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.

Peace Now's Shaqued Morag: "Good News from Israel"

My name is Shaqued Morag, and I accepted the directorship of Shalom Achshav about 18 months ago. I appreciate this opportunity to communicate directly with you.

Between Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace-rejectionism and his government’s moves towards annexation, the extreme right settlers’ acts of violence and vandalism, and the Trump administration’s anti-peace policies, the beginning of the past year felt like the worst of times. 

Some fear a collapse of the possibility of a two-state solution entirely.

But now, at last, there is some good news to share.

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Please read Ori's op-ed and give in his honor

I'll be brief -- on Monday of this week, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo made an outrageous announcement shifting U.S. policy on Israeli settlements stating that settlements in the West Bank aren't illegal.

This pathetic statement places a two-state solution further out of reach. Ori Nir says it much better in the following op-ed he did for the Washington Jewish Week. I wanted to share it with you -- it is that good.

I also would be remiss not to mention that APN has a matching challenge taking place now, and any donation you give will be matched by our Chair of the Board, Jim Klutznick. He agreed to give up to $25,000, and we have just about $10,000 more to go. In honor of Ori Nir, let's do this. PLEASE DONATE HERE and max-out Jim's pledge.

Thank you to Ori, thank you to Jim, and thank you to all of you.

Aviva Meyer
APN CEO


Trump nods to the Israeli dissenting interpretation

by Ori Nir, APN Director of Communications

November 20, 2019

Had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined me and my APN colleagues on our West Bank study tour last week, we would have shown him how fraught with illegality and illegitimacy West Bank settlements are.

The international community considers the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories illegal under international law, violating Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Virtually all international law experts concur that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli governments came up years ago with legal acrobatics to refute the global consensus interpretation of international law. Now, it seems that the Trump administration is giving a nod to the Israeli dissenting interpretation.

That nod, yet again pandering to the Evangelical religious right and to hardline conservative donors, as Trump has done in the past, does not change the facts.

The facts are that Israel’s settlement enterprise is fraught with illegality. It is politically illegitimate and damaging both to Israel’s national security and to America’s interests in the region. It is an obstacle to peace. And it is a flagrant violation of Palestinian human rights. Israeli settlements don’t only violate international law, as almost all legal experts worldwide concur.

Many of them violate Israeli law. More than 100 settlements in the West Bank have been built in violation of Israeli law, often on stolen, privately owned Palestinian land. Extremist settlers break the law on a daily basis, illegally taking land that does not belong to them, attacking Palestinian civilians and even Israeli soldiers and police officers who guard them.

I have spent years in the West Bank, covering, as a reporter for an Israeli newspaper, the Palestinians and the Israeli settlers who chose to live next to them — often as an act of provocation or defiance. I have witnessed up close the lawlessness that characterizes the actions of ideological Jewish settlers in the wild West Bank.

But the real problem with the settlements is not their legal status, but rather their political legitimacy. And the real potential damage of the Trump administration’s statement regarding the legality of settlements is its effort to legitimize the settlements by stating that they are “not, per se, inconsistent with international law.”

West Bank settlements are politically illegitimate because they prejudge the final status of the West Bank. U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican, have followed a policy, for the past two decades, which envisioned the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as the future Palestinian state. West Bank settlements have been used by Israeli politicians as a tool to either torpedo Palestinian statehood or to prejudge the future contours of a Palestinian state.

That is why Pompeo’s predecessors, Republican and Democratic alike, have worked diligently to curtail settlement construction and why they referred to settlements as illegitimate.

The two-state solution has never been popular with religious and nationalistic zealots — whether Evangelicals in the United States, ideological settlers and their hardline allies in Israel, or, for that matter, Islamists and nationalist extremists in Palestinian society.

The Trump administration has apparently decided to side with those who oppose the only realistic scenario for Israeli-Palestinian peace and work to impede it. Legitimizing settlements is yet another step that Donald Trump and his foreign policy team has taken — one in many — to wreck prospects for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Hardline Israeli politicians, moments after Pompeo’s statement Monday, declared it a green light to annex the West Bank and bury the two-state solution.

This latest measure may cynically serve the narrow electoral agenda of President Trump — and that of his political twin Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting to survive political challenges and multiple imminent criminal indictments. But the price of the Trump administration’s callous policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be paid by Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace and so dearly deserve it.

I write these lines at my mother’s home in West Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Herzl, where thousands of Israeli soldiers are buried, and victims of the conflict are commemorated and honored. Israelis come here to pay tribute to the fallen and to pray for peace. Last week, on a visit to Ramallah and the adjacent towns, I passed by monuments honoring Palestinian victims of the conflict. All of us, Israelis and Palestinians, have suffered too much death and destruction.

Past U.S. administrations — albeit with limited success — have taken positions and actions aimed at terminating the conflict and advancing peace. It is tragically alarming that the Trump administration is acting to further entrench and perpetuate the conflict, and to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians even harder to attain than it already is. Ori Nir is director of communications for Americans for Peace Now in Washington.


Ori Nir is director of communications for Americans for Peace Now in Washington.

