Tributes flow for Shimon Peres, statesman, visionary

unnamed-1Canadian Friends of Peace Now mourns the death of Shimon Peres, a founding father of Israel, former president, prime minister, Nobel laureate and courageous seeker of peace.

In honouring his memory, we join with our sister organization, Peace Now in Israel, and with Jews, state leaders and ordinary people the world over.
A Peace Now statement says: “He was never afraid to dream or to compromise and these qualities brought him to become a true statesman and a visionary. His long term outlook and perseverance turned him into a true symbol in Israel and worldwide. ‘Those who give up on peace are delusional,’ Peres once said. Indeed, peace through two states is the only pragmatic way forward for the state of Israel, and we will continue to work towards it every single day.”

Among the tributes flooding the media is one from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, first tweeted in Arabic and quoted in Ha’aretz: “Shimon Peres’ death is a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region.”

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, made the following interesting comment (among others) in Ha’aretz:

“He told Diaspora Jews – and anyone who would listen – that Arabs were human beings and that moderates existed in Palestinian ranks. It was in Israel’s interest to search for peace, he told us, and eventually Palestinians and Arabs would see that it was in their interest as well. Again and again, he fielded hostile questions from right-wing American Jewish leaders, but never once was he rattled. He responded with dignity, calm and compelling logic. He insisted that there were Arab leaders who were not Nazis or terrorists and with whom Israel could talk and deal. And he insisted too that when dramatic changes were taking place everywhere, Israel’s policies must change as well.”

Peres was one of the architects of the failed Oslo Accords. In an Israel marching increasingly to the right, he found himself going against the tide. But he continued to stand up for his beliefs and call for a peace initiative. At the 2014 memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin, he said:

“There are those who have turned the word ‘peace‘ into a derogatory term, and there are those who consider ‘peace supporters’ as delusional people, naive and unpatriotic. To all of them, I say today in a loud voice: those who have given up on peace are the delusional ones! Those who gave up and stopped looking for peace – they are the naive ones, the ones who are not the patriots!”

May his memory be blessed and may he rest in peace.

New Israeli initiative calls for a
referendum on the two-state solution

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On Sept. 5, 2016, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), in cooperation with other Israeli civil society organizations, launched an initiative demanding a referendum on the future of Israel’s rule over the West Bank and on peacewith the Palestinians. Called Decision at 50, the project coincides with the approach of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war.

The referendum petition will collect signatures of Israeli citizens to demand a voice in deciding on the future of the Occupied Territories. Organizers say that until now this decision has been dictated by the settlers and their allies through a settlement enterprise aimed at making the occupation permanent. This enterprise has an immense impact on Israel’s national security and well being.
The Decision at 50 initiative was spearheaded by a coalition of organizations and individuals, including Peace Now, Blue and White Future, former security officials, former politicians, cultural figures, academics and social activists.
As part of the launch, movement leaders sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which they urged the referendum and requested a meeting with him.
The letter to Netanyahu notes that, in the five decades since Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israeli governments have established expansive and expensive facts on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the form of settlements and related infrastructure that has siphoned off billions of taxpayer shekels.
This de-facto settlement agenda, as well as other practices expanding and deepening the occupation, were taken without any clear policy decision on the future of the Occupied Territories – neither annexation nor separation. “After fifty years, the time has come for us to make a decision in this matter and to clarify, to ourselves and to the world, where Israel is heading and what character we want it to have in the coming years,” the letter says.
Activists also hung signs outside of the homes of the Prime Minister and all party leaders. In addition, the movement has launched a media campaign calling on Israeli citizens to visit the Decision at 50 website, Facebook and Twitter accounts and sign the referendum petition.
Questions and Answers
The Decision at 50 English language website provides information on the referendum idea through a series of questions and answers. The following is a sampling. For the full list, and more information, visit LINK
Q. Why hold a referendum now?
A. Israel is at a crossroads. Fifty years of occupation have created rifts within Israeli society and tension between Israel and its allies. Our leadership’s indecisiveness is leading us to the point of no return. Fifty years is a symbolic date and should be used to muster public opinion to call for a referendum now in order to end the situation of non-decision and non-action.
Q. What is the question to be posed in the referendum?
A. Formulation of the question will be part of the public discussion during the campaign for the referendum, but, before that, the demand for a referendum must be adopted by the Knesset. We invite you to join our demand to hold a referendum in order to put pressure on Israeli decision-makers. We will then work jointly to formulate the question that will determine whether Israel’s vision includes one state between the river and the sea or a two state solution.
Q. The Knesset elections are the real referendum, and the Knesset is sovereign, so why by-pass it?
A. The Knesset is indeed the sovereign body in Israeli democracy. The public accords to it the power to make decisions, big and small, which determine the lives of all citizens and the future of the state. However, no Israeli government, and no Knesset, has had the courage to make the monumental decision regarding the Occupied Territories. A referendum will allow the public to declare its view on this most critical matter, and becomes the vehicle which forces government action.
Q. Why hold a referendum on this question specifically?
A. There has never been an issue in the history of Israel which so dramatically affects all aspects of life in the way that the Israeli rule over the Territories has had for the past 50 years. This issue is essential for the future of Israel in terms of security, economics, Israel’s position in the world, and morality.

