Hold the Date – J.J. Goldberg in mid-September

imageSeasoned journalist J.J. Goldberg will speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in three Canadian cities this September as guest of Canadian Friends of Peace Now. The dates are: September 13 in Toronto; September 14 in Montreal and September 15 in Ottawa. Precise topic to be announced.

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is one of the foremost American journalists covering Israel and the U.S. Jewish community today. He has had a long association with the prominent Jewish newspaper, The Forward, serving as Editor-in-chief from 2000-2007 and, currently, as Editor-at-large.

His journalistic career also includes serving as U.S. bureau chief of the Israeli news magazine Jerusalem Report, managing editor of The Jewish Week of New York, as a nationally syndicated columnist in Jewish weeklies, and as editor in chief of the Labor Zionist monthly Jewish Frontier.

He is the author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment (1996), Builders and Dreamers (1993) and The Jewish Americans (1992).

An American born in New York City, Goldberg studied at McGill University, earning a B.A. in Jewish studies and Islamic studies, and at Columbia U., earning an M.A. in journalism. Before entering journalism, Goldberg lived and worked in Israel through much of the 1970s. He served as an education specialist at the World Zionist Organization and was a member of the founding Gar’in (settlement group) of Kibbutz Gezer, near Tel Aviv, where he served a term as the kibbutz secretary-general.

Settlement growth will not boost security

Canadian Friends of Peace Now deplores the recent deadly terrorist attacks in the West Bank, but calls on the Government of Israel to refrain from wrong-headed retaliations that only pour fuel on the fire.

On June 30, a Palestinian man stabbed to death a 13-year-old girl as she lay sleeping in her bed in the settlement of Kiryat Arba. The next day, a father of 10 from the settlement of Otniel was killed in a shooting attack near Hebron. Both killings come on the heels of a terrorist assault in early June on a Tel Aviv cafe in which four victims died and many others were injured.

There is no excuse for such brutal violence nor for those who incite it.

However, we must acknowledge that it is fed by the continued occupation, settlement expansion and the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Rather than seek ways to further a two-state solution – ultimately the only real solution to the conflict – the Netanyahu government just promises more settlement growth. In the wake of the recent attacks, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: ” We will make a special effort to strengthen the communities (meaning West Bank settler communities).”

Apparently, as part of this promise, the government intends to re-open a tender for 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba, even though surveys show the number of residents in this provocative settlement near Hebron is decreasing. Also, Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, have approved some 800 new housing units in the settlement town of Ma’ale Adumim and in Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem. (Under pressure from the Jerusalem District Court, Netanyahu and Lieberman also announced approval for 600 Arab units for the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Safafa. This move was strongly criticized by other right-wing members of the Israeli cabinet.)

This is not the first time Netanyahu has used Palestinian violence as an excuse to bolster the settlement movement. Such actions only lead Israel deeper into a one-state reality in which friction between Israelis and Palestinians becomes ever more acute and bloody.

Quartet report slams settlements, Palestinian incitement

Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders came under criticism from a long-awaited report by the Middle East diplomatic quartet. The quartet, made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, was formed to push for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The report said that settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes and Israeli confiscation of land were “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution…. This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state.”

The report also called on Palestinian leaders to “consistently and clearly” condemn terrorist attacks and said the build-up and militant activities in Gaza must stop. The quartet said urgent affirmative steps needed to be taken to “prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”

New Knesset law “an attempt to silence us,” Peace Now says
Vows to fight the law in court


On July 11, despite strong criticism from both inside and outside the country, Israel’s parliament passed a controversial law that increases regulation of certain non-governmental organizations. The legislation requires NGOs that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments to state this in all their communications with public officials and with the media and on billboards and online. Representatives of these groups must also declare they depend on foreign contributions when dealing with parliamentary committees.

Defenders of the law say it is required to provide “transparency.” Critics point out that the law will primarily affect liberal-leaning organizations and is intended to stigmatize them in the public eye. There are only 27 organizations in Israel that get more than half their funding from foreign governments. Of these, 25 are human rights or peace organizations identified with the left. They are already required to report their foreign funding, but the new legislation imposes extra levels of bureaucracy and publicity.

In contrast, the law does not apply to NGOs receiving funds from private individuals or entities from abroad, which is how pro-settler and other hard right groups in Israel tend to get their money. They can accept millions from foreign magnates, Christian evangelicals and others, with little public accounting.

Right wing politicians had wanted the law to be even harsher than it is. Previous versions would have labelled the NGOs in question as foreign agents and would have heavily taxed their donations from foreign governments. A particularly contentious provision would have had representatives of these groups wear “badges of shame” — special identification tags during meetings with government or Knesset officials. After a deluge of protest, these provisions were killed in committee.

Nevertheless, many observers – and the groups affected – are calling the current law a violation of freedom of expression and a blow to democracy.