8 years ago, APN approached me while I was on maternity leave...

My name is Orly Halpern and I edit and write News Nosh, the daily review in English of the Hebrew media.

As a journalist who has reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years, I know how helpful being able to read the local media is, the news items, the Op-Eds and the analysis, in order to get a fuller picture of what is happening on the ground and to get a pulse from the commentators. That requires not only knowledge of the local languages, but also time, a limited commodity for all.

Eight years ago, APN approached me while I was on maternity leave and asked me if I would be interested in writing a daily review of the four main Hebrew newspapers, with a focus on the the conflict, settlers, Arab-Israelis, diplomacy and security. I was thrilled at the opportunity to continue working in the news and at the same time stay at home with my child.

And so began News Nosh.

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"Appearances can be deceiving" - A letter for Rosh HaShana from Jim Klutznick, APN Chair

Appearances can be deceiving.  The cafes of Tel Aviv bustle and are full.  Families gather in the gardens of Haifa and float on the Dead Sea.  Even in Jerusalem all appears calm, and the slight whiff of imminent apprehension is barely detectable.  The conflict does not impinge upon the good life.   

And yet, tensions simmer.  Another Israel exists.  Check the budget and see how a constant state of alert devastates funding for Israeli education, for social services, and for investment in infrastructure.  Stroll the cemeteries, and see dates of death following dates of birth in quick succession.  Too quick.  Examine the passerby and count the war injuries, visible in the wheelchairs and the prostheses.  Read the public opinion polls giving voice to the low esteem in which the “Occupier,” is held.  Visit the mosques in Nablus or in Gaza and hear the hatred dripping venomously from the imams’ tongues.  And then ask yourself, soberly, is doing nothing but accepting the status quo the best possible program?

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Shavuot - "Choosing Hope" from Jim Klutznick, APN Chair

As we approach the holiday of Shavuot we are faced with a choice: Do we choose hope, or do we choose fear?

Choosing fear removes "us" from the equation and makes us live in a way where there is no choice but endless war and occupation, and continual settlement building where this all becomes a fait accompli. Hope, on the other hand, puts "us" back into the equation, believing that Israelis can build a secure home for themselves, living in peace with their neighbors.

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A CALL TO ACTION - Post-Israeli Election Message from APN Chair Jim Klutznick

Dear Friend,

Israeli elections are over. Any hopes that we may have had for electoral change that would garner pro-peace leadership are dashed.

Temporarily.

Facing three indictments, Benjamin Netanyahu may soon leave the political scene.

Meanwhile, we have a reinvigorated Netanyahu, backed by his political twin Donald Trump, pushed hard by his extreme right-wing coalition partners to deliver his campaign promise of West Bank annexation.

Let’s not mince words, my friends: With Trump’s blessing, Netanyahu is on his way to officially, legally, establish an apartheid regime in the West Bank, and make it even harder for future Israeli leaders to make peace. Let’s be clear: Yesterday’s elections have put Netanyahu and his allies on a faster, surer track to destroy Israel’s democracy and to further crush its ethos of equality, justice, and tolerance.

For us, progressive Americans who care about Israel, today is a call to action. Today, we are redoubling our commitment to the cause of a democratic Israel that lives in peace and security with its neighbors and embodies the values we so strongly believe in.

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Seventeen years later, one thought stands out...

As we approach this year’s Passover Seder, I’m writing to wish you all a happy holiday and to explain why your support — ongoing or first-time — is so important for Americans for Peace Now and Shalom Achshav. As a veteran of Israel’s strategic security establishment who currently, in semi-retirement, writes (compulsively! almost daily! weekly in my Q & A for APN!) about Israel-related security issues, I hope you will permit me in this connection a brief Pesach reminiscence.

Lately, my own research and writing efforts have taken me back to the events of Passover 2002. On March 27, Erev Pesach, a Hamas suicide bomber attacked several hundred people gathered for a Seder at the Park Hotel, near the beach in Netanya in central Israel. He killed 30 Israelis and maimed some 160 others.

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Put Peace on the Agenda - Help One Million Israelis See Peace Now's Film

Let’s help our brothers and sisters of Shalom Achshav put peace on the agenda. Let’s help them make sure that one million Israelis see this film, and that these elections are about the issues that really matter for Israel’s future. 

Go HERE for more and to support Peace Now's efforts.

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A short, modest man ... a literary giant

Seven years ago, Amos Oz stopped by APN’s Washington DC office to record this video. It was a last-moment initiative. I scrambled to prepare our clunky recording equipment, and then rushed to meet him at the elevator. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was. I’ve read all his books – some of them twice – and have always admired him for his literary achievements and for his dedication to peace and security for Israel.

Out of the elevator emerged a short, modest man, warm and upbeat.

As I attached the microphone to his jacket, I told him that his book A Tale of Love and Darkness helped me better know my mother. She grew up in the same Jerusalem neighborhood as he did, not far from his parents’ home, and shared many of the childhood experiences Oz describes in the book. He saw how emotional I was. He placed his warm hand on my shoulder and said: “This makes me very happy, your relationship with your mother.”

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