January 2017

Paris Peace Conference hits the mark

Canadian Friends of Peace Now joins with our sister organization,Peace Now/Shalom Achshav, in welcoming the international peaceconference held in Paris on January 15. The initiative is an important step in preserving the two-state solution and keeping it on the international agenda. The conference illustrates, yet again, the global consensus around the two-state formula — the only path towards an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Just like the UNSC resolution 2334 and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech, the Paris Conference is a way of supporting Israel while opposing the occupation and the settlements which lead to human rights violations and endanger the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

As Peace Now/Shalom Achshav states:: “It is absurd that the International community is more concerned than Israel’s own Prime Minister about the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Instead of supporting the French Initiative, Netanyahu continues his line of refusal and preaches about an international fraud. Yet the fraud here is Netanyahu’s, who states he supports a two-state solution and does everything in his power to prevent it on the ground. Instead of taking constructive steps toward a resolution of the conflict, Netanyahu is continuing to isolate Israel and is leading it towards a dangerous messianic path.”

December 2016

Peace Now calls on Israeli government to embrace UNSC resolution

Peace Now (Shalom Achshav) in Israel has welcomed the resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict passed on December 24, 2016, by the United Nations Security Council. The Peace Now statement says:
“Today the world has said yes to Israel and no to the settlements. While Prime Minister Netanyahu is harming the Zionist vision by expanding settlements and promoting the legalization law [legitimizing hitherto illegal outposts], the UNSC resolution supports a Jewish and democratic Israel. The global consensus shown today regarding the two-state solution is essential for the future of both Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government must embrace this resolution instead of giving in to extremists.”
Canadian Friends of Peace Now fully supports this stance by our sister organization in Israel.
Peace Now is the largest, most influential peace movement in Israel. A Zionist movement, Peace Now advocates a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on negotiations towards two states for two peoples.
December 2016

Peace Now fights the “grand land robbery” of proposed new law

unnamedPeace Now has been unflagging in its protests against a bill before the Israeli Knesset that would legalize hitherto illegal outposts and serve to expropriate private West Bank lands from Palestinians.

The proposed legislation, known as the “regularization law” is a blatant circumvention measure. It was put forward in the wake of a High Court ruling which ordered the removal of the illegal outpost of Amona, deep in the West Bank, by the end of December 2016. If passed, the new legislation would retroactively legalize Amona and similar outposts and construction. As the Israeli daily Haaretz put it in an editorial, this would be “a law that legalizes law breaking.”

Peace Now has dubbed the regularization law a “grand land robbery” which severely jeopardizes an eventual resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As part of its protest campaign,Peace Now published a detailed report exposing the bill’s wide-ranging implications. It would lead to the retroactive legalization of 55 illegal outposts and of approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and illegal outposts located on about 8,000 dunams,Peace Now data show. Furthermore, the law would allow for the future expropriation of another 3,000-plus dunams of private Palestinian lands, which are currently in legal limbo. All told, such wide-ranging land seizures would have a devastating impact on the potential for a two-state solution.

In addition to disseminating its report, Peace Now has put pressure on Knesset Members to kill the bill. These actions included a barrage of text messages to Mks by activists, an address to the key Knesset committee by PN staff and a demonstration in front of the home of Naftali Bennett, a leading force behind the bill. A scheduled November 30 vote on the bill was postponed for a week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself is uneasy about the legislation and warned his ministers that it could lead to prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Peace Now will continue its struggle against this regularization law to prevent a dangerous new assault on the two-state solution.

PN shows Israeli youth the reality beyond the Green Line


After Israel’s Ministry of Education approved tours to Jewish settlements for high school students, Peace Now decided to offer Israeli youth a different perspective. In late November, Peace Now took 100 young people on tours of Hebron so that they could see the reality on the ground with their own eyes and understand the consequences of the ongoing occupation.

How will Trump era affect peace prospects?

With the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, speculation is running high in regard to Washington’s policy on Israeli settlement construction and the future of the Middle East peace process. Peace Now’s Director of External Relations, Anat Ben Nun, examines the issues in an article published in Newsweek: Read Article

Continuing the Struggle for The Evacuation of Amona

Nov.7-This morning all Knesset Members of the Mertez party joined Peace Now on a your to Amona in order to call the government to fulfill the High Court’s verdict and evacuate the illegal outpost of Amona.

