WASHINGTON (JTA) — I’ve been asked why a pro-Israel Jewish peace organization like mine is not enthusiastically celebrating the signing of a peace deal between Israel and two important Arab states. 

We do welcome the agreement that Israel will sign here Tuesday with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In and of itself, the trend of Israel’s normalizing relations with Arab states is a positive development. 

But this is not happening in a vacuum. It’s happening at a time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under multiple indictments for corruption and bribery, at a time when tens of thousands are gathering in protest around the nation and calling for his removal. And most important, it’s happening at a time when his government continues to entrench the occupation and undermine even the hope of a two-state solution. 

Normalization with the UAE and Bahrain is great for the venture capitalists who will benefit from it, but does nothing to remedy Israel’s existential problem: its conflict with the Palestinians and the occupation that does so much damage.

I’m sure that Tuesday’s White House ceremony will provide a beautiful photo op, but I’m not eager to take part in festivities that are intended to paper over the real threat to Israel’s national security by celebrating a “peace deal” with countries that Israel was not at war with, as Israel fails to contain even the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Shortly after the El Al jet arrived back from Abu Dhabi at Ben Gurion Airport last Tuesday, bringing the dignitaries and a large chunk of Israel’s press corps home, an Israeli radio channel broadcast a scoop: Israel and the United Arab Emirates will negotiate jointly sending astronauts to outer space. There was great excitement in the studio. “UAE and Israeli astronauts, together, in the same rocket ship,” crowed one anchor, while the other quipped that “They’ll pay for the fuel.”

Funny.

Well, not really.

That same night, three Gazan siblings, a five-year-old and two toddlers, were burned to death at the Nussirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Most Gazans still get only four hours of electricity per day, so they are forced to light candles after nightfall. It was by these candles that the fire in the al-Hazeen home started, and because of the water shortage in Gaza, relatives and neighbors could not find a water source to douse the flames.

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JTA: "Mandy Patinkin lends his voice to the growing chorus of West Bank annexation opponents"

Read the JTA article below (originally posted HERE), and watch the New Israel Fund video "The Truth About Annexation" narrated by Mandy Patinkin, member of the Americans for Peace Now Board of Directors,

 (Note: The article includes a link to the Jerusalem Post coverage of his receiving the APN Yitzhak Rabin Peace Award in 2014.)

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Ha'aretz Link

Israel's leaders are sacrificing democracy and human rights on the altar of ethno-nationalism. And all those U.S. Jewish groups claiming to back a two state solution have suddenly lost their voice?

by Hadar Susskind, APN President and CEO

There was a time in our history when standing up in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a bold stance for a Jewish community leader or organization to take. Those who did so were often criticized and even ostracized.

Following that there was a period of time in which our community’s center and center/right organizations came around, and they too declared their support for two states as the only effective way to end the conflict. Today "mainstream" Jewish organizations all tout their support of a two-state solution.

But whether or not you support two-states is the 1990’s question. Today it comes down to this: what are you going to do about it? When actions are taken that threaten the viability of two states living side by side in peace and security, what do you say? What do you do?

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Jerusalem Post: "Hadar Susskind to lead Americans for Peace Now"

The announcement comes as liberal pro-Israel groups mount a pressure campaign to influence Washington politicians to speak out against plans in Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. 

By RON KAMPEAS/JTA MAY 14, 2020

Americans for Peace Now, an influential group on the Jewish Left that was among the first to advocate for the two-state solution, is naming as its president Hadar Susskind, a veteran senior official of an array of Jewish groups. 

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Published May 4


The most serious setback to peace in the Middle East has taken place under the cloud of the coronavirus and the internal Israeli political scene. A chance, however, still exists for a unified Arab coalition with action by American Jews to create a firewall that will help preserve a chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

As part of the deal for the emergency government between the Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival and former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, an Israeli government-in-the-making is on the record as supporting unilateral annexation of large swaths of the West Bank.

Israel appears to be set on a dangerous anti-peace act that will destroy the very fragile and quickly lapsing chance for a Palestinian-Israeli two-state peace deal.

