To strengthen Israel, defend democracy [ssba]

To strengthen Israel, defend democracy

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

— The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson

On January 12, 2016, the president of the United States stood before Congress and presented his State of the Union address. It is an event that brings together the branches of our democracy; the president, under constitutional obligation, sharing his views and vision before the people’s representatives in Congress, with the justices of the Supreme Court in attendance.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

— The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, James Madison

As special as the event is, it is at the same time familiar. In our country, this is normal. Immediately afterward, the party in opposition to the president makes a response, which is widely covered in the press. It is an important feature of our country that this is normal too. For democracy to flourish, a wide array of opinions must be given opportunity for expression.

Our constitution, which mandates the president’s annual address and the separation of powers, establishes the rights of free expression, religion, petition, and assembly. In this environment, a rich culture of political, religious, trade, and professional organizations, publications, and other avenues of expression is formed. This amalgam of nongovernmental social organizations and means of expression is what creates “civil society.” In the United States, we take civil society and the rights that support it for granted. It is the system with which most of us grew up and many of us have gone to war to defend.

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Strength and consciousness together can combat terror [ssba]

Strength and consciousness together can combat terror

This post was written by Mark Gold of PPI and Hiam Simon of Ameinu.

Jerusalem, whose very name means “city of peace,” is again at war.

The violence has spread to parts of Israel that have been unscarred until now. A violence in which there are Palestinians, overcome with anger and frustration, who start their day in the kitchens looking not for coffee but for a knife. They venture out looking for a Jew to stab. To kill. Reacting to this wave of terror, the Israeli response is to shoot first and ask questions later. Tension again is a part of daily life.

The first intifada, which plagued Israel from 1987 until the Oslo Accords in 1993, was an uprising of stones. The second intifada erupted in 2000 and served up attack after attack of suicide bombers and bus explosions. One thousand Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians died over five years, until the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit between Abbas and Sharon restored calm.

The violence now is from knives and of murder by vehicular homicide. At the time of this writing, there have been 25 Israelis and 100 Palestinians killed, a much smaller count than in the past, because unlike the previous two uprisings, this time the violence is not organized. The lack of a central command and the fact that the violence comes from lone-wolf attackers has prevented an escalation of atrocities, while creating a formidable level of anxiety among Israelis.

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It’s About Settlements, Not BDS [ssba]

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS

Hiam Simon (Ameinu’s COO) and I responded to a false assertion that PPI supports BDS.  Both Dr. Scott David Lippe’s charge and our response were  published in our local New Jersey community weekly, The Jewish Standard, as letters to the editor.  This is most of our letter:   

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement was established in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations to promote the general boycott of Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, the general boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, divestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, and international sanctions against the State of Israel. For many years, Partners for Progressive Israel and its predecessor organizations have actively opposed this movement as a general attack on the Jewish state and the Israeli public.

But we don’t believe Dr. Lippe was particularly interested in investigating either our personal views in opposition to the BDS movement or those of Partners for Progressive Israel. He is interested in promoting a particular agenda in support of West Bank settlement activity. So let’s discuss this real agenda, and the substantive differences between us. Read More »

Jewish Stake in Civil Rights — in Israel & OT, as in US [ssba]

Jewish Stake in Civil Rights — in Israel & OT, as in US

What follows is from a piece co-authored with Hiam Simon (the chief operationg officer of Ameinu) at the Times of Israel website:   

. . .  Some 3,200 marchers set out from Selma, led by Martin Luther King Jr., marching arm and arm with Ralph Abernathy, Ralph Bunch, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  . . . Dozens of other rabbis participated, including Rabbi Israel Dresner, a dedicated activist still living in our northern New Jersey neighborhood today.

Hiam Simon & Mark Gold

Authors Hiam Simon (left) and Mark Gold

Jews had always been deeply involved as allies of the civil rights movement. Henry Moskowitz had helped in the founding of the NAACP in 1909. As the civil rights movement grew in the 1960s, so too did Jewish involvement. Rabbi Joachim Prinz of Temple B’nai Abraham in Newark spoke at the great 1963 civil rights demonstration in Washington, where Martin Luther King declared “I have a dream.” Hundreds of Jewish activists joined in the Freedom Ride movement. Nearly a year before the Selma marches, two young Jews, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were murdered along with a young black civil rights worker, James Chaney. Their deaths shocked the country and were a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act.   Read More »

Israel’s Founding Democratic Principles under Threat [ssba]

Israel’s Founding Democratic Principles under Threat

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Mark Gold, a board member of Partners for Progressive Israel and a former president of Americans for Progressive Israel (a predecessor of PPI). What follows are excerpts from “The nation state that is Israel needs democracy,” which I co-authored with Haim Simon of Ameinu for The Jewish Standard (our Jewish community newspaper in New Jersey):

. . .  Grounded in the historical relationship between the people of Israel and the land, recalling the traumas of exile and the Holocaust, and emphasizing the renewal of Jewish settlement and the building of a new physical and social infrastructure, [Israel’s Declaration of Independence] called into being the third Jewish commonwealth, in the land of Israel, and announced that it was to be called the State of Israel. With all the many questions that surrounded the announcement, it was never in doubt that this new democratic government would lead a country dedicated to freedom, justice, and full civil rights for all its citizens:

“The State of Israel will …  foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

. . . These principles of a socially just democracy now are being challenged within Israel. It is no accident that the source of that challenge comes from those whose dream is to expand the Jewish state, to push formal borders to include the “Greater Land of Israel,” an effort that will change the demographic make-up to create a state where the majority of the population no longer will be Jews.

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