Amona is considered, even according to Israeli law, an illegal outpost. It is located deep in the West Bank and will never be a part of Israel in a framework of an agreement. Its lands are stolen private lands of Palestinians from the villages nearby. The High Court ruled that it must be evacuated by December 24th of this year. The Amona settlers refuse to be evacuated despite the High Court verdict. The government on its part, instead of offering them alternative housing in Israel, is establishing an entirely new

settlement for them (although they currently refuse to move there) in the heart of the West Bank and with many more housing units (98 with a potential for 300, whereas 41 families live in Amona). Our exposure of the government’s plan for the new settlement resulted in a harsh condemnation by the US, and for the first time tied the military aid package to settlement developments.

Last week, due to settler pressure, the government requested to postpone of the evacuation of Amona for “security reasons.” By doing so, it sent a dangerous message that the threat to use violent can change a High Court ruling. Meanwhile forces within the government are trying to pass what is known as the regularization bill. This bill seeks to legalize settlement construction on private lands across the West Bank by offering alternative lands to landowners without them having a say in the matter. This is contrary to international law and might allow settlers to build anywhere and then legalize it later, even if the land is privately owned.

The government must evacuate Amona by the date set by the High Court. Not doing so will compromise Israel’s rule of law, its relations with the United States and the possibility for a two state solution in the future and all for the sake of 41 families who stole private lands.


21 Years to the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Nov.6- Last night tens of thousands attended the Rally in commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv. Tens of thousands called for the continuation of Rabin’s path a path to two states and peacewith our Palestinian neighbors. Tens of thousands protested against the current government policies and the incitement against those opposing them. Thousands of Peace Now‘s activists and supporters helped fill the square with our messages and reminded those forces within the government that try to change the narrative around the assassination, that Rabin’s murder was political and that his memorial rally has to be political as well. The tens of thousands in the square convinced us, yet again, that our path Rabin’s path will eventually prevail. Until then, we will work every day to increase support for two states among the Israeli public, and ensure the two state solution remains possible on the ground.


Shooting the messenger


Lara Friedman at the UNSC on Oct. 14.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out viciously against two NGOs that spoke against Israeli settlement building before a session of the UN Security Council last week. The special meeting was called “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution.” The presenters were Americans for Peace Now – sister organization to Shalom Achshav in Israel and counterpart to CFPN in the US – and B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. (Shalom Achshav was invited to, but declined to make a presentation.)

Netanyahu accused the two organizations of “joining a chorus of slander” against Israel. Slander is defined as making false statements in order to harm the reputation of another. Was this really slander? Or another case of Netanyahu attempting to shoot the messenger?

Lara Friedman of APN began her address to the UNSC by noting it wasn’t easy for her to be there because some of the very member states that had called for the meeting had abysmal human rights records themselves and some still refused to recognize Israel. She also noted an increasingly poisoned environment for civil society groups like Peace Now in Israel, which are being branded by the right as traitors. Nevertheless, APN chose to let neither concern silence its important testimony.

Friedman then laid out the problematic facts Peace Now has been documenting for many years.

Since 1993, the settler population in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, has almost quadrupled: from 116,000 to 390,000. In East Jerusalem, the Jewish population has gone from 146,000 to 210,000.

“This population explosion could not have happened without Israeli government support and encouragement,” Friedman said. “…there is an entire machine of Israeli policies, active and passive, that is constantly working to support the expansion and entrenchment of settlements.”

These settlement policies deepen an Israeli military occupation that involves increasingly harsh violations of Palestinian rights. The policies are also a threat to Israel’s security and to Israel’s very existence. Israel has the military capability to address its external security threats. But there is no effective or moral military answer to a civilian population reacting to perpetual occupation. If not rolled back, the settlement enterprise will destroy the chances of a two-state solution and be the end of Israel as a democracy grounded in the Jewish values expressed in its Declaration of Independence.

Netanyahu’s accusation of slander seems based on the assertion that APN (and B’Tselem) “recycled the false claim that the ‘occupation and the settlements’ are the reason for the conflict.” But Friedman said no such thing. Instead she made a strong case that settlements are a huge component of the conflict and one of the largest obstacles to two-state solution.

“With every day that passes, Israeli settlement policies further cement a one-state reality on the ground, making the two-state solution harder to imagine, let alone achieve.”

