Reflections from a Jerusalemite on the 53-Year Anniversary of the 1967 War

This photo of me at age seven was taken in June of 1967, just outside my home in Jerusalem, a couple of days after the Six Day War ended. I am sitting here on a Jeep that Israeli soldiers seized during the war in the West Bank, and somehow ended up in our neighborhood.

I remember how euphoric everyone was. Even the kids. During the weeks and months that followed, my family, like many Israelis, rushed to explore the liberated land of the Bible.

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For Giving Tuesday: Give (donations), Don't Take (annexation)

Under the cover of a global epidemic, when the world is focused on saving lives and preventing another great depression, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the active support of Donald Trump, is advancing a plan that would threaten the chances of Israel ever achieving peace with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu– together with his new coalition partner Benny Gantz -- has announced that come July 1st he will push legislation to annex to Israel large parts of the West Bank. The Trump administration is not only giving Netanyahu a green light but actually egging him on to take this destructive step.

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My Match and Letty's Letter

While you, our loyal supporters, never cease to amaze me, I am overwhelmed by your continuing support during this difficult time imposed upon us all by the Coronavirus.

We wish you and your loved ones good health and safe keeping. Our Staff and Board appreciate your response to the efforts we have made to deal with our new reality. From participating in briefing calls, reading News Nosh, listening to our podcasts, and more, it is all recognition of how much you care about the issues we deal with every day.

Our Passover appeal below was written, for the mail, before this calamity befell us. Letty’s message of not giving up in the face of all the realities we have to deal with still resonates.

Please read this letter. Do so in recognition that APN faces its battles head-on. As the letter says, APN had challenges even before the Coronavirus.

This is a tough time for all of us, and the demands placed upon you are considerable. However, APN’s financial obligations continue, including, among others, our support of our Shalom Achshav colleagues in Israel.

Therefore, I pledge to match your contributions up to an aggregate of $10,000. I’ve done this before and do so again to, hopefully, encourage each of you to give what you can.

I wish you health and strength during this Passover and Easter season, as we continue to battle the Coronavirus. And, I again appreciate the encouragement you continually give us.

Sincerely,

Jim


James B. 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.

Many thanks!

Warmly,

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.  

Our shared humanity in a time of crisis

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.

When Israel was hit by a monstrous fire, Palestinian firefighters crossed the Green Line with their firetrucks and risked their lives to save Israelis. And when Palestinians are hit by COVID-19, Israel’s public health professionals work side by side with their Palestinian colleagues, supplying them with test kits, medicine and knowhow. “There are no borders here…There is no ‘them’ and ‘us,’” Brig. Gen. Ghassan Alian, the commander of Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, told Israel Radio last week.

In such times, you cannot but wonder why Israelis and Palestinians do not harness their shared humanity, their common sense and their sense of common future to end the bloody conflict between them. Unlike pandemics, wildfires and earthquakes, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is manmade. And this manmade calamity can be undone by humans – if they find it within themselves to relate to the other as humans, as equals, as equally human.

We at Americans for Peace Now know as well as anyone how complicated the conflict is. We’ve been documenting it and advocating ways to address and resolve its components for many years. We know how difficult it is to untangle the knots of problems like Jerusalem sovereignty, Palestinian refugees, security arrangements, and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. We know that this is not a “senseless” conflict, as some often depict it. It is a conflict between two national movements which claim the same piece of land. In some ways, this is a zero-sum conflict.

But we also know that in recent years, it was mainly attitudinal problems – attitudes among Israeli and Palestinian publics and leaders (and now the White House as well) – which obstructed progress toward conflict resolution. And we know that despite the zero-sum nature of the conflict, there is a win-win compromise solution for it, waiting to be adopted and implemented.

The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually abate and eventually disappear. We don’t know when and we don’t know how many of us, here in America and in the Middle East, it will impact.

We also know that once Coronavirus is contained and defeated, the Israelis and Palestinians that we so deeply care about will be left with a malignant conflict that has been plaguing their societies for almost a century.

