Supporting United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 [ssba]

Supporting United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334

Partners for Progressive Israel welcomes and supports United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, condemning settlement activity by Israel in its occupied territories and calling upon Israel to desist from any further expansion of Israeli colonization of the West Bank.  We commend President Obama for his courageous decision not to exercise what had come to be a reflexive veto in defense of Israel in the United Nations no matter how egregious Israel’s violation of international laws and norms.

While we might have preferred an American vote in favor of the resolution rather than an abstention, we recognize that diplomacy dictated that course.  Ever since the occupation began in 1967, no responsible person, agency, jurisdiction, or state defended the legality of the settlement project.  Israel was expected to desist from any further settlement at the time of the Oslo Peace Agreement in 1993; the status of the existing settlements was left to be determined in the final agreement.  Since Oslo, however, Israel has more than doubled the number of settlers, now estimated to be over 500,000, and greatly expanded their territory.  It now further proposes to “legalize” those settlements established in the past, retroactively justifying the seizure of private Palestinian land.  The United States has regularly criticized and deplored further settlement activity as “unhelpful” to the peace process; and if the United Nations has now chosen to reaffirm its own reproof of the settlement project it is because the possibility of the Two-State Solution, to which all, including Israel, remain nominally committed, is widely recognized to be almost irrevocably compromised while the construction of a contiguous Palestinian State is being made impossible.

Finally, the latest U.N. resolution is little more than an affirmation of what has consistently been American policy since 1967.  Far from furthering the project to “de-legitimize” the Israeli state, as its critics argue, Resolution 2334 specifically affirms the legitimacy of Israel within the June 1967 frontiers, and further pledges to affirm the validity of any changes in those frontiers freely negotiated between the parties themselves.  It also specifically condemns any “incitement” or violent or terroristic attempt to undermine the existence of the State of Israel or the peace process. The Resolution clearly anticipates that territorial changes, presumably “swaps”, will be necessary to allow Israel to retain control of the largest settlement blocs as part of any final settlement of the conflict.

It is especially important to enshrine the illegality of the settlement project in international law at a time when Israel appears further poised to expand it, with the anticipated support of the incoming Trump administration in the United States.  We agree with Israeli MK Tammy Zandberg that “the settlement and the occupation policies are the greatest existential threat to the state of Israel and there is nothing more patriotic or more Zionist than to oppose them.” PPI can only hope that the Resolution can preserve the possibility of a Two-State solution which is the one means of also preserving Israel’s essential character as both a Jewish and a democratic state.

 

Rejecting attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison [ssba]

Rejecting attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison

Partners for Progressive Israel rejects recent attacks on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) claiming that he should be disqualified as a candidate for the position of  Chairman of the Democratic Party because of his position on Israel and Palestine.  PPI takes no position on who should be selected for Democratic Party Chairman. But we insist that the attacks on Ellison as anti-Semitic or an enemy of Israel are baseless, and nothing he has said or done should disqualify him from the position.  Ellison has a long history of supporting a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and his support for an equitable resolution has been vouched for by many who know him well, in Minneapolis as well as Washington.

The Anti-Defamation League  has attacked Ellison’s 2010 comments about Israel and the Middle East as “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”  Accusations that Ellison is an anti-Semite (made explicitly by important people like Haim Saban) are completely groundless and disgraceful.  Ellison’s record as Congressman does not show the slightest trace of anti-Semitism.  His relations with Jewish organizations in Minneapolis and with Jewish politicians (including Sens Schumer and Franken) are excellent.  Meretz MK Tammy Zandberg writes from Israel that Ellison’s position on Israel is the same as on every other issue: “a progressive position, peaceful, promoting justice and equality, opposing racism, Anti-Semitism, chauvinism and homophobia of any kind and from every direction.” The fact that Ellison was the first American Muslim elected to the House of Representatives only underscores the potential damage these unfounded accusations against Ellison could create in this difficult period.

At a time when we face an incoming administration in Washington that will likely give unprecedented support to the Israeli right and supporters of settlement expansion, it is crucial that the Democratic Party, and all who support a just and equitable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, speak freely and frankly about the past strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes in American policy.  The road ahead will likely be difficult. It will not be made easier by trying to intimidate legitimate critics of American policy.  PPI, a longtime supporter of a just and secure peace in the Middle East for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, finds Cong. Ellison’s views to be wholly consistent with its own.

Statement on Proposed Revocation of Israeli Citizenship [ssba]

Statement on Proposed Revocation of Israeli Citizenship

Partners for Progressive Israel condemns in the strongest terms recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman of the Coalition David Bitan threatening to revoke the citizenship of B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, in retaliation for the latter’s testimony about the occupation before the United Nations Security Council.