Netanyahu does all he can to divert the Israeli public from such self-evident truths, whether by hair splitting or with absurd suggestions that the removal of settlers would amount to “ethnic cleansing.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department has rebuked Netanyahu’s attacks against APN and B’Tselem, saying: “We believe that a free and unfettered civil society is a critical component of democracy….We believe it is important that governments protect the freedoms of expression and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”

UNESCO’s wrong-headed resolution

A UNESCO resolution, spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority, catalogues and condemns Israel’s alleged violations of Moslem rights at Moslem holy places, primarily in the Old City of Jerusalem. Though the document acknowledges that Jerusalem is sacred to three religions, it consistently only uses the Arabic name for the holiest site of all – the Temple Mount (Haram Al-Sharif in Arabic). Nor does the resolution anywhere mention Jewish ties to the site, including to the Western Wall. The omission has been widely seen as a deliberate denial of a Jewish historical and religious connection to Jerusalem. It echoes assertions Yasser Arafat apparently made during the Oslo process, that there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount and similar statements by Mahmoud Abbas.

The resolution unnecessarily throws fuel on an already incendiary situation in Jerusalem, with religious sentiments on both sides at a boiling point. The absurd denial of Jewish history reinforces the conviction in many minds of an anti-Israel bias. Right-wingers are making much hay of the outcry. But Jews across the political spectrum are deeply offended, and rightly so.

Peter Beinart, one of the most outspoken critics of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, put it well:

“To protest Israel’s denial of Palestinian religious rights while simultaneously denying Jewish religious rights is hypocritical and perverse.”

Even the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, felt the need to distance herself from her colleagues’ decision. “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

There are legitimate concerns in the UNESCO resolution. For example, groups of ideologically motivated Jews, not content with the huge Western Wall plaza below, have insisted on going up to pray on the platform of the Al Asqa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Under a status quo agreement established after 1967, Jews are officially barred from prayer on the Temple Mount. And in the past, the Chief Rabbinate forbade any visits by Jews on the site for fear of their inadvertently treading upon the Holy of Holies. But a growing protest movement, which includes Israeli Mks and even a cabinet minister, periodically flouts the ban. Their provocative actions reinforce the Moslem fear that the Jews want to completely take over this holy site. (And some undoubtedly do and have said so openly to the point of talk of building a third temple.)

Working out arrangements that respect the needs of all three religions in Jerusalem is a delicate and weighty challenge. Israel has much to answer for. But the one-sided UNESCO resolution will do nothing but discredit UNESCO.

Peace Now‘s whistle-blowing finds echoes in Washington

unnamed-1On Oct. 2, 2016, Peace Now exposed a plan being promoted by the Israeli government for a problematic new settlement deep in the heart of the West Bank. In the wake of Peace Now‘s whistle blowing, the U.S. Administration sharply criticized the move, calling it a violation of Israel’s commitments.
The new settlement would be east of Shiloh and would allow the residents from the illegal outpost of Amona, who are under eviction order by by the Israeli High Court, to re-establish themselves on adjacent private land. Peace Now has vehemently protested the plan, arguing that it violates private property rights in the West Bank and would set a dangerous precedent that could lead to a proliferation of more settlements.
Amona has a contentious history, with a first demolition order in 1997 and an evacuation attempt that turned violent in 2006. Peace Now has spoken out against this outpost for years.
The current plan’s go-ahead came shortly after the U.S. approved a $38 billion security assistance package to Israel. This constitutes a slap in the face to President Obama, Peace Now contends, and shows that Netanyahu’s “commitment to settlers who stole private lands is more important to him than the true interests of the State of Israel – a two-state solution and a strong relationship with Israel’s most important ally.”
The White House and State Departments apparently agree. Both issued unusually harsh condemnations of the Amona announcement.
On Oct. 5, spokesman Josh Earnest said the decision constitutes the violation of a commitment undertaken by the Israeli government to the U.S. Administration.”We had public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this new announcement – so when you talk about how friends treat each other – this is a source of concern. There is a lot of disappointment and great concern here in the White House,” he said.
The New York Times has also lambasted the Amona plan. Its editorial of Oct. 6, titled “At the boiling point with Israel” states:
“If the aim of the Israeli government is to prevent a peace deal with the Palestinians, now or in the future, it’s close to realizing that goal. Last week, it approved the construction of a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank, another step in the steady march under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build on land needed to create a Palestinian state.”

The editorial goes on to urge a United Nations Security Council resolution “to lay down the guidelines for a peace agreement covering such issues as Israel’s security, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and borders for both states.” President Obama should put his weight behind such a resolution the NYT piece concludes.

