I'm writing this as an American and a Christian

wintercandle

The festivals of light, in the various traditions, fall during the darkest time of the year - or so it seems to this Christian on Christmas Eve. The darkness, of course, is what makes the light shine brightest. In a similar way, hope has its truest power when things appear to be hopeless. Hope is a choice.

My train of thought, I admit, is running along the track of contemporary desolation. I am writing this letter on behalf of Americans for Peace Now. Peace Now is the heroic - and deeply patriotic - Israeli organization that has steadfastly stood for peace between Israelis and Palestinians for a generation. Recent turns in the old story, taken in Washington and Jerusalem both, have made the struggle for such peace seem more difficult than ever, but that only makes it more precious.

The end is as clear as ever, and so are the means: a two-state solution arrived at through agreed negotiations, enshrined in a secure Israel living side by side with a fully recognized Palestine, formed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Good will, self-interested mutuality, respect by each side for the absolutes of the other, arrived at through compromise - these remain the elements of peace, and they are still possible.

As if the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians were not searing enough, the recent intervention from abroad - the U.S. administration’s feckless short-circuiting of final status negotiations by its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital - has complicated the peace process immeasurably. That defines the darkness of this moment. But that also defines the fresh importance of Peace Now, whose commitment has never depended on a shallow optimism that cannot survive when intolerant religious fanatics of whatever stripe seem ascendant. As a Christian, I am especially aware of the negative influence of Jesus-proclaiming American zealots whose End Time fantasies and Biblical literalism pre-empt both Israeli democracy and Palestinian nationhood. That such voices are heard in the White House only makes their rebuttal the more urgent.

That is why this is the time, more than ever, to support both Peace Now, and its U.S.-based sister organization Americans for Peace Now. Peace Now most emphatically affirms the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. That means, with equal emphasis, that Peace Now opposes the Occupation of the Palestinians. Peace Now continues its crucial work of tracking and opposing the ongoing settlement project in the West Bank, especially when settlers seize land owned by Palestinians and illegally build on it. And Peace Now brings its power to the streets, as it did last summer, convening a throng inTel Aviv’s Rabin Square to reject the Netanyahu government’s disastrous anti-peace policies.

Peace Now receives nearly half of its funding from Americans for Peace Now. APN’s informative website (www.peacenow.org) offers a wealth of information and analysis for Americans to think more clearly - and pragmatically - about Israel’s challenges and about the role that our nation should - and still can - play as a peacemaker.

I am writing this letter as an American and as a Christian - at a time when detached uninvolvement, whether at home or abroad, amounts to a gross failure of civic and moral responsibility. Our religious and political texts; our doctrines and policies; our triumphalist dreams; our assumption of national innocence; our habits of racial and religious contempt; even our naive wishes for an easy peace - these are threads in the Holy Land’s still untied knot. Historically part of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, we are obliged now to be part of its solution. We must choose hope.

That is the invitation we have from Israel’s Peace Now and its U.S. sister organization. Please join me in supporting both Shalom Achshav and APN. Please make a generous tax-deductible contribution to Americans for Peace Now. Even in the present darkness, this is what the light of the possible peace looks like. Please commend Peace Now to everyone you know - now more than ever.

Thank you.
James Carroll

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Resist the policies of Netanyahu and Trump

It took Donald Trump less than a year. Now – after setting ablaze every sensitive issue in American public life and after alienating some of our closest international allies – he has tossed a firebomb into Jerusalem, the most combustible place on earth.

For those who had illusions about his ability to strike what he calls "the ultimate deal," Trump’s unilateral, reckless and diplomatically useless recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital serves as a bitter reality check.

Since Trump’s announcement last week, I’ve heard many doomsday expressions. The hyperbole, as well as the cycle of disappointment, violence and bloodshed make it easy to succumb to "hope fatigue."

Please read the following letter I’ve written for Americans for Peace Now about the remedy for such fatigue - it is being mailed now to tens of thousands of American households - and please consider including APN in your end-of-year giving.

If APN represents your voice, as it does mine, please consider joining me in making a generous year-end donation.

In peace,

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Letty Cottin Pogrebin is still inspired!

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Fatigue? Fuggetabout it. Letty Cottin Pogrebin is inspired!

Like many activists in the peace camp, I’m occasionally afflicted with “hope fatigue” as I watch the Israeli government give up on the pursuit of peace.

When I think back to the high hopes we had for the Oslo Accords, the Camp David Summit, the Clinton Parameters, and the Quartet’s Road Map, a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more remote today than ever before.

I can’t help feeling distressed that both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have permitted the extremists on both sides to dominate the political agenda. My despair deepens as I watch Israelis gobble up land in the West Bank and take over Palestinian property in East Jerusalem that’s supposed to be subject to negotiation in a future peace agreement between the two parties.

But the staff and supporters of Americans for Peace Now—and the young leaders and volunteers at Shalom Achshav, our sister organization in Israel—refuse to succumb to hopelessness and fatigue. They just keep plugging away. And because of them and their work, I keep getting reenergized and recommitted to the struggle to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Honor Rabin's Legacy – Don't Let the Zealots Win!

RabinLike all Israelis of my generation, I will never forget the night of Nov. 4, 1995.

Having just heard from the news desk editor at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been shot, I called Palestinian officials for reaction. I was Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs correspondent at the time and was on the phone with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat when I heard on Israel Radio that Rabin’s spokesman was about to make a statement. As Eitan Haber hushed the crowed, I started translating for Erekat: “The government of Israel announces in dismay, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv.”