Plan for settler units in heart of Hebron draws protest

Hebron's central bus station in the 1980s

Hebron’s central bus station in the 1980s

Peace Now has exposed plans by the Israeli government to allow construction of 28 new housing units for settlers in the heart of the predominantly Palestinian city of Hebron. The settler units would go on land seized in the 1980s by the Israeli military for stated security reasons and has been used as an army base since then. Israeli law prohibits civilian settlement of land expropriated for military needs. However, the government has found a way around this by changing the military status of part of the land – the part designated for settler housing. This, says Peace Now, is a clear example of the government bending the law to favour settlers.

The U.S. State Department has expressed “deep concern” over the plan. Spokesman Mark Toner said: “We strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. And we’ve said repeatedly that such moves are not consistent with Israel’s stated desire to achieve a two-state solution.”

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The area as it looks today

Prior to the military seizure order, the land in question had been leased to the Hebron municipality under a protected lease agreement. It had been the site of Hebron’s old central bus station. Peace Now says that if the property is no longer required for security purposes the protected lease with Hebron must be honoured. A legal opinion from 2007 by one of the government’s own legal advisers says essentially the same.

Peace Now argues that the new settler housing is highly provocative in a city “where the daily reality of the occupation is the harshest and most disgraceful.” It calls on the government to cease this initiative and to “stop letting the most extreme settlers risk Israel’s future.”

The city of Hebron has a long history of tension between Arabs and Jews. That history includes the pogrom against Jewish residents of 1929, the contentious establishment of the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, disputes over rights to the Cave of the Patriarchs and Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Palestinian worshippers at that site.

New settlement would add to encirclement of Bethlehem

The Israeli government has taken steps to establish a new settlement south of Bethlehem that would contribute to cutting off this Arab town from the rest of the West Bank. The site of the proposed new settlement, called Givat Eitam, is close to Efrat and would in effect become an expansion of this large, well-established settler enclave. Givat Eitam would initially be built on land owned by Himanuta, a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund. The Ministry of Housing is preparing a plan for 800 housing units on this land. To make this project more feasible, the government is conducting surveys to appropriate land for a road that would connect Givat Eitam with Efrat.

Peace Now has publicized these plans and has petitioned the Israeli High Court to ensure more transparency and exposure of the project. The organization argues that the expansion of Jewish settlement south of Bethlehem would block the city’s development in almost the only direction that has not yet been blocked by other Israeli settlements or highways. It could also cut Bethlehem off from the southern West Bank. This would be a serious blow to the possibility of a two-state solution and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“The government’s efforts to appropriate lands and connect Givat Eitam with the settlement of Efrat are another step on the way to a one-state reality.”Peace Now says. “It is unfortunate that the JNF, through its subsidiary Himanuta which purchases lands in the West Bank, is lending a hand to the hindering of Israel’s future.”

Two must-reads from The Forward

We recommend two excellent recent articles from The Forward (and there’s lots more great reading there besides.).