Relentless settlement construction undermines potentialpeace
Peace Now‘s Settlement Watch data show that settlement construction in the West Bank quadrupled over the past year, belying Israel’s presumed commitment to the two-state solution.
The peace organization’s monitoring data show that 2,168 new housing units have moved forward since Sept. 2015. This number takes into account everything from initial plan submissions to final authorizations and is a four-fold increase over last year’s 553 units.
In an article Oct 7, based largely on Peace Now data and an interview with Settlement Watch director Hagit Ofran, Ha’aretz reporter Judy Maltz discusses some of the troubling aspects of this surge.
Much of the growth is taking place in two large settlements – Ariel and Efrat – which are considered part of the Israeli “consensus,” i.e., places that most Israelis view as a permanent part of Israel. Ariel is far from Israel’s internationally recognized border, or any likely future border. The larger it grows, the harder it would be to dismantle it in favour of a peace agreement. Thus it would stand as a significant obstacle to a viable Palestinian state. Efrat is much closer to the old border. But it extends over Route 60, the only north-south highway in the southern West Bank, and thereby encroaches on the development of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The accelerated growth also continued in many smaller settlements deep within the West Bank.
In addition to the above-mentioned 2,168 new units, 1,170 units built without permits in previous years received retroactive approval. Not included in the list is a plan to expand Jewish settlement in Hebron for the first time in over a decade, and tenders for housing in East Jerusalem. Plus, the government has declared its intentions of legalizing six illegal outposts.
Even this does not tell the whole story. Much construction is moving forward without tenders being issued. And there are many plans from previous years that have yet to be acted on.
“The message it [the government] is sending the settlers is that they don’t need to worry about breaking the law, because eventually everything they build will be legalized rather than demolished,” Ofran told Ha’artz.

For the full article : Click here

Settlers push into Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan

With government sanction, Israeli settlers are steadily moving into a Palestinian neighbourhood in the heart of Silwan, which is just outside the Old City walls and is one of the most sensitive and volatile areas in Jerusalem.
The incursion is documented in a new joint report by Peace Now and the Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim. The report is called: Broken Trust: State Involvement in Private Settlement in Batan Al-Hawa, Silwan.
Since 2001, the report says, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization has been working to transform Batan al-Hawa into a large Israeli settlement through sales without tender, questionable acquisition of Palestinian properties, forced eviction and removal of Palestinian families who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades. If the settlers are successful, Batan al-Hawa will become the largest settlement compound in a Palestinian neighbourhood in the Historic Basin of the Old City. And it will significantly tighten the emerging ring of settlements around the Old City, creating,”an irreversible reality” which severely undermines the possibility of a future two-state solution.

The attempted settler takeover threatens to displace 100 families – roughly 600 Palestinians – from their homes.  By the end of 2015, The settler organization Ateret Cohanim had quadrupled the number of housing units in its possession, taking over a total of some 27 units in six buildings in the neighbourhood. In addition, 12 currently pending eviction claims threaten an additional 51 families.  This well organized Ateret Cohanim campaign represents not only the displacement of an entire community but also the complicity of the Israeli government in facilitating private settlement in the Historic Basin.

The report reveals that the government has acted through the General Custodian and the Registrar of Trusts (both under the Ministry of Justice) to facilitate settlers’ seizure of Batan al-Hawa, as well as providing roughly one million shekels each year to fund private security to radical settlers in the hearts of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.  At the same time, the State’s privatization of national parks around the Historic Basin to settler organizations enables the co-optation and politicization of archeology, the erasure of Palestinian history and neighbourhoods, and the dissemination of a one-sided, nationalist, narrative to hundreds of thousands of Israelis and tourists each year.  This trend must also be understood as an essential component of the settlement enterprise.

The emerging reality is disastrous not only for the residents of Batan al-Hawa, but for the possibility for a political solution to the conflict.  All efforts must be taken to halt this trend – a mechanism being used to pre-emptively plant new facts on the ground, further crippling opening conditions for negotiating a two state solution.

For the full report: Click Here

And on the other side of the equation….

UNESCO resolution denies Jewish ties to Temple Mount
A UNESCO commission has adopted an anti-Israeli resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.
Twenty-four countries of the 58-member commission voted in favour of the decision, while 6 voted against, 24 abstained and 2 were absent. The U.S., Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution. Canada is a member of UNESCO, but not of the commission that passed the motion nor of the executive board that is expected to ratify it.
Israel made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states.
The resolution, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. The draft resolution asserts that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, it includes a special section dealing with the Temple Mount, which says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, it mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har HaBayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif.
Also, the resolution calls the Western Wall plaza by the Arab-Muslim name al-Buraq plaza. Only afterward does the Hebrew-Jewish name “Hakotel Hama’aravi” appear in quotation marks.
Both the Israeli prime minister and the opposition leader have condemned the resolution, as have a number of major Jewish organizations, including ARZA, a branch of the Reform movement of America.