Statement- An Unreasonable Standard

Last Night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government of ultra-nationalist zealots drove Israel further away from its roots as a liberal democracy and toward unabashed fascism. 

As Netanyahu and his government allies recklessly curtail the power of the judiciary to serve as a check on the executive and legislative branches of government, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is deeply concerned about Israel’s future. APN calls on the Biden administration to make clear to Netanyahu that these actions have consequences and that the United States will reassess its relationship with Israel if its government turns the state into a hollow democracy.

The Knesset Last night passed by first vote (out of three) a bill that would remove the power of Israeli courts to use the standard of reasonableness as a criterion to strike legislation and government executive orders. The bill (an amendment to Basic Law: Judiciary) reads: “Notwithstanding what is stated in this Basic Law, those who have jurisdiction to adjudicate according to law, including the Supreme Court in its function as a High Court of Justice, shall not discuss the reasonableness of the decision of the government, of the prime minister or of another minister, as well as of another elected official which shall be determined by law, and shall not issue an order against any of them in such matter."

Israel has almost no separation of powers between its executive and the legislative branches. The government, which enjoys a coalition majority in the Knesset, can legislate as it deems fit. The only check on the government is therefore the judicial branch and specifically the Supreme Court. Once the executive/legislative branch removes that check, Israel will become a hollow democracy.

The government of Israel can still halt its march toward the destruction of Israeli democracy by not bringing the bill to a second and third vote.

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Statement- APN Dismayed at West Bank Violent Escalation; Urges Israel to Protect Civilians

As Israel’s military intensifies its operation at the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern West Bank, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is dismayed at the rapid escalation of violence in the West Bank. APN is alarmed at the harm caused to Palestinian civilians and calls on Israel to exercise extra care in protecting noncombatants. Using bulldozers and armed drones in such a small, cramped area multiplies the risk to noncombatants and to civilian infrastructure. 

Any operation in a densely-populated area such as the Jenin Refugee Camp (more than 11,000 people living in 0.16 square miles) is bound to put civilians at risk. But under any law (international, American, or Israeli) that risk must be minimized. At the moment, many of the Camp’s residents lack running water and electricity. The IDF’s cutting of water and power, on its face, is collective punishment of the local civilian population. 

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Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the letter sent today by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and 21 additional members of the House of Representatives urging US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield to advocate for the United Nations to adopt its own comprehensive, nuanced, and action-based approach similar to the US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

The National Strategy exemplifies the Biden Administration’s unwavering dedication to fighting this deeply rooted form of hatred, while simultaneously protecting free speech and safeguarding the rights of all individuals. The incorporation of multiple definitions of antisemitism into the strategy is an inclusive and comprehensive approach that recognizes the diverse manifestations of antisemitism and allows for a more tailored response to each unique context. This approach should serve as a model for nations around the world.

We commend Representative Schakowsky and the 21 other signatories for their commitment to combating antisemitism, both domestically and internationally, and echo their call for the Biden Administration to advocate for this model to be implemented globally.

Hadar Susskind, President and CEO of APN said “As the United Nations formulates its own plan to combat antisemitism, this is a crucial opportunity for the United States to advance this pragmatic and nuanced approach to combating antisemitism on a global scale. I am grateful to Congresswoman Schakowsky and her colleagues for their support for a framework that protects speech rather than a definition that weaponizes antisemitism to quash legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies and practices.”

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Statement: APN Welcomes Biden Reversal of Trump Policy on US Cooperation with Settlements 

 

Americans for Peace Now (APN) welcomes the announcement made by the Biden administration concerning the issuance of guidance aimed at restricting scientific and technological cooperation with Israeli institutions beyond the Green Line. This significant step represents a crucial reversal of one of the detrimental policies inherited from the Trump administration concerning Israel and Palestine.

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Americans for Peace Now urges the Biden administration to react with concrete steps to the Israeli government’s plan to double the size of the West Bank settlement of Eli and to the government’s failure to prevent settlers’ pogroms against Palestinians.  

Yesterday, two Palestinian terrorists shot dead four Israelis and injured four others near the West Bank settlement of Eli. The gunmen were killed by the IDF. APN strongly condemned the attack.

Hours after the attack, hundreds of armed settlers descended on some dozen Palestinian villages in the vicinity of Eli, torched homes, vehicles and fields, vandalized property, and attacked Palestinians. A Palestinian man was shot dead by an Israeli police officer in the village of Turmus Ayya following settlers’ violent attack.

According to eyewitness reports and video clips, IDF troops were present at or nearby the sites of these pogroms, and did nothing. According to press reports, none of the perpetrators has been arrested. As happened time after time in such circumstances, Israel’s occupation authorities in the West Bank fail to prevent, deter or punish settler violence.  