The first, dated Aug. 25, 2016, is by J.J. Goldberg, our speaker at upcoming events in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa (see reminder notice). The title:Israelis and Palestinians Could Make Peace Tomorrow If Not for This Misperception. It’s an analysis of the latest public opinion polls of Israelis and Palestinian that ask about support for a two state solution.  Read Here

The second, dated August 24, 2016, is by Jay Michaelson: If Israel’s Occupation is Permanent, Why Isn’t It the Same as Apartheid? This piece delves into the similarities and differences between the current state of affairs on the West Bank and the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa, drawing some troubling conclusions.  Read Here

Peace Now speaks out against new
land grab mechanism

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The Israeli government may create a new legal mechanism for maintaining outlawed settler outposts in the West Bank. Though designed to deal with one outpost, Amona, in the northern West Bank, the proposal could set a troubling precedent. Amona has been ruled illegal under Israeli law and slated for evacuation by the end of this year. A government committee has recommended that it be moved to adjacent private land, whose Palestinian owners reside outside the West Bank. Israeli law does not permit the confiscation or sale of such property. But the committee proposes leasing the land to the settlers for renewable three-year terms. The supposed temporary arrangement avoids the problem of the illegal sale of absentee property. Supposedly too, rental payments for the land would go into a fund the Palestinian absentee landowners would receive if they could prove ownership.
Peace Now in Israel is vehemently opposed to the proposed mechanism and warns it crosses a red line by violating private property rights in the Occupied Territories.
According to Peace Now such a move would “have dire consequences on a future peace agreement as it could lead to the establishment of dozens of new settlements and to the multiplying of the land taken up by settlements in the West Bank.”
“The Israeli government cannot justify the stealing of private lands of absentees only to please the demands of settlers who themselves stole private lands,” Peace Now states.
A Ha’aretz report says the Amona outpost was erected in 1997 on private land next to the settlement of Ofra. In 2006, evacuation of nine buildings led to a violent confrontation between security forces and settlers. The outpost has been at the heart of a legal struggle for the last eight years, after some of the Palestinian landowners went to court over their rights. In late 2014, the Supreme Court ordered Amona evacuated within two years.

Israel’s attorney general is currently considering the legal issues of the proposed Amona move. Peace Now has sent him a letter urging him not to accept the committee’s recommendations.

The bluff behind land takeovers as military necessity revealed

A document obtained by Peace Now reveals the big bluff behind the pretext of “military necessity” used since 1967 to seize Palestinian land, on which about one-third of the settlements were established. This method was used throughout the 1970s until it was banned by the Elon Moreh ruling in 1979. The uncovered summary from the Ministry of Defense discussion about the establishment of Kiryat Arba settlement reveals that when the system was invented, it was clear to the government and all concerned that this was a lie and deception, and that military necessity was only an excuse to take over land.

After the Elon Moreh verdict the “security needs” bluff was replaced by that of “declaration of state lands” used by subsequent Israeli governments to seize nearly a million dunam in the West Bank. But the aftermath of seizure for the so-called purpose of military necessity continues today in some settlements.

More Jewish housing in East Jerusalem on the way
 
Peace Now has protested the government issuance of 323 tenders for housing units in East Jerusalem. The organization says that the publication of these tenders, a day after demolitions of homes in Palestinian neighbourhoods is indicative of government policy.
“On the one hand the government does not allow for Palestinian construction, and on the other hand it promotes massive construction for Israelis. Since 1967 the Israeli government initiated and planned the construction of 55,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem, and at the same time planned and initiated only 700 units for Palestinians. The Netanyahu government decided to repudiate the Quartet report and to prove, yet again, that it has no intention to promote a peace agreement based on a two state solution.”
Meanwhile, according to Ha’aretz, Jerusalem’s City Hall is backing a plan, advanced by private developers to build thousands of new housing units in the East Jerusalem neigbourhood of Gilo.
The plan, currently in its initial stages, includes the construction of some 2,500 housing units in the area east of Gilo, near Rout 60, located at the southern part of the capital.
The plan, first reported by the Israeli outlet Walla News, covers an area of some 200 dunam (50 acres). Most of the designated land is under private ownership, and some 30 percent belongs to Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948.

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

unnamedOn 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.”

Peace Now speaks out against Israel’s NGO Bill

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Peace Now has scored an important communications coup with an opinion piece in Newsweek, one of America’s premier newsmagazines. The article on the so-called transparency bill appeared January 10, 2016 and is by Anat Ben Nun, Director of Development and External Relations for Peace Now. In this piece, reprinted below, Anat lays out how lop-sided the bill is, with right-wing organizations given the green light to receive foreign funding, while NGOs such as Peace Now are stigmatized.

Israel’s NGO Bill is an Attempt to Crush Critics of the Government

By Anat Ben Nun
(Peacematters has highlighted some sentences.)

