From Aviva Meyer, APN Vice Chair, who has served as interim CEO:
To my family and friends...
To all those who know me well...
To those who know me slightly...
To those of you who have never heard of me...
And to the APN staff and board,
I address this letter... my last formal communications as Acting CEO of Americans
for Peace Now (APN):
In the summer of 2018, Debra DeLee, the wonderful long-time President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, called me in France (where I was planning to stay through October...lucky me...) to tell me that for personal reasons she was going to have to retire.
(Photo: Me during an APN Study Tour in Jordan -- in very different times!)
APN’s Board of Directors was just finishing a strategic planning process, and we were therefore not quite ready to begin a search for Debra’s successor. Debra thought I would be an appropriate candidate to serve as an interim CEO because I am Vice Chair of APN’s Board, and, as many of you know, I live in Washington DC, where APN’s headquarters are located. I have had a long professional career (don’t even ask) in nonprofit work, focusing for most of those years on supporting a Jewish and democratic Israel. APN needed someone to “keep things going” for about three months. Would I do it as a volunteer? APN would be very grateful if I would agree to step in, Debra said.
Of course, I said yes.
I was retired, I certainly know and care about Israel. I know the nonprofit world, and the biggest sacrifice I would be making would be to come home two months early from France. No big deal! I said yes.
As I write to you now, it is 22 months later (if Debra ever uses me as a reference for a job, I will feel compelled to say that she can’t count!). I am delighted to inform you that we have just hired a fabulous replacement for Debra. More details in a couple of days.
Before I step back into my Board role, I thought I would share with you some of what I have learned at APN over these 22 past months, and why I am so satisfied that I said “yes” back then, in the hope that I might motivate you to think about matters I have had to consider over the past two years.
So, in response to many of you who have asked me why I don’t give up on Israel already (presumably they have...or are about to give up), I have several points to make (I always try to smile and listen politely):
- Yes, these are difficult and challenging times for Israeli democracy and for prospects for peace (certainly in the near term) between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. But, as for the future, it will depend on what we all do now and on things we cannot predict now. Did anyone predict that Sadat would come to Jerusalem, that the Oslo talks would happen, that Israel would have long-standing peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan, even in the absence of a peace treaty with the Palestinians? And these are only a few examples. We cannot predict the future, but groups like APN and Peace Now in Israel are doing what they can do now, under very difficult circumstances, to make a brighter future possible.
- Next, I hear questions about the appropriate role of Diaspora Jews when Israelis themselves keep electing the politicians they elect. For starters, look at the leadership that Americans last elected here. Personally, I don’t think we are in a position to cast the first stone! And APN is the only Diaspora peace group that actually has one solid partner on the ground In Israel: the oldest, largest, best known peace movement in Israel.
- People ask me why I invest my time in advancing the two-state solution, a cause that seems increasingly difficult to attain. Is it worth the time and the effort, they ask? Why not succumb to the binational reality on the ground and shift to a struggle for equal civil rights for Palestinians? I’ll tell you why. Because doing so would play right into the hands of the extremists, into the hands of those aiming to normalize the one-state, apartheid-like reality they are creating. The two-state solution may not be attainable today, but I am certain it is not beyond reach in the future, and I know it is the only way to secure Israel as a democracy that is the national home of the Jewish people. Our brothers and sisters at Israel’s Peace Now movement are deeply committed to this goal and to the two-state solution. Who are we to turn our backs to them and to their struggle?
- Personally, I believe it is my responsibility (and yours) to support those Israelis who share my values, (our values), who stand for a Jewish and democratic Israel. The vision of Israel as a democracy that is the national homeland of the Jewish people is being seriously challenged today. How will I feel, how will we all feel, if Israel does turn into an apartheid state, if the Israel we have known disappears? If we don’t do the most we can, I worry about either an Israel that I can no longer support or about Israel’s mere existence (if not in the short run, then in the long run).
I fervently believe that we all have a responsibility to do what we can, not just for own personal conscience, but for ourselves as Jews, a responsibility to do what we can to support the kind of Israel that we believe in. It is a responsibility to do right by the Jewish homeland, just as we have a personal responsibility toward other Americans during this time of crisis to stay home, to wear masks, to consider how our actions might impact others, particularly others who deeply matter to you.
When I see the people who make up APN and support it – and after 22 months “on the job,” I know APN’s staff and the Board in a new, personal way -- I feel even more motivated to do whatever I can. I hope you feel the same way.
Whether that means giving financially, giving your time, or introducing APN to your friends and family to expand our outreach; whether it is keeping yourselves up to date by reading our materials or by joining our various programs (telephone briefings, podcasts, petitions, study tours to Israel).
I can only say that while these past two years have been very full (yes, it has been a lot of work), they have given me even more than I have been able to contribute to APN. The staff and fellow Board members (starting with our Chair Jim Klutznick, who has been by my side the entire time) have given me great support.
I can only hope that in some small way, this thank you and farewell (I am not going far, just back to the Board) will motivate you to do more to support APN. I can assure you that just as I was motivated and inspired by giving what I had – my time and experience – so will you be motivated and gratified by your giving.
There remains much for us all to do. Our Israeli progressive partners need us now more than ever. We need to do our share. We owe it to them.
Kadima! Off we go!