See Intro Note and Matching Donation Offer from Jim Klutznick, Chair of the APN Board
"Now more than ever!" "It’s five minutes to midnight!" "You must act now!"
That’s how many fundraising letters begin. I understand the good intentions behind those words but to me they sound like pandering, as if the only way to inspire support for an important, worthwhile cause is to play to panic, desperation, and crisis.
Where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, it’s obvious that things are bad, and, given the outrageous one-sided terms proposed by the so called “peace plan” proposed by Trump and endorsed by Netanyahu, things are unlikely to improve in the near future. Yet, if you’ve been following the situation in the Middle East as long as I have, you‘ve seen worse—wars and terror attacks, for instance—and you know that there are bound to be uncountable “Now more than ever” moments to come, until sanity and fairness return the parties to the negotiating table.
In the meantime, Americans for Peace Now is doing the hardest work of all, the work of staying the course, educating people on what’s at stake, monitoring the facts on the ground, and continuing the struggle for peace, no matter how desperate the circumstances or how hostile the political climate.
APN takes seriously what the Psalmist wrote: that one must not just seek peace but pursue it. Our organization is all about that pursuit. Our staff, board, and supporters do everything possible to keep alive the vision of justice, human rights, and an equitable peace for two peoples on the same land. And we’re asking you to count yourself among the pursuers of peace, who believe in continuing the struggle. Continuing is the name of what we’re about. Not losing heart or hope, not letting despair defeat us.
Our sister organization in Israel, Peace Now, was founded more than 40 years ago by reserve officers in the Israel Defense Forces who dreamed—and demanded—that leaders on both sides of the conflict MAKE—PEACE—NOW. In the intervening decades, we and the rest of the world have been forced to understand that “now” needs more time. Still, we carry the dream and the demand forward because that’s what it takes to not just seek but to pursue an objective as urgent as peace between two peoples who deeply love the same narrow strip of land.
Despite the last word in our name, we who support Americans for Peace Now are not naive about the hard reality of “now.” Rather than simply throw up our hands in disgust or inveigh against spending more time, energy, and dollars on a quest that right now seems futile, we believe that to abandon the quest for peace is to abandon the very idea of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state.
We believe that the Trump/Netanyahu plan is a recipe for disaster, that its proposed map entirely strips another people of its dignity, and imagines a future Palestinian state that’s as disconnected as the islands in the Caribbean, and that normalizes annexation of territory whose borders were intended to be negotiated.
Here’s what’s at stake now.
To paraphrase Edmund Burke (in nonsexist terms), “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” In our context, the only thing necessary for the triumph of injustice, inequality, and incessant conflict, is for us, the long-time pursuers of peace, to quit by the side of the road, and fall silent.
Clearly, it would be much easier to raise high the banner of Israeli-Palestinian peace in America if the advocates of peace in Israel were more numerous and more potent. But make no mistake: There is a vibrant peace camp in Israel, of which our partners in Shalom Achshav—Peace Now—are the most steadfast and most venerated members. And those who are continuing to pursue peace need to know we have their backs.
They need to know that they have allies here in the States, that they have real support and not just sympathy. If you think our morale is low, consider what our Israeli sisters and brothers confront, and then ask what you can do to help them carry on.
As for the politics here at home, we in APN are not oblivious to the strident voices on the right, or to the increasing power of the “pro-Israel” Christian Zionists. (How many of us realize that their “love of Israel” masks a radical fundamentalist belief that only when all Jews migrate to the Holy Land can the rapture begin—at which point “the Jews” must either convert or burn in hell?).
Yet the fact remains—and this is a FACT—that most American Jews support a two-state solution, not a policy of brutality, transfer or annexation, which is the antithesis of a two-state solution. We need to buttress these facts with a commitment to change the landscape and the conversation. And that’s where APN comes in because we’re the most effective educational resource on these issues, bar none.
Jewish students are being challenged to defend Israel, and some of them—products of one or another of our youth organizations, active members of Hillel, and so on—are tolerably well-prepared to enter the fray. Most, however, lack adequate information to really dive into the nitty-gritty of the arguments that have roiled campuses around the country.
Students and others are taught that Israel is always right, the Palestinians always wrong, and that whoever opposes Israel’s policies is ipso facto an anti-Zionist which is just a cover for anti-Semitism. Some people, knowing no better, swallow whole what they are taught and often find themselves over their heads in debates and confrontations. But too many walk away in disgust.
Increasingly, more young American Jews are apathetic about Israel these days. For Jewish parents and leaders to aspire to teach our kids the skills of critical thinking except on the subject of Israel is shortsighted and self-defeating. How can the best and brightest of our young people develop a deep and genuine connection to Israel if they’re required to offer a blind endorsement of the Israeli government’s behavior toward the Palestinian people, whose lives are lived at the sufferance of Israeli police, soldiers, and militant Jewish settlers?
APN and Shalom Achshav have the best educational materials and make appeals to young people. But we need your help NOW to do more. Students still lack adequate information to really dive into the essence of the arguments and this is where APN can help.
With your funding, both organizations, APN here in the U.S. and Shalom Achshav in Israel, can reach these young people by doing more social media, advertising more on these platforms, bringing speakers to campus, offering webinars, and much more.
Which leads me to my commitment to our Israeli partners—for the sake of avoiding clichés, I will not say now more than ever, but I will say that without our help—your help—Peace Now would not be able to do what it needs to do to oppose Trump and Netanyahu’s annexation drive. This is the organization that takes settlers to court and educates the Israeli public on destructive policies across the Green Line and the toll occupation is taking on both Israel and the Palestinians.
Jewish tradition teaches that our task is not to complete the work, but neither are we permitted to desist from it. Our Israeli colleagues in Peace Now need our support. I ask that you help APN stay the course. Please join me as a pursuer of peace and contribute as generously as you possibly can.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
P.S. The essence of Passover is a promise for a better future. Given this and in the wake of Israel’s recent elections, we must find a way to cope. Giving up to me means being complicit. I refuse to be complicit and that’s why I remain on the board of APN and support this organization wholeheartedly.
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. Her twelfth book, Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy will be published in Spring 2021. She is a current board member and past Chair of Americans for Peace Now.