Unable to deliver real solutions to the ongoing violence, Israeli governments have been trying for years to blame the messengers rather than take responsibility for their own policies. Last week, this practice was taken to the next level when a ministerial committee approved the NGO bill, proposed legislation targeting specifically peace and human rights organizations.

Under the pretense of increasing transparency on donations received from foreign governments, the bill’s actual intention is to delegitimize any organization that criticizes the government’s policies. According to the proposed legislation, members of left-leaning organizations, who already submit quarterly reports on donations from foreign governments, will be obligated to wear special badges and to identify themselves as “foreign agents.”

If the proposed legislation is truly aimed at increasing transparency, it must require all NGOs to expose their funding sources, instead of denouncing left-wing organizations, which are already held to higher transparency standards.

A Peace Now study examining the funding of nine pro-settler NGOs reveals that 94 percent of the donations to these organizations in 2006-2013 were non-transparent. Out of 495.4 million shekels ($126 million) donated to them during the years studied, it was impossible to identify the names of the individuals or bodies who donated 464.8 million ($118 million).

While a majority of the donations to the organizations studied were received from individual donors-predominantly from the United States-many additional millions reached these organizations through Israeli government ministries and local municipalities. It is clear from this data that both American and Israeli taxpayers contributed to the right-wing agenda and the settlement enterprise, and not necessarily willingly. This occurs through the subsidizing of tax-deductible donations in Israel and the U.S. and through the transferring of state funds derived from taxes paid by every Israeli citizen.

Let us take for example Im Tirzu, an organization responsible for an inciting billboard and newspaper campaigns against specific human rights activists, whom it referred to as foreign agents and assisting terrorism. Only 12 percent of the donations to Im Tirzu in the years studied were fully transparent, and the vast majority of donations to this organization came from American organizations with a tax-deductible status, such as the Central Fund for Israel and the One Israel Foundation. It may be worth noting that the former fund also transferred donations to the Honenu organization, which receives tax-deductible donations even though it provides cash grants to convicted Jewish terrorists.

Or how about the ElAd organization, an NGO working to establish settlements inside Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem in an effort to prevent the possibility for a future peace solution in the city? In the years studied, 97.8 percent of ElAd’s donations came from abroad. A list of those donating over 20,000 shekels ($5,000), as required by law, has not been submitted to the authorities since 2005, and even then, the list was granted due to an investigation by the registrar for associations. Given that the origins of ElAd’s foreign funding sources are unclear, why is it that only left-wing NGOs are required to submit quarterly reports and are now told that even that is insufficient?

Finally, let us look at the Samaria Settler Council, a nongovernmental organization working alongside its local municipality in the Occupied Territories. The Samaria Settler Council is notorious for the video it published last year attacking left-wing organizations using Nazi motifs. This group is surprisingly 100 percent transparent,and no less than 97.6 percent of its funding comes from Israeli taxpayers’ money. The Council enjoys government funding from the budget of the Ministry of Interior, as well as from transfers originating in other government ministries. Thus, we Israeli citizens are forced into funding its inciting propaganda. 

The NGO bill does not apply to any of the organizations above. The legislation looks specifically at funding from foreign governments, who donate only to organizations with whom they share values, and in sums much lower than those of the organizations we examined. Meanwhile, under the proposed legislation, right-wing organizations will continue to receive large sums of money from foreign funders with little to no accountability. With only 6 percent of all of the donations received by these organizations in the years studied being transparent, how can anyone buy the argument that the proposed legislation’s aim is to increase transparency?

The NGO bill cannot be taken at face value. Rather, it must be understood as part of an orchestrated campaign to silence dissent. This campaign is influencing the Israeli public discourse, and creating the type of toxic atmosphere which recently allowed a young Israeli to try to attack protesters in a Peace Now demonstration. Together with incitement against Israel’s Arab population, the modification of civics education, and the banning of a book describing a Jewish-Palestinian love affair from literature classes, Israel is sacrificing its essential democratic values on the altar of continued rule over the Palestinians.

Peace Now’s Construction Report

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A new report published by Israel’s Peace Now movement reveals that, in 2015, construction continued throughout West Bank settlements, with 1,800 housing starts. These findings refute the argument that a “silent freeze” is currently in place. The report shows that the bulk of the construction – 79% – was in isolated settlements that would probably have to be evacuated to secure a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. In other words, this new construction is especially problematic vis-a-vis the two-state solution.