As Jews and members of an organization with a long history of affiliation with the Zionist movement we express our particular revulsion at these threats by Israeli government officials.  Israel is still a democracy.  Hagai El-Ad has broken no law.  Yet the rightwing nationalist parties that lead the current government threaten a punishment only used by dictatorships in retaliation against a citizen for exercising his democratic right to speak.

Need we remind the government of a Jewish state that revocation of citizenship is contrary to international law?  It is abhorrent as well because of the Jewish experience in the twentieth century, in which we were the first people to experience widespread condemnation to statelessness as a prelude to the Holocaust.   The right of return also remains of paramount importance to Jews everywhere.  Can Israeli citizenship or the right of return be conditioned on political behavior deemed satisfactory to the current government, subject to revocation at any time?

B’Tselem finds itself the subject of government persecution for challenging the Occupation before the United Nations.  The Occupation is unsustainable in terms of the continuation of Israel as a Jewish state and corrosive to Israeli democracy.  Acquiescence to it cannot be a condition either of the citizenship of Jews in Israel or of the exercise of the Right of Return from the diaspora.  With this latest threat to Mr. El-Ad, the current Israeli government is on its way to repudiating the basic principle of Zionism itself as it further cuts away at Israeli democracy.

Supporting Black Lives Movement Goals [ssba]

Supporting Black Lives Movement Goals

Partners for a Progressive Israel has been following with great interest the manifesto of the Black Lives Movement and its allied organizations. As an organization fully in support of racial as well as social and economic justice, Partners supports the core goals of BLM.  The Movement for Black Lives coalition has included in its recent, lengthy agenda a section on the Israel/Palestine conflict which we find regrettable, particularly as an organization active in promoting state sovereignty, dignity, and independence for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.  The incendiary use of terms like “genocide” to describe Israel’s Occupation policies is particularly hurtful to us as well as analytically wrong and inapt.  Its use also does not contribute to building broad, effective alliances to realize BLM’s goals.

This disagreement should, however, not distract us from the real goals of BLM or detract from our support of them.  For far too long, the degradations, subordinations, and deprivations endured by Black Americans have been allowed to continue.  They must be ended, their structures dismantled.  In this spirit, PPI endorses and joins the statements on this issue issued by Jeremy Ben Ami on behalf of J St and by the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, T’ruah, linked below.

http://jstreet.org/blog/post/blog-on-the-movement-for-black-lives_1

http://www.truah.org/5-media/general/779-t-ruah-statement-on-black-lives-matter-platform.html

Statement on new “NGO Law” in Israel [ssba]

Statement on new “NGO Law” in Israel

Partners for Progressive Israel condemns in the strongest possible terms the passage of a law in Israel that under the guise of “transparency” severely restricts the ability to function of 27 different NGOs and Human Rights Organizations, among them some of the most famous and effective like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. We associate ourselves with and endorse the statements of our sister organizations, Ameinu and J Street condemning this law; and we note with approval that the European Union has already put Israel on notice that the new law undermines the democratic principles upon which the state of Israel was founded.

At the same time we recognize that the law is part of a broader assault on democracy in Israel in which the government, various right-wing groups such as Im Tirzu, and diverse ad hoc vigilante groups have participated. These un-democratic practices have included fascist-like attacks on demonstrators for peace and human rights, and occasionally the murder of individual innocent Israeli Jews and Arabs, both within Israel and in the occupied territories. We take this occasion to reissue and reaffirm our own previous statement on Racism and Un-Democratic Practices in Israel as follows:

The current undermining of Israel’s once-vibrant democracy is an ongoing cause of great concern to supporters of Israel everywhere. Under the present government, such harmful practices continue to multiply and accelerate.

Partners for Progressive Israel deplores and condemns recent manifestations of racism in the government coalition and accompanying legislative efforts, largely successful, to curtail fundamental norms of equality and democratic practice.

PPI further deplores the spate of laws and draft laws deliberately intended to curtail democratic practices. We note, for example:

The recently upheld “anti-boycott law,” which renders anyone, anywhere who advocates boycott of goods emanating from any “territory under Israeli control,” subject to lawsuits for purported damages suffered by entities or businesses targeted by boycotts. The goal is simply to squelch the free-speech rights of those who oppose continued Occupation of the Territories.

Legislation has established the Refugee Detention Center in the Negev desert at Holot, a virtual concentration camp for refugees who have sought asylum in Israel but are labeled illegal “infiltrators.” This government’s practice, as the High Court has twice noted, directly violates Israel’s international commitment to not return asylum seekers to a place where they are likely to be persecuted.