“Tailored specifically to target only peace and human rights organizations, its true intention is to divert the Israeli public discourse away from the occupation and to silence opposition to the government’s policies,” Peace Now said in a statement.

The organization vows to challenge the law’s validity before the Israeli Supreme Court.

Opposition Knesset members have compared the measure to authoritarian policies in Russia and Saudi Arabia. Many European parliamentarians have voiced grave concern over the law, and warned that it could undermine cooperation between Israel and Europe. The US State Department also expressed concern. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters:

“We are deeply concerned that this law can have a chilling effect on the activities these worthwhile organizations are trying to do.”

Peace Now refuses to be silenced. Canadian Friends of Peace Now stands in solidarity with our sister organization in opposing this discriminatory law. Help us support Peace Now by donating today.*

* CFPN donations fund educational activities in Canada and in Israel.


Avi Buskila Named New Director of Israel’s Peace Now


Avi Buskila

On April 3, 2016, Israel’s Peace Now movement announced the hiring of Avi Buskila, a seasoned social activist and an advertising and public affairs professional, as Peace Now‘s new Director General. He is replacing Yariv Oppenheimer, who has been the leader of Peace Now and the most recognizable public face of Israel’s peace camp in the past 14 years.

In its statement Peace Now wrote:
“After 14 years of acting as General Director, Yariv Oppenheimer has decided to step down from his position in order to pursue new challenges. Yariv, one of the bravest, sharpest and most talented individuals in the Israeli peace camp, will soon be joining Peace Now‘s Board of Directors, and we are happy to have him continue to contribute to our important cause.

We are also happy and excited to welcome Avi Buskila, who will enter the General Director‘s position in the coming weeks.

In recent years, Avi has worked in advertising and was the CEO of the advertising agency Migzarim. He is an IDF reserves lieutenant, a leading social activist and one of the initiators of the struggle against discrimination of LGBT individuals in the Israeli army.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish, from the bottom of our hearts, the best of luck to both Yariv and Avi in their new paths. We look forward to continuing our important struggle together for two states and for the future of Israel.”

 A recent Ha’aretz article notes that Buskila first came to public attention in January 1997 when, as a lieutenant in the IDF, he stopped a soldier from shooting indiscriminately at Palestinians in a Hebron marketplace. Benjamin Netanyahu, then serving his first term as prime minister of Israel, praised Buskila’s action. The handshake between them made the cover of the NewYork Times.
Though he was once a Netanyahu supporter, Buskila became disillusioned over the past two decades. In a Facebook post that went viral last December, he sharply criticized the prime minister for seeking “to solidify one-man rule” and for “permitting incitement and baseless hatred.”
Commenting on his Peace Now appointment on April 3, 2016, Buskila wrote:
“when I’m asked why I choose to take action instead of giving in, my reply is that I have no other country.”

Events with Yuval Rabin fill halls, draw media interest

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 7.26.31 PMYuval Rabin, son of Yitzhak Rabin, spoke to capacity-filled venues in Montreal and Ottawa on Oct. 14 and 15, in events organized by Canadian Friends of Peace Now to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the late Israeli prime minister’s assassination.

Rabin stressed the need for negotiations and diplomacy in dealing with the Palestinians, rather than relying on force alone. Continuing the Occupation and merely “managing” the situation through mailed-fist tactics is the road to disaster, he said. He called for a regional approach to breaking through the stalemate by enlisting support from a number of Arab countries whose strategic interests have become more aligned with Israel’s in recent years. The idea is the core of the Israeli Peace Initiative, which Rabin, along with a number of prominent Israelis, launched in 2011 to prod their government towards a new paradigm for seeking peace.

“There’s no hope for Israel from the Sea to the Jordan Valley controlled by a Jewish minority – that’s not the Zionist vision,” Rabin said. “There’s no hope to end the conflict without a Palestinian state. There will be no Palestinian state without regional arrangements.”

Regional support is essential, he said, because the Palestinians on their own are incapable of making the necessary concessions that would lead to an agreement. The backing of significant Arab powers in the region could make such concessions more possible and help bridge the deep Israeli-Palestinian divide.

Rabin said his father was uncompromising on Israel’s security and committed to its military strength. But he also understood the need to end Israeli rule over the Palestinians to preserve the existence of a democratic Jewish state. In paying homage to his father’s legacy, Rabin also spoke of the poisoned atmosphere – the right-wing incitement – that “paved the way for the assassin.” Tragically, he said, such incitement against more moderate Jews continues today, along with violent sentiments and sometimes violent acts directed at Arabs.

Equally tragic is that most Israelis are stuck in a dangerous rut. In times of quiet, they ignore the Palestinian issue and when violence breaks out, they argue “there is no partner.” For its own interests, Rabin said, Israel must take pro-active steps towards peace.