There is a viable solution to this conflict, and we hope that the traumatic experience we are currently experiencing will make the solution easier to comprehend, grasp, and achieve.

We at APN, and our brothers and sisters at Israel’s Peace Now movement, will committedly continue to make our contribution to resolving the conflict.

In the coming days and weeks, APN’s staff members will be working offsite, away from our Washington DC office. Regardless, we will do our utmost to provide you with the high-quality educational materials on the conflict that you expect from us.

This is a difficult time for all of us, a truly tumultuous time for nonprofit organizations like ours. Knowing that we can rely on your support allows us to brave the challenges and continue working – both in Israel and the United States – to help pave the way toward conflict resolution.

Thank you for your support,

James B. Klutznick, Chair of the Board
and
Aviva Meyer, Vice Chair of the Board and Acting CEO

Hummus is no joke. Neither is peacemaking.

I heard that America’s largest hummus producer is introducing a new product: a dessert chocolate “hummus.”

And on the web, you will find recipes for brownie batter “hummus,” sweet potato “hummus,” as well as “hummus” cake and “hummus” milkshake.

Now listen, I know from hummus. Real hummus. My physique reflects it. I make my own, and I’m happy to share my tested recipe. So, let me tell you something: you don’t make hummus by calling your crazy concoction “hummus.” It doesn’t work that way.

And you don’t make peace by slapping a “peace plan” title on a cynical set of one-sided diktats, an exercise that is bound to escalate and deepen a complicated conflict. That’s not how you broker Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Unless you are Donald Trump.

Trump is the king of mendacity, the master of duplicity, the maestro of deceit. Trump’s world is a tapestry of lies masquerading as truth, falsehoods masquerading as facts, conspiracy theories dressed as realities, conflict-escalation posing as conflict-resolution, endless occupation spun as liberation, and national subjugation masked as sovereignty and statehood.

Trump is the essence of Purim’s topsy-turvy tradition.

Look at his appointees. He appointed an enemy of public education as his Secretary of Education, a climate change skeptic and a former coal industry lobbyist as EPA Administrators. And who did he appoint as his ambassador to Israel? Trump tapped his former bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, a national-religious zealot who called President Obama an anti-Semite, referred to pro-peace American Jews as "far worse than kapos," and vehemently opposed the two-state solution.

Friedman, the chief architect of Trump’s recently unveiled “vision” for future Israeli-Palestinian relations, is now the Trump administration’s front man in a joint US-Israeli committee that will carve out chunks of occupied territory – over 30 percent of the West Bank – for Israel to unilaterally annex, irrespective of any negotiations with the Palestinians.

Peace, Trump style. That’s his idea of brokering peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

On Purim, according to the Talmud, we are supposed to get drunk to the point in which we cannot tell the difference between “Blessed is Mordechai” and “Cursed is Haman.”

Trump and his aides need neither Purim nor alcohol to dress up war as peace and occupation as liberation. Their deception is not in jest. Trump, Friedman and Kushner’s tactics of chaos and confusion are deliberate. They serve a purpose, an agenda, the settlers’ agenda of perpetuating the occupation and denying Palestinians sovereignty and statehood.

Peacemaking is serious business. It’s neither Purim nor hummus. Trump’s White House turned it into a travesty. We must not normalize it.

We at APN and our colleagues at Israel’s Peace Now movement, are pulling the mask off Trump’s sham. We will continue to advocate and educate for real peace, for a serious approach to resolving the conflict that plagues the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Enjoy the holiday, and please support us.

Ori Nir
APN Director of Communications and Public Engagement

P.S. Receive Peace Now's unique deck of playing cards, which serves as both a standard deck and an opportunity to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict! Donate $25 or more and write "CARDS" in the comments box (all but $5 is tax-deductible).

