In conversation with Jafar Farah and Nabila Espanioly of the Mossawa Center, APN Political Director Debra Shushan moderated "The Nation-State Law: Implications for Democracy and Peace in Israel/Palestine" on September 27. Watch the video to see how Palestinian citizens of Israel are responding to the new Israeli law that has relegated them to second-class status -- and why they are taking their case abroad. 

 

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There are no adults in the room, anonymous or not, diligently frustrating Trump's cruel, disastrous Mideast policy, only arsonists - Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman - dousing the house with kerosene

New revelations in recent days from inside the White House provide yet more evidence of the disaster unfolding at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

One of the most astonishing stories told in Bob Woodward’s new book, "Fear," is that of President Donald Trump’s senior economic adviser Gary Cohn, who reportedly swiped a letter from Trump’s desk which - had the president signed it - would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea. (According to Cohn, Trump never realized it was missing.)

More amazing still is the complementary claim by an anonymous senior Trump administration official that s/he and many others are "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations."

Such subversion of presidential authority is certainly problematic. But given an amoral president with a fifth- or sixth-grader's understanding  of world affairs (as Defense Secretary James Mattis is said to have described Donald Trump), one can be forgiven for wishing for adults in the room.

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It has become axiomatic that a widening schism exists in relations between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Relations with American Jews (who constitute over 70% of Diaspora Jewry) are increasingly fraught. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems unperturbed. After all, who needs American Jews when (in his view) evangelical Christians are better friends to Israel? Against that backdrop, Israelis who are concerned about the rift, like former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner, deserve kudos.
Unfortunately, the proposals Lerner advances in his recent piece (“4 Things Israel Can Do To Heal The Divide With The Diaspora”) are woefully inadequate. Lerner focuses on tools the Israeli government could use to pull Diaspora Jews closer to Israel. These include well-worn ideas like de-emphasizing Aliya and focusing instead on spreading awareness of Jewish culture and offering Hebrew classes in the Diaspora – this time through a new NGO dubbed the Jewish World Alliance. He envisions a new Jewish Global Assembly, convened annually to discuss challenges and opportunities; the creation of “global virtual meeting place” for Jews worldwide; and programs for young Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to cultivate relationships.

It is not tools — new organizations and programming — that are lacking. It is a willingness to listen to Diaspora Jews and change course from policies and attitudes which repel us.

As a whole, we hold a deep affinity for Israel. According to a 2018 American Jewish Committee survey, 70% of US Jews feel that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” Similarly, 79% believe a “thriving State of Israel is vital for the long-term future of the Jewish people.” While we are loyal American citizens and (with few exceptions) have no intention of making Aliyah, many of us regard Israel as the state in which our national self-determination is realized. To a growing number, sadly, it feels like Israel is pushing us away.

If Israel cares to bridge the gap, what should it do?

Learn to Tolerate (and Appreciate) Critical Engagement

Through its 2017 Entry Law that denies entry to Israel by those who promote boycotts against Israel (defined to include boycotts against Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories), Israel conveyed clearly that it has a political litmus test for admission to Israel.

The uptick in Shin Bet interrogations at Ben-Gurion Airport of American Jews who support Palestinian rights — including avowed Zionists like Peter Beinart and Meyer Koplow — shows that Israel is moving in the wrong direction.

While many Diaspora Jews maintain a love for Israel, we are increasingly shedding an Israel-right-or-wrong attitude in favor of critical engagement.

Israel can harass or even ban us. But if Israelis care about the Diaspora, we must be able to engage each other.

Work for Palestinian Statehood and an End to the Occupation

Lerner emphasizes listening to young people, and rightly so. But Israel must be prepared to hear them.

What young Jews joining J Street U chapters on campuses and starting organizations like IfNotNow in the US and Na’amod: British Jews Against the Occupation are saying is that their Jewish values and love for Israel inspire them to work for Palestinian human rights and an end to the Occupation.

While Israel is not solely to blame for lack of peace with Palestinians, as long as the Netanyahu government pushes toward annexing the West Bank and maintains a punitive closure of Gaza, the drift from Israel by young Diaspora Jews will continue.

Respect Non-Orthodox Streams of Judaism

Only 11% of American Jews classify themselves as Haredi or Modern Orthodox, with the rest identifying with different denominations or as “other.” An overwhelming majority of American Jews believe Israel should respect religious pluralism. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cancelation of an agreement to create a mixed-gender prayer area adjacent to the Western Wall and the recent arrest of a Conservative rabbi in Haifa for performing a wedding exacerbate the Israel-Diaspora divide.

The decision by lawmakers to leave out of the new Nation-State Law language which would have acknowledged a role for world Jewry in Israel was yet another swipe at Diaspora Jews.

Taking steps toward recognition of religious pluralism would go a long way toward earning the good will of Diaspora Jews.

Affirm Social Justice and Democracy as Shared Values

Minority status is part and parcel of the Diaspora Jewish experience. Liberal democratic protections of minority rights and civil liberties are dear to American Jews and dovetail with the Judaism on which we were raised, which emphasizes social justice and tikkun olam.

The undeniable erosion of liberal democracy in Israel is raising alarm not only among political progressives but also by conservatives like Ron Lauder, a longtime Netanyahu supporter, who recently decried actions by members of Israel’s coalition government to “unintentionally undermine the covenant between Judaism and enlightenment.”

Disturbing efforts by the Israeli government to curtail freedom of speech regarding Israel on American college campuses in the name of combating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions teach young Diaspora Jews that Israel’s growing illiberalism doesn’t stop at its border. And that does not bode well for future Diaspora-Jewish relations.