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The past few days have demonstrated yet again how dangerous the Israeli government’s occupation policies are. The Biden administration must take determined action to stop the Israeli government from destroying any chance for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

On Sunday, the Israeli government approved a measure that grants responsibility for West Bank planning procedures to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a zealot national-religious settler who publicly proposed a plan to annex most of the West Bank by doubling the number of Israelis who live there. The measure also stipulates that planning procedures for settlement construction will no longer require approval by the Minister of Defense, as they did in the past.

Yesterday, it was officially announced that the West Bank Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee, the body currently responsible for all construction planning in areas under Israeli control in the West Bank, will discuss next week the promotion of a whopping 4,799 housing units through 28 plans for 18 settlements, including the authorization of an illegal (even by Israeli law) outpost.

Also yesterday, an IDF incursion into the West Bank town of Jenin triggered one of the most intense firefights in over 20 years, involving a high-powered roadside bomb used by Palestinians against Israeli armored personnel carriers as well as the use of an attack helicopter by the IDF to help rescue Israeli soldiers caught in in the fighting. The toll was high. Six Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old, and almost 100 were injured, some of them critically. On the Israeli side, 7 soldiers were injured, some of them badly.

And today, there was a deadly terrorist attack near the Israeli settlement of Eli, near Ramallah. A gunman shot and killed four people and injured four more, further escalating tension in the West Bank. 

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Statement- APN to Netanyahu: Tell Your Diaspora Minister to Stop Insulting US Jews

Amichai Chikli, the Israeli government minister responsible for maintaining good relations between Israel and world Jewry, is apparently on a campaign to do just the opposite. After offending participants in New York’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade and viciously attacking J Street, Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs now apparently has a new target: US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.

In addition to being one of the world’s leading Holocaust historians, Professor Lipstadt was President Biden's choice to lead his administration’s effort to fight antisemitism, a job that she has performed ably. 

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Statement- APN Commends the Biden Administration for its Plan to Fight Antisemitism

Americans for Peace Now (APN) commends the Biden administration for the plan it published today to confront the urgent problem of antisemitism in the United States. Sadly, over the past few years, antisemitism, like so many forms of hatred, has become increasingly prevalent and increasingly public. 

And we thank the administration for focusing on the very real threats of antisemitism and not endorsing or otherwise codifying into law the problematic International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

APN joined other Progressive Israel Network member organizations in a statement welcoming the administration’s plan. Read that statement here.

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Statement- APN Welcomes Congressional Letter Supporting Israel’s Pro-Democracy Protest

Americans for Peace Now warmly commends the 48 members of the House of Representatives who signed an open letter to the Israeli protesters who have been demonstrating for the past four months against the Netanyahu government’s anti-democratic policies.

The letter, initiated by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), demonstrates strong congressional support for the Israelis who are fighting to defend Israeli democracy. Having led several protest events in the United States in solidarity with the Israeli protest movement, APN urged members of the House of Representatives to sign the Eshoo-Raskin letter. We strongly appreciate this unique, important congressional gesture.

Unlike so many statements from elected officials and Jewish communal organizations, the signers of this letter directly address the importance of Israel’s judiciary to the state’s Palestinian citizens and to the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, an effort we applaud. 

APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “This laudable letter underscores America’s ethical imperative to defend the values-based foundation of its alliance with Israel. The US – government and public – must do its utmost to support Israel’s civil society in its fight for democracy and for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel's democracy needs and deserves to be defended, but there is no true democracy with occupation.

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Statement- APN Concerned about Possible Jerusalem Day Violence

Americans for Peace Now (APN) is extremely concerned about the possibility of a violent flare up Thursday, as thousands of Jewish ultra-nationalist zealots provocatively march in East Jerusalem to assert Israel’s sovereignty and intentionally offend Palestinian Muslims. The Israeli government could have and should have banned the march to prevent a violent flare up, which could lead to a regional outbreak of hostilities.  

The so-called “Flag March” has in recent years become the centerpiece of Israel’s Jerusalem Day. The march brings thousands of Jewish national-religious zealots to Arab East Jerusalem and the Old City. The marchers taunt Palestinians using physical and verbal violence, compelling Palestinian merchants to close their shops and stay home. In past years, the march triggered violence. This year, on the heels of Israel’s six-day mini-war with Gaza’s Islamic Jihad, tensions are high and Palestinian factions have threatened a violent retaliation in case Israeli extremists “cross red lines.”

Another unusual feature this year would be the presence of several government ministers and coalition Knesset members at the march’s main rally at the Damascus Gate Plaza.

APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “We strongly believe that the Israeli government should ban this annual ritual of bigotry and hatred. The Flag March horror show is a disgrace and should not be embraced by the state or local authorities and should be shunned by Israeli leaders. We will be following Thursday’s events in Jerusalem with deep concern and a heavy heart, while urging all parties involved – Israelis, Palestinians and others – to avoid violence.” 

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