The Citizenship and Entry law now prohibits Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel from bringing spouses from the occupied territories or children born to them in the territories into Israel. This law treats such immediate family of Israeli citizens as prima facie enemies and flaunts family unification commitments Israel has signed.

A Residential Community Admissions Committee law legalizes community, housing, or apartment building owner associations’ that refuse entry, rental, or purchase to persons deemed “socially unsuitable.” This term is a euphemism for persons of Arab ethnicity and legalizes discrimination of a sort that Jews have struggled against for many decades.

The infamous Nakba Law reduces or eliminates funding for any group that holds events commemorating the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. Advocating alternative historical narratives is now in practice illegal. This government feels that Zionism is only credible if enforced by Legislation has established the Refugee Detention Center in the Negev desert at Holot, a virtual concentration camp for refugees who have sought asylum in Israel but are labeled illegal “infiltrators.” This government’s practice, as the High Court has twice noted, directly violates Israel’s international commitment to not return asylum seekers to a place where they are likely to be persecuted.

The Citizenship and Entry law now prohibits Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel from bringing spouses from the occupied territories or children born to them in the territories into Israel. This law treats such immediate family of Israeli citizens as prima facie enemies and flaunts family unification commitments Israel has signed.

A Residential Community Admissions Committee law legalizes community, housing, or apartment building owner associations’ that refuse entry, rental, or purchase to persons deemed “socially unsuitable.” This term is a euphemism for persons of Arab ethnicity and legalizes discrimination of a sort that Jews have struggled against for many decades.

The infamous Nakba Law reduces or eliminates funding for any group that holds events commemorating the Palestinian Nakba of 1948. Advocating alternative historical narratives is now in practice illegal. This government feels that Zionism is only credible if enforced by threats.

Having frightened the High court into approving the Anti-Boycott Law, the present government has introduced legislation that would restrict or eliminate the right of the High Court to rule on the constitutionality of legislation even when that legislation conflicts with rights guaranteed by the Basic Laws of the land.

The guarantee of fundamental rights to all citizens is as necessary to democracy as majority rule and free and fair elections. But as we see in Hungary, Russia, Turkey, Poland and other similarly undemocratic countries, a government with transient electoral majorities can become committed to undermining the basic rights of all. Their first targets may be political opponents and ethnic minorities, but the real goal becomes to destroy democracy itself. The delicate balance of “Jewish and democratic” that has been fundamental to Israeli democracy is seriously imperiled by the current government. We call on American Jews to support Israeli and American organizations that are working to reverse this trend and return Israel to a democratic path.

We call the Democratic Party he Democratic Party to include “the occupation” and stopping settlements in its platform [ssba]

We call the Democratic Party he Democratic Party to include “the occupation” and stopping settlements in its platform

Partners for Progressive Israel calls on the Democratic Party to include forthcoming language regarding the occupation and settlements in its platform.

We note with deep concern the progress of negotiations concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict plank of the Democratic Party platform. We are pleased with the language thus far that calls for self-determination and dignity for Palestinians in a two-state solution. However, this does not go far enough. There is no mention of the occupation, which will go into its 50th year in 2017, the end of which is a prerequisite for the reestablishment of any dignified, free, Palestinian life. Nor is there mention of the illegal settlements. It is estimated that approximately 400,000 Jews will be living on the West Bank by the end of the Obama administration, and the building of settlements by Israel, contrary to international law, continues apace. At the least, the Democratic Platform should call for a cessation of all illegal settlement activity by Israel which is the only way to achieve a restart of stalled negotiations between the two sides.

We note the participation of the Sanders campaign and J Street in these negotiations with the Democratic Party Platform Committee. Bernie Sanders has during the campaign himself taken positions consistent with the immediate goal of ending the occupation and settlement activity, and these are the explicit goals of J Street as an organization. We call upon these groups to insist upon inclusion of these matters in the language of the Democratic Platform.

The French Initiative and the Meretz Party [ssba]

Partners for Progressive Israel notes with approval the statement of the Meretz party in Israel reproduced below endorsing the French initiative for an international conference on the Middle East. We have long deplored the absence of any movement toward a two-state resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and we believe more than ever that the opening of negotiations is critical in the near term. We agree that the occupation of the Palestinian land and people is immoral and contrary to Israel’s own interests. If the current opportunity is lost there may never be another and the possibility of Israel remaining a democratic and Jewish state will be lost. If Israel is forced to choose between its commitment to Judaism and its democratic character it will end up as neither Jewish nor democratic but rather a nationalistic autocracy that will be a perversion of the Zionist dream.