Stop Coddling Foreign Leaders Who Endanger Diaspora Jews

What message does it send to American Jews, the majority of whom disapprove of Donald Trump and feel our status is less secure since he became president, when Netanyahu lionizes Trump by comparing him to Cyrus the Great?

It is a similar message to the one received by Hungarian Jews when Netanyahu engages in an “illiberal bromance” with their Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who made anti-Semitic attacks on George Soros a feature of his re-election campaign.

While Israeli leaders should conduct foreign policy in Israel’s national interests, they should do so with an eye to the security and sensitivities of Diaspora Jewish communities.

Diaspora Jews care greatly about Israel and are distressed over the growing Israel-Diaspora rift. Some have come to the conclusion that Israel just doesn’t care about us. So it’s encouraging to find Israelis like Peter Lerner for whom ties to the Diaspora still matter a great deal.

The question is: Will Israel listen to our concerns and meet us halfway?

This article appeared first on the Forward on August 23, 2018

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Advising Young Palestinians to "move on"

Professional investor and policy analyst Daniel J. Arbess is a financial expert focusing on macroeconomic, geopolitical and major industrial developments. He seems to be quite successful at that.

But last week he delved into a field that does not seem to be his forte. He wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that presumes to give advice to young Palestinians. What’s Arbess’ advice? In his words, “Breaking free from their elders’ calcified thinking,” to “find the courage to move on” and integrate “into Israel’s thriving economy and culture of innovation.”

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Elul, the Jewish month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is a time of reflection, soul-searching, and repentance. Even before we reach the holy days designated for new beginnings and atonement, Jews prepare to undertake tshuva, asking forgiveness both from our peers and from God. Each day in Elul, except for shabbat, we blow the shofar to awaken our slumbering consciences and reach out to God, who is held to be remarkably close and receptive to prayers during these weeks of spiritual preparation.

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APN's Elana Kravitz in Times of Israel: Donors: Do you know what you’re paying for?

When you crusade with the claim that Israel does no wrong, you drive students into the arms of the BDS movement.

As a young Jew, I owe gratitude to many donors. As a graduate of Jewish day school, participant in multiple Jewish summer camps, Hebrew school teacher, and member of two wonderful Jewish communities at home and at college, I have many of generous donors to thank for the wonderful Jewish education and experiences I have had the privilege to receive. These donors enabled me to lead an enriching and meaningful Jewish life from kindergarten to college, and every single one deserves my deep gratitude.

So I hope that these donors will not take offense when I ask: Do you know what you’re paying for? For many donors, the results of their funding are clear and tangible; they can see the wing of a synagogue they funded, or receive numbers of how many people were helped by their generosity. But many other Jewish donors fund programs and organizations whose labors they will never be able to experience first-hand or quantify. Some of the most controversial of these funding recipients are organizations tasked with the elusive goal of “defending Israel on campus.” It’s not as easy to quantify how many students these groups help, or quite how effective they are in counteracting the menace of BDS on campus.

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APN's Debra Shushan on Israel's i24 News "The Spin Room" (8/1/18)

Topics for debate: Amb. David Friedman's settlement condolence call, continued uproar over Israel's Nation-State Law particularly from the Druze community, poet Dareen Tartour and (in)equality of Israel's treatment of incitement, and President Trump's offer to meet Iranian leaders without preconditions.

Guests appearing with Debra Shushan (APN Director of Policy and Government Relations): Vivian Bercovici (former Canadian ambassador to Israel) and Aaron Klein (Breitbart).

Analysis: Why Israel's Nation-State Law is Not Only Anti-Democratic But Also Anti-Peace

Israel’s new Nation-State Law is not only anti-democratic. It is also anti-peace. It hinders not only peace between Jews and non-Jews in Israel, but it also severely hampers prospects for future peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.

Instead of echoing Israel’s Declaration of Independence by championing the pursuit of peace as a Jewish value of the Jewish state, the Nation-State Law asserts an aggressive, uncompromising, zero-sum attitude toward Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. The law’s exclusionary content and tone is directed at non-Jewish citizens of the state, but is understandably perceived by non-Israeli Palestinians as well as a law that as excludes them from a relationship based on equality with Israel.

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APN's Ori Nir in Haaretz: Trump, if You Really Love Israel - Let Your Peace Plan Go

Those who suggest a dead-on-arrival U.S. peace plan will be simply thrown into the dustbin of history and will have no long-term consequences are dangerously wrong. A defective plan could have catastrophic consequence.

An impending U.S. diplomatic initiative to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict used to make big headlines. Now, the Trump administration says its on the verge of issuing an "ultimate deal" plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and hardly anyone seems to care.

Should we care? Absolutely. Not because the plan has a serious chance to succeed. It doesn’t. But because of the potentially catastrophic repercussions that a severely flawed plan would have.  

What we know so far about this administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian question does not bode well for an effective peace plan.

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New York Times Features Peace Now Report: 99.7% of West Bank Public Land Goes to the Settlers

The New York Times today published an article based on data collected by Israel's Peace Now movement, quoting Hagit Ofran of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project. Following is the article:

In West Bank, 99.7% of Public Land Grants by Israel Go to Settlers In West Bank, 99.7% of Public Land Grants by Israel Go to Settlers

By Isabel Kershner
July 17, 2018

JERUSALEM — Over five decades in control of the West Bank, Israel has marked out hundreds of thousands of acres as public land, and it has allocated almost half of them for use.

But only 400 of those acres — 0.24 percent of the total allocated so far — have been earmarked for the use of Palestinians, according to official data obtained recently by an anti-settlement group after a freedom of information request. Palestinians make up about 88 percent of the West Bank’s population.

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