You can play Canasta or GET QUESTIONED at Ben Gurion Airport

Peace Now has produced a unique deck of cards that serves as both a standard deck and an opportunity to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Each card provides a brief description of a significant moment in history, a core issue, or a law.

The deck has been extremely well-received. It also caused an incident that attracted media attention and went viral on Twitter, when a European Peace activist, John Lyndon of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, was thoroughly questioned by Israeli security at Ben Gurion Airport when a deck of these cards was found in his luggage.

We are certain you will enjoy the cards and learn from them, and are pleased to send you a deck as a gift with a donation to Americans for Peace Now of $25 or more (be sure to write "Cards" in the comments box; all but $5 is tax-deductible).

John Lyndon’s story is featured in the current episode of PeaceCast, APN’s podcast.


PeaceCast Episode #108: "Reading the Cards from Europe"

This episode features John Lyndon, Executive Director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP), who was detained at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and faced "prolonged hostile questioning" because he possessed Peace Now's deck of cards.

His tweet about this (pictured) spread on social media, and then reached a larger audience when Israeli news outlet YNET wrote an article about it.

In the episode, John talked about issues directly related to ALLMEP and its activity, and explored the ways in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out in Europe, particularly in the wake of President Trump's vision for Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is an umbrella that brings together over 100 organizations in Israel and the West Bank to assist them with funding, capacity building, visibility, and impact.

LISTEN

On Tu B'Shavat (New Year of the Trees) - from APN Activist Barbara Green

Last year I wrote a Peace Parsha for Tu B'Shevat in which I asked: When did we go from being a people who plant trees to a people who cut them down?

I didn't mean ordinary every-day Jews who go about their business without thinking much about trees. Or ordinary Jewish Israelis who have a long tradition of planting and caring for trees. The Torah commands us to refrain from picking fruit from trees until they are three years old. When we go to war against another people, we are commanded to leave fruit-bearing trees intact to ensure a source of food.

No, I'm talking about Israeli Jewish settlers in the West Bank -- the occupied territories -- who have weaponized Palestinian trees. Ironically, the trees they burn and cut down are olive trees -- the very symbol of peace. But these Jews aren't making peace. They're waging an undeclared war against the Palestinians by destroying their livelihood, their labor, their identity, and their humanity. It's the purposeful destruction of their hopes, and the message is clear: "Palestinians not wanted here."

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In Palestinian culture, the olive tree enjoys an almost sacred status

from Barbara Green, APN Activist:

Last year I wrote a Peace Parsha for Tu B'Shevat in which I asked: When did we go from being a people who plant trees to a people who cut them down?

I didn't mean ordinary every-day Jews who go about their business without thinking much about trees. Or ordinary Jewish Israelis who have a long tradition of planting and caring for trees. The Torah commands us to refrain from picking fruit from trees until they are three years old. When we go to war against another people, we are commanded to leave fruit-bearing trees intact to ensure a source of food.

No, I'm talking about Israeli Jewish settlers in the West Bank -- the occupied territories -- who have weaponized Palestinian trees. Ironically, the trees they burn and cut down are olive trees -- the very symbol of peace. But these Jews aren't making peace. They're waging an undeclared war against the Palestinians by destroying their livelihood, their labor, their identity, and their humanity. It's the purposeful destruction of their hopes, and the message is clear: "Palestinians not wanted here."

In 2018 alone, 7,200 Palestinian trees were damaged or destroyed by extremist settlers. But this is only part of the horrible story: Palestinian villagers routinely find graffiti, in Hebrew, spray-painted on walls and rocks. "Revenge" and "Death to the Arabs" are mild but telling messages. I read with dread in Al-Monitor.com how settlers unleash dogs on Palestinian children on their way to school. Please read it for yourself and weep. Weep, not only for the children but for the shame we all should have that Jews are doing this.

How do you feel when you read these words? I'm ashamed to write them. This is not the Israel I've been intimately connected with since I spent a year there in 1959. These are not the Jewish values I find in our ancient writings.