The peace process which was launched successfully with the Oslo agreements in 1993 has been at a standstill for a long time. All the initiatives since then – the Road map, the negotiations at Annapolis, the negotiations led by Secretary of State Kerry have brought no results.
Notwithstanding the declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu a few years ago at the Bar-Ilan University supporting a two-state solution, the policy of the two last Israeli Governments has been to avoid any serious contact with the Palestinian Authority, and to postpone indefinitely any possible solution to the conflict. In fact, the members of the current government are divided over this issue, and therefore the proposal of a two state solution has never been adopted as the Government’s policy.

Meretz, the representative party of the Israeli left, believes that the creation of a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel is necessary and urgent and is a vital interest of Israel. We believe that the continued occupation of the Palestinian people and land is immoral and that the prolonged status quo is dangerous for Israel and for the entire region. Therefore we welcome the French initiative to convene an International Peace Conference. Any step that may bring the sides together, with the assistance of the international community should be encouraged and pursued.

Partners Urges President Obama to Make Peace in Israel [ssba]

March 21, 2016
Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry:

Partners for Progressive Israel, a progressive group that supports Israel but is critical of its current direction, has been among the most loyal supporters of your policies in the Middle East.  We applauded your heroic efforts to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together for talks, talks that failed because of obstruction on the Israeli side, where a government that is for the most part hostile to a two-state outcome is in power.  And we are most grateful for your strong insistence, despite strong opposition both foreign and domestic, on pursuing the Iran agreement that has successfully placed Iran’s nuclear program under international control.  PPI supported that arrangement and deplored Mr. Netanyahu’s inability to see that the Iran agreement is clearly in Israel’s own interest.  We believe the Iran agreement will stand as one of the enduring foreign policy achievements of your administration, and it burnishes the legacy of your presidency.

We urge you Mr. President, not to stand on your laurels; in the short time that remains to your administration there is still much that you can do to lay down the parameters for a necessary and urgent peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The basic components of that peace have long been known.  They go back to the informal Geneva Accord of 2003 and the Clinton parameters of 2000.  You and Secretary Kerry were said to be at the point of publishing them as Administration guidelines in 2014.  We need not recall them all here; but the occupation must end and Israel must withdraw to its June 1967 frontiers with the exception of mutually agreed land swaps.  Jerusalem must be shared as the capital of two states, and the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state in accordance with UNGAR 181 in 1947 and their Right of Return must be limited to the new and independent Palestine to be created.

These principles have received virtually universal international agreement.  France has urged them on the two sides by means of calls for an international conference and a new United Nations Resolution.  The United States should endorse these initiatives, negotiate wording with France and other sponsors, and join in what we hope would be a unanimous United Nations Resolution that would challenge the two sides.  And we urge you to define and publish American guidelines for a final-status agreement that will command the assent of fair-minded persons in Israel, Palestine, and the world.

You have done so much Mr. President, in the fields of environmental protection and climate change, economic stimulus, the reduction of unemployment, humane treatment of immigrants, and countless other fields, not to mention your monumental achievement in the matter of health care.  In the face of these successes the failure of your administration, despite your initiatives, to have an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort remains a glaring omission.  Let your final legacy be to challenge the two sides and put American diplomacy firmly behind an international effort to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sincerely yours,

Harold M. Shapiro
Co-President, Partners for Progressive Israel
Judy Wall
Co-President, Partners for Progressive Israel
Leonard Grob
Vice President, Partners for Progressive Israel
Paul Scham
Vice President, Partners for Progressive Israel
Professor Ayala Emmett
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Shirley Rausher
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Lilly Rivlin
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Phyllis Bernstein
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
David Abraham
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Sam Fleischacker
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Irwin Wall
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Peter Eisenstadt
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
Gil Kulick
Board Member, Partners for Progressive Israel
 Don Morris
Carolyn T. Oppenheim  Irene Tucker
Hasia Diner Yonathan Shapir
Ivan Frank  Jonathan W. Malino
Gerald Serotta  Robert Jennings
Patricia Shaw El-Zatmah Daniel P Resnick
Martha Kransdorf Alan Feldman
Merle Wolofsky David Lelyveld
Chaim Shimshowitz Efrat Levy
Lisa Stone Achebe Powell
Laura Mahalel Ivan Huber

End Administrative Detentions Without Evidence Or Trial In Israel [ssba]

