Americans for Peace Now: Right So Often, But Wrong on Presbyterian Divestment

Later today, perhaps by the time you read this, or perhaps tomorrow, the plenary session of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly will vote on the recommendation of its Committee 15 to divest from three corporationsthat are profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, and its concomitant violations of Palestinian human rights.

APN does great work, but they really missed the boat with their criticism of the Presbyterians’ divestment drive.

Jewish Voice for Peace has been a key player supporting the divestment resolutions. But they face opposition not only from the major Jewish and pro-occupation groups, but also from the Zionist peace groups, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

J Street has been consistent in opposing any kind of pressure on Israel. Their program seems to be to find ways to ask Israel, with more and more “pretty pleases” all the time, to end their occupation.

But APN has supported limited boycotts of settlement programs, products and institutions in the past. Still, one can argue that divestment in general has always been opposed by APN, so the case can be made that their call for PC(USA) to defeat the divestment resolution is also consistent with their positions.

I’m sure they think so.

APN is a wonderful institution. No one does better work in documenting the activities of AIPAC and other pro-occupation lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. They are an indispensible source of information on settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. They have done a huge amount of good on this issue, as much as any group, and more than most. I am proud to have worked with them and proud to call several of their staff members and others affiliated with the group both colleagues and friends.

But this time, they are dead wrong.

APN’s president and CEO, Debra DeLee gives their reasoning on this as follows: Continue reading

Is Lieberman the New Israeli Mainstream?

(Note: This was cross-posted at Meretz USA’s blog.)

In an interview given to Newsweek, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the following, quite chilling statement: “I am the mainstream. When I started with my vision, I was really a small minority. Today we’re the third [largest] party in Israel.”

Lieberman is certainly no stranger to bluster, so it’s easy to dismiss this as more of Yvet’s (as he is called) hubris. But is that really the case? There’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that Lieberman is absolutely right.

Avigdor Lieberman

Each piece of that evidence is another massive blow to the teetering ship that is Israeli democracy. The latest was a proposal introduced this past week by Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, to set up a Knesset committee to investigate the funding sources of progressive, and only left-wing, NGOs.

Israeli journalist and blogger Yossi Gurvitz likened the event to the burning of the Reichstag, implying that this was the point where Israel slipped from democracy to fascism. Gurvitz may be overstating the case (I’d certainly say he is), but he is not exaggerating how anti-democratic this action and this Knesset are. Nor can it be reasonably denied that, whether Gurvitz is right or not today, if Israel continues on its present course, there is no doubt he will be someday and probably not in all that distant a future. Continue reading

Bibi: More of the Same Bad Leadership

A video from 2001 is making the internet rounds these days, one that shows current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking to a settler widow who had just lost her husband to a Palestinian attack at the beginning of the second intifada.

In the video, Bibi says (in Hebrew, translation by Dena Shunra, with a few corrections of my own): “ I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved in the right direction…80% of theAmericanssupport us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say “what will we do with the…” look. That administration was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.”

Well, the wifi and fiber optic networks were abuzz. Here is Bibi with his guard supposedly down. The video is said to have been taken without his knowledge, so we’re supposedly getting the unvarnished Bibi.

I’m not so sure. The takeaway seems to have been “Here is the real Bibi, don’t you see he never wants to make peace?” I think the video shows something else, that Bibi is just a huckster, a politician who is always playing to the crowd. And that he is afraid of a negotiated peace—just like his fellows.

Just because he didn’t know there was a camera running doesn’t mean Bibi wasn’t still performing. He knows well that the settlement communities are very tight-knit, and what he says in the home of a settler who just lost her husband almost certainly would be repeated, making its way quickly throughout the West Bank. At the time of that meeting, Bibi was trying to consolidate a hard right opposition to then-Likud leader and Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. I’m not at all convinced he was being any more sincere with this woman than he was with the Israeli and global public when he accepted a “two-state solution” last year. Continue reading

Jerusalem's Mayor is a Threat to Israel's Future

Americans for Peace Now sent a letter to President Obama today, urgently pointing out what should be obvious to him: “Engage NOW to get Jerusalem under control.” The full text of the letter can be found here.

The letter lays out the problem clearly enough. And, indeed, the solution is for President Obama to get Prime Minister

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Netanyahu to rein in the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. I’ll take it further—Barkat is as big a threat to Israel’s future as any individual in the world.

Barkat, a businessman, became mayor in 2008, and many thought that as a secular Israeli, coming on the heels of a very religious mayor, he would be more pragmatic. Such has not been the case.

Barkat has gone out of his way to enflame the conflict with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is the most emotional of all the issues setting Israelis and Palestinians at odds, and the mayor of Jerusalem, therefore, has more direct power than anyone to cause flare-ups.

Barkat does not pay much mind to this fact. In his campaign for mayor he made it very clear that he felt strongly that Jerusalem remain the “undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.” And, much more than his Haredi predecessor, he has taken bold steps to ensure that outcome. Continue reading

APN: Three-Month Balance Sheet on Settlement Freeze

I don’t usually do this, but this report is so well put together and so important, it bears re-printing in its entirety. It was produced by Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now and Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch. The good, the bad and the ugly of the settlement freeze is here for your review.

The Settlements Moratorium: A Three-Month Accounting

Settlements in Focus, Vol. VI, Issue II 

March 1, 2010

On November 25, 2009, the Government of Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction and planning.  As we noted from the outset, the impact of this decision – both on the ground and on the Obama Administration’s efforts to launch new Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – will depend mainly on the good faith (or lack thereof) that characterizes the government of Israel’s implementation of the moratorium.

Almost three months ago we offered an early accounting of the moratorium and its impacts, in the form of a “balance sheet” showing the positive (assets), negatives (liabilities) and potential positives/negatives (accounts receivables).

Now, three months into the moratorium, we believe it is time to update this balance sheet.  The results are mixed.  While the moratorium has clearly had some positive ramifications, both in terms of slowing some settlement planning and construction and putting settlers on the defensive, this positive impact has been outweighed – especially in terms of impact on the political process – by an almost constant stream of Israeli government actions, decisions, and policies that seriously call into question its good-faith commitment both to the moratorium and to peace negotiations. 

It has also been outweighed by the development of a very problematic Israeli political narrative which holds that Netanyahu has done his part by declaring the moratorium and now the burden for action rests entirely with the Palestinians – regardless whether the implementation of the moratorium is being carried out in good faith.

So let’s get to the balance sheet. Continue reading