This is a perversion of all we stand for as Jews, and we must not remain silent in the face of such outrage.

Tu B'Shevat is the New Year of the Trees. We are asked to remember our connection to the earth and all that is in it. The Torah itself is called a "tree of life." This year on Tu BShevat -- observed on February 10 -- let each one of us take action to protect against the destruction of Palestinian trees in the West Bank and the undeclared war against the Palestinians who live there. Will we make a difference? Who can say? But we know -- as The Mishnah taught us -- that while we are not commanded to finish the task, neither are we exempt from the obligation to start it.

Here are a few possibilities for action:

    • Write an op-ed for your local Jewish newspaper, or your local paper if you still have one
    • Tweet the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, @AmbDermer
    • Write to 10 friends who care about Israel and share what you know about this issue
    • Arrange a program at your synagogue or church on this topic (APN will help you)
    • Demand your clergy talk about these issues in lectures and sermons
    • Write an article for your religious movement's newsletter

    • AND OF COURSE, PLEASE SUPPORT AMERICANS FOR PEACE NOW

If you take action, let us hear about it. We are happy to help.

Once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting us.

 

$50,000 AIN'T BANANAS

A piece of so-called art - a banana duct-taped to a wall - garnered the public’s attention when it sold for $120,000.

Was it a publicity stunt? Was it satire? Whatever it was, it certainly made the headlines and probably succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

Well, $120,000 ain’t bananas to us here at APN. In fact, at the time, we needed just about that much more to meet our 2019 budget target. We are now down to $50,000, and that still ain't bananas!

APN receives three stars on Charity Navigator, in no small part because of our fiscal responsibility. No bananas and duct tape for us. So rest assured, we do all we can to put your donations to work toward more programing and less administration.

* $50,000 more to our budget means expanding APN’s support for Israel’s Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) movement.

* $50,000 more to our budget means updating our materials, including a new 2020 map of Israeli West Bank settlements, which is an essential and highly demanded educational tool.

* $50,000 more will allow us to maintain our map-app, found on the Apple app store, produce more podcasts, renew News Nosh for which there are over 4000 subscribers, promote Yossi Alpher’s popular weekly Q and A, expand our social media presence, produce regional events, and much more.

As we head into 2020, an election year with many fundraising challenges, please do whatever you can to help now. Because fighting for a two-state solution is no publicity stunt.

Happy New Year and a peaceful 2020 from the staff of APN.

The Story of Chanukah: "It's About the Light"

When Jews recall the Chanukah story of the day’s worth of oil that lasted for eight, we often forget that the miracle was not the extra mileage the Maccabees got from a few ounces of fuel.

The miracle was that the leaders of the newly independent Israel were willing to light the oil to rededicate the Temple—even though there was no guarantee they would realize that goal.

The story of Chanukah is not about the oil; it’s about the light. Had the Maccabees not taken those first uncertain steps, the light of their faith would not still be visible, more than 2000 years later.

Today, in the first era of Jewish independence since the time of the Maccabees, Shalom Achshav, Israel’s indefatigable peace movement, has not stopped, for one moment, advocating for the steps that will lead to an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians—a goal of two states at peace, and a secure, Jewish and democratic Israel.

(Peace Now's protest in Hebron from Friday. Sign says: "Opposing the Settlement in Hebron".)

Prime Minister Netanyahu is not focused on the light. Settlements continue to proliferate - just last week, alone, the Israeli government approved doubling the size of the settlement at Hebron, further placing the future of two states for two peoples in jeopardy. The government sits gridlocked, facing the prospect of a third, exhausting round of elections while the sitting prime minister faces criminal proceedings.

And yet, the light of Chanukah is no ordinary light. The light is to inspire us to never give in to darkness and to never give up hope. Shalom Achshav is the embodiment of this – they inspire us to never give up, to not wallow in despair.

Through your support, you can educate decision-makers and mobilize grassroots support for a two-state solution. Because it isn’t about the oil.

It’s about the light.

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