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APN / Peace Now In the News - April 26-27, 2020

Jerusalem Post: "Netanyahu 'confident' U.S. will allow Israeli annexation of parts of West Bank" April 27, 2020

The West Bank is home to almost 2.7 million Palestinians and more than 400,000 Israelis, according to figures collated by Peace Now, an Israeli organization that advocates for a two-state solution. Read >>

Arab News: "Palestinians, Israelis should seek peace together" April 29, 2020

by Ray Hanania

One of the loudest voices challenging Israel’s annexation plans hasn’t been Palestinian, but rather Israeli: The liberal advocacy and activist group Peace Now. “The public did not choose for Israel to go down this extreme path; most of the public does not want annexation. The security echelon warns of the implications of annexation. Annexation costs will be much higher than the debilitating costs of the COVID-19 crisis,” Peace Now said in a statement released this week. Read >>

Ha'aretz: "Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony Gets Unprecedented Boost From U.S. Jewish Groups" April 26, 2020

This year, the ceremony is being co-sponsored by a long list of Jewish and pro-peace groups in both Israel and the United States including the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish organization in the United States. Other sponsors and partners include J Street, the New Israel Fund, Peace Now, IfNotNow, Churches for Middle East Peace, as well as individual churches, synagogues and interfaith dialogue groups. Read >>

APN/Peace Now In the News - April 17-21, 2020

Jerusalem Post: "Trump admin. already working with nascent gov’t to implement peace plan" April 21, 2020

The Israeli left-wing group Peace Now accused both men of prioritizing a fringe concept that lacked national consensus at a time when all resources should be going to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. It warned that annexation would lead to an apartheid-like state with two different classes of citizens: Israelis and Palestinians.

In a message aimed at Gantz, Peace Now stated: “Don't sell us stories about an emergency government to fight the coronavirus when you are in fact a partner in establishing an annexation government. Anyone who bolsters the far-right now will be responsible in the future if annexation is implemented and Israel's democratic future is imperiled." Read >>

Ha'aretz: "U.S. Jewish Groups Warn of West Bank Annexation in Wake of Netanyahu-Gantz Deal" April 21, 2020

Americans for Peace Now also warned that "The meaning of this agreement is that the Netanyahu-Gantz government, allegedly established to join forces to fight the coronavirus, will be the first in Israel's history to adopt the extremist policy principle of West Bank annexation." Read >>

Time: "Israelis Just Showed the World What a Socially Distant Protest Looks Like" April 20, 2020

"What connects all the groups and causes is the shout out for Israeli democracy that is being harmed these days by Netanyahu and his allies," Shaqued Morag, executive director of the anti-occupation group Peace Now tells TIME.

Morag says she sees Netanyahu’s plan to annex swathes of Palestinian territories—a move President Trump greenlit in January—as the principal threat to Israeli democracy. Read >>

Jewish Journal: "On Israel’s 72nd Birthday, We Must Fight For The Two State Solution" April 17, 2020

By Mark Bilsky, APN Deputy CEO

Israel, we imagined, was no longer a question; it was now and forever an answer. We were evidently mistaken. The question lingers. Read >>

Published online and in the printed version of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and also in the Washington Jewish Week, with permission.

Published online and in the printed edition of the Jewish Journal


by Mark Bilsky, Deputy CEO of Americans for Peace Now

This is not a season that invites calm reflection. Too much is in play. The agenda is crowded with controversy. New possibilities tantalize but have yet to come into focus. We are inundated with talk of “competing narratives” alongside the growing controversies over quarantine, democracy, annexation, land, peace, income disparities and ethnic disparities.

It’s easy to get lost in these issues and they have become so much the focus of not only the daily news but of Israel’s story itself that the disposition to celebrate has come to feel insensitive, requiring an apology. But a celebration that must be shrink-wrapped in an apology is no celebration at all.

What then to do? The moment you cast caution aside and start listing the achievements, you bump into checkpoints. Say that Israel has fulfilled its destiny as a Jewish haven, and you will be told that it has done so only at the expense of the Other. Say that Israel’s economy has developed, and you will be told it’s because of foreign subsidies and at the cost of a tremendous income gap. Say that brainpower has emerged as Israel’s most important resource, and you will be told about the decline in Israel’s education system. Say that Israel has no partner for peace and you will be told to look at yourself in the mirror.

THE MOMENT YOU CAST CAUTION ASIDE AND START LISTING THE ACHIEVEMENTS, YOU BUMP INTO CHECKPOINTS. SAY THAT ISRAEL HAS FULFILLED ITS DESTINY AS A JEWISH HAVEN, AND YOU WILL BE TOLD THAT IT HAS DONE SO ONLY AT THE EXPENSE OF THE OTHER.

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Online at Washington Jewish Week

March 25, 20200

By APN Chair James Klutznick and APN Vice Chair Aviva Meyer

As global crises typically do, the coronavirus — its spread, and the looming threat it poses to humankind — provides us with a sense of perspective.

COVID-19 does not discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians. When threatened by this deadly virus, the two peoples worry together and work together to save lives.

When the forces of nature remind us how vulnerable we are — how equally vulnerable we are — we are humbled. And humbled before these forces, we demonstrate our shared humanity.

Pictured Left: In Hebron, Palestinian women work in a factory amid precautions against the coronavirus (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA); Right: In Jerusalem, an Israeli medic arrives to test a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
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