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The Trump administration won't have any more excuses

In a recent interview, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – a long-time supporter of Israeli settlements – falsely claimed that Israel occupies “only 2 percent” of the West Bank.

In fact, with the entire West Bank under Israeli military law, 100 percent is occupied by Israel. Yet, when a reporter followed up with State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, asking what percent of the West Bank the Trump administration believes is occupied, she stated: “I don’t know that we have a map of that.”

We at Americans for Peace Now have good news for the State Department: Facts on the Ground 2.0 is coming soon.

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"Etrogize" peace?

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

Every Jewish holiday comes with its set of very particular traditions. There is the carefully-prescribed sequence of shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah, the prohibition on putting anything (even a toothbrush) in one’s mouth on Yom Kippur, the precise order of lighting the menorah’s candles during Chanukah, and of course the uncompromising war on chametz in preparation for Passover.

Then along comes Sukkot, when the focus is the etrog, the yellow citron used as one of the ‘four species,’ plants and fruit ritually used by observant Jews during this holiday. A kosher etrog must pass a battery of tests. It must have the right proportions and color, be free of stains or blemishes, and above all, its pistil end (or “nipple”) must be intact. Hasidic Jews at Jerusalem’s Sukkot markets are often seen holding up magnifying glasses to these lemon-like fruit, meticulously scrutinizing them for imperfections. You don’t want to end up with a lemon. It must be perfect.

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I was a radical settler

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

My name is Shabtay Bendet. I am forty-four. I have six children and I live in Jaffa.

I recently joined Peace Now as the director of the Settlement Watch team, after several years of working as the West Bank correspondent of Walla, Israel’s most popular news site.

This move, for me, is a closure of sorts. I see it as a tikkun, repairing a chapter in my life in which I was a settler and took part in the injustices that West Bank Palestinians suffer as a result of the occupation and the settlement enterprise.

About 20 years ago, with an eight-month-old daughter, I decided to move with my family to establish the first unauthorized outpost in the West Bank, Rahelim. During the years we lived in the Occupied Territories, I worked in the adjacent settlement of Yitzhar, studied at the Joseph's Tomb yeshiva in Nablus, and worked in agriculture near the illegal outpost of Shvut Rachel, in areas that paved the way for the establishment of more outposts. In fact, during those years, I devoted my life, my whole life, to activity (today, perhaps, I would call it being an activist) in order to advance the ideology in which I believed.

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Compassionate Children of Compassionate Parents?

Rosh Hashanah + Yovel 2017

Each year at Rosh Hashana, we take stock of our actions from the past year. This year, we have additional reason to take stock as we head into the Days of Awe and the season of repentance: this is the 50 year of the occupation.

In Jewish tradition, the 50 year has special status. It is known as the yovel (Jubilee) year. In rabbinic writings the yovel is compared to Rosh Hashanah, with both set aside as time to reflect before beginning anew. The yovel consists of three major features: liberating slaves, setting free the land, and releasing all debts.

It is hard to conceive of a year in which yovel is more needed than the 50th anniversary of Israel’s rule over the West Bank and Gaza. Over this past half century, we have seen the occupation not only devastate Palestinians but also corrupt Israeli society. This past year alone, we have witnessed rising settler violence against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, the Israeli military, and Peace Now and other activists, as well as land theft and vandalism.

The poison of occupation has metastasized to the highest levels of the Israeli political system. In order to bolster the occupation, Netanyahu’s government passed the Legalization Law, which retroactively legalizes Israeli civilian construction in the West Bank built on privately owned Palestinian land, in violation of both Israeli and international law. For the sake of stifling protest against the occupation, Netanyahu’s government passed the Entry Law, which bans entry to Israel by anyone who supports boycotts of either Israel or the settlements. This doesn’t just stifle debate; it is yet another step in the attempt to erase the boundary between Israel and the West Bank.

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Special Rosh Hashanah Q&A: Peace Prospects for the Coming Year

Q. Does the absence of a Palestinian state threaten Israel? How?

A. Yes, it threatens Israel, and in more ways than one.

Without an Arab-state political affiliation for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel is universally seen as their occupier. Not a single state in the world recognizes the terms “Judea and Samaria” or Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. The possibility of restoring a pre-1967 political link, say by affiliating the West Bank in some way with Jordan, has ceased to be realistic in Arab eyes for several decades. This is so despite the fact that some Israeli right-wingers cut off from regional realities and international standards of human rights argue that West Bank Palestinians could enjoy autonomy under Israel and vote in Jordanian elections.

Nor is the paternalistic proposal put forth by some on the Israeli right—to the effect that Palestinians in the West Bank can in perpetuity enjoy “human” rights but not citizenship rights on the land where they live-- viable in the eyes of Palestinians or anyone else in the world. Palestinian Arabs today identify as Palestinians in a political sense. If they cannot achieve sovereign statehood, the only fallback position they are likely to recognize is Israeli citizenship within the framework of a single state.

This brings us to the demographic issue. Most demographers today argue that there are already more Arabs than Jews in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Some on the Israeli right argue that the totality of Arabs is “only” 40 percent of the total population, meaning Jews constitute 55 percent (another five percent of Israelis are neither Jewish nor Arab). In some cases this figure is achieved by ignoring the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a highly problematic geopolitical determination. In other cases it is achieved by radically underestimating the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and ignoring the 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

One way or another, even an Israeli state with a 40 percent (and growing!) Arab minority cannot claim to be intrinsically Jewish. As for a non-democratic state that favors its Jewish over its Arab inhabitants, this is anathema to the vast majority of Jews, to say nothing of the international community. It places Israel in the global family of racist, fascist countries whose prospects for enlightened progress are zero.

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