds are against us that we must redouble our commitment—and put our energy and money where our ideals are, as our opponents do. We must do more than look for hope; we must generate it ourselves.
Like the Druze of Hurfeish and our brave comrades at Peace Now in Israel who can’t and won’t walk away, I am committed. I am hopeful. I feel privileged to represent you and our shared two-state, pro-Israel, pro-peace agenda – whether I’m working with Congressional staff, debating spokesmen for the settlers on Israeli TV, writing for Haaretz, authoring a report on annexation, or equipping passionate college students with the knowledge they need to be effective advocates.
If you haven’t yet made your end-of-year gift to APN please do so now, and give generously. We know you don’t have the bottomless resources of Sheldon Adelson. But if all of our supporters step up their game, my talented colleagues and I can do so much more to fight for an Israel unburdened by occupation: democratic, at peace, closer to our values, and a national home for the Jewish people.
Happy New Year to all!
With best wishes,
Debra Shushan, PhD
APN Director of Policy and Government Relations