End Administrative Detentions Without Evidence Or Trial In Israel

Partners for Progressive Israel joins the international call on the Israeli government to either release all administrative detainees it currently holds or bring them to trial. We stand with Israelis against preventive detention, human rights organizations, and the United Nations in calling upon Israel to end the practice of administrative detention. This practice has recently taken a face and a name: the Palestinian journalist, Mohammed al-Qiq from the village of Dura.  Al-Qiq who was arrested and held without charges demanded to exercise his right to a speedy trial; when his request was denied he went on a hunger strike that revealed the cruelty of a process in which detainees are powerless to seek legal redress, and he has displayed for all to see the horror of the detainee use of this tactic of last resort; photographs and even the sounds of the pain and agony of the 33-year-old father of two who was hospitalized and near death in Afula have saturated the news media.  Al-Qiq has suffered impairment to his hearing, speech, his heart and unknown other permanent physical damage as he uses his starving body to send a most powerful message about the politics of the occupation.  After 94 days and on the brink of death his hunger strike ended on February 26. Al-Qiq will be released without charge or trial on May 21 and his detention will not be renewed. His medical condition is critical.

Prolonged arbitrary detention with no recourse to evidence or trial constitutes a breach of international law. Yet, since 1948, Israeli administrative arrests have drawn on a colonial draconian law of ‘secret evidence’ of the British Mandate government’s Emergency Regulations that was transformed into a 1979 Israeli Law on Authorities in State of Emergency.

Israel currently has 584 Palestinians in administrative detention, the highest number since 2008.  Al-Qiq requested to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah claiming that his relocation from the West Bank to Israel is “a flagrant breach of international law,” which prohibits the transfer of people from occupied territories.  The High Court of Justice, however, has almost always refrained from exercising its authority in such cases  and while in some cases Justices have shortened detention time, they have for the most part approved the detention orders. Organizations like B’tselem have called on the government to either release or try the detainees and in the case of al-Qiq, Haaretz and two Israeli women peace activists, Anat Rimon-Or and Anat Lev have worked on his behalf. Protesters, however, see a chipping away of Israeli democracy and the creation of a repressive regime by slow inoculation, as people get used to trampling of rights of “others” in this case Palestinians only to find out too late that they could themselves become in a blink of eye, an ‘other’.

The role of democracy is not only to assure governance by the majority, but to protect the rights of the minority. Contrary to assertions on the political Right to the effect that Torah does not mention democracy, the rights of the minority are the foundational ethics of Torah, a constant reminder (Zachor) that the Israelites are bidden to always remember the minority, the powerless and the stranger.  The Israeli government is tramping on Jewish democracy and the Torah, calling into question Israel’s claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Parallel Nationalism [ssba]

Parallel Nationalism

Partners for Progressive Israel notes with great sadness the increasing similarities between Israel and the ruling right-wing nationalists of countries from which Jews in the modern period have fled.  In Israel today, as in Viktor Orban’s Hungary, Jarosław Kaczyński’s Poland, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and Recep Erdogan’s Turkey, championing civil rights makes organizations a target of government-inspired attacks.  In Israel today, as in those countries, NGO’s are equated with foreign agents, school book lists are purged for unpatriotic themes, and “leftists” subjected to ceaseless denunciations by state and state-affiliated media.  Constitutional Courts, which only two decades ago helped to liberalize these societies, are now under attack, being packed by regime-friendly appointees committed to undermining their own calling.

In addition to Netanyahu himself, the Likud Party and its allies have thrown up figures like Ayelet Shaked, Miri Regev, Tzipi Hotoveli and others whose racist rants are now being augmented with denunciation of “cosmopolitan” intellectuals like David Grossman, Amos Oz and others. In a chilling and ironic parallel, efforts are now underway in Poland to withdraw an honor previously accorded Jan Gross, a Polish-Jewish historian, author of Neighbors, the internationally-recognized examination of the murder of Jews by antisemitic Poles in the village of Jedwabne as the German invasion of Soviet-occupied East Poland began in June 1941, and Fear, a study of early postwar Polish antisemitism. Scholarly study of Turkish-Armenian relations is now virtually impossible in Turkey; Hungary’s role in central Europe is being effectively rewritten to comport with Magyar ideology; and Israeli NGO’s that attempt to commemorate the Nakba which accompanied Israel’s founding, after years of making serious strides, are threatened by the government

What unites these assaults on liberal democracy is not simply the nature of the repressive measures they have generated.   They are united by a systematic provincialization of their countries, a withdrawal from the community of liberal democratic societies, a de-liberalization justified as the democratic will of the people.   Right-wing nationalists win an election and consider that carte blanche for undermining framework institutions.  In the case of Poland and Hungary, leaders proudly proclaim the establishment of “illiberal democracy.”  In Israel, we are told, it’s Jewish first, democratic second.  Once that happens, the historic Zionist aspiration for a liberal, democratic, modern Jewish homeland will be but a pale memory.