Earlier this year Benjamin Netanyahu argued, in English, that he is the Prime Minister who has built the least in the settlements. But in Hebrew he proudly demonstrated to Likud members the increase in settlement construction during his time in office. It is clear that Netanyahu’s statements in Hebrew are more representative of the reality on the ground than what he says in English for foreign ears.

Peace Now’s Settlement Watch department, which produced this report, continually monitors and exposes the government’s action in the settlements to create a public debate on the government’s policies, mobilize protest against such policies, and prevent unbridled settlement construction.

The Peace Now report garnered considerable coverage in the Israeli press.

Main Findings of the Settle Watch Report:
  • In 2015, construction for 1,800 new housing units began in the settlements.
  • Over 40% of the construction took place (746 housing units) east of the separation barrier.
  • 79% of the construction starts took place in settlements east of the Geneva Initiative potential border, in settlements that Israel will probably need to evacuate under a permanent status agreement.
  • The infrastructure of lots for the construction of at least another 734 housing units was developed and construction there is expected to begin soon.
  • 265 housing units (15%) were built in illegal outposts.
  • 1,547 of the housing units are permanent structures and 253 are mobile units.
  • 63 public structures (synagogues, kindergartens, etc.) and 42 industrial or agricultural structures were constructed.
  • According to Peace Now estimates and based on Civil Administration data, 32 housing units were built on private Palestinian land, almost all of them in illegal outposts.
  • A new illegal outpost was established south of the Nofei Prat settlement – in an area in which the government operates intensively to demolish Bedouin houses along Rte. 1 toward Jericho.
  • Despite the declared “tenders freeze” tenders for 1,143 new housing units were published in 2015.
  • Despite the declared “planning freeze” the High Planning Committee approved 348 new Housing units for depositing or validation.
  • For the full report click here.

Don’t let them be silenced

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Dear Friends,

Peace Now in Israel, along with other progressive NGOs, is under attack, as never before, by the Netanyahu government. Now more than ever is the time to show your support for Peace Now’s crucial and courageous work. You can still make a donation and receive a tax receipt for 2015.

On Dec. 27, the Netanyahu’s cabinet endorsed a bill that, among other measures, compel representatives of organizations such as Peace Now to wear a badge whenever they are in the Knesset, stating that their organization receives funds from foreign governments. Contrary to allegations of the bill’s backers, its objective is not to secure “transparency” of non-profit funding, but rather to attack Israeli organizations that challenge the policies and the agenda of Israel’s right wing government. The bill is about de-legitimizing these groups by depicting them as agents of foreign governments.

Almost all Israeli NGOs receive funding from abroad. Foreign support for Israeli human rights, civil rights and peace organizations comes mainly from foreign governments and foundations. Foreign funding for right-wing Israeli NGOs comes mainly from US Evangelical foundations and wealthy US right-wing Jews such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Some also enjoy Israeli government support. The bill adopted by the Israeli Cabinet’s Legislation Committee targets only the type of foreign funding that progressive NGOs receive, although these NGOs publicly state, in keeping with existing law, what the source of their funding is. The bill, however, permits right-wing NGOs — like those funding West Bank settlements and anti-democratic and racist campaigns – to continue keeping their funding sources secret.

In short, the bill is about shaming, stigmatizing and silencing. The government wants to silence those that expose the truth about its destructive policies that are destroying hope for a future two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

And what kind of activity would the right-wingers like to suppress? Precisely, the kind of well-documented reports on settlement expansion that Peace Now produces. This week, Peace Now revealed that the Housing Ministry is working on settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem valued at more than NIS 330 million ($85 million). The organization bases its claim on ministry documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. This data and other sources show the ministry to be working on plans for 55,548 units in West Bank settlements, half of which are located east of the West Bank security barrier.

The documents also confirm “post-facto legalization/approval of at least six illegal outposts,” plans to create new settlements south of Bethlehem and in the northern Jordan Valley (the latter on the site of an illegal outpost established in 2013), projects to expand smaller settlements into bigger towns, and plans for 8,372 units in the E1 area slated to more closely connect Ma’ale Adumim to Jerusalem.

These and other planned settlement initiatives would make it hard for any future Palestinian state to establish territorial contiguity. They would put heavy new roadblocks in the way of a two-state solution. Read more about this important Peace Now report here: Link to article:

In other ways too, Peace Now is not taking the efforts to silence it lying down. It has published a report indicating that 94% of the funding of right-wing NGOs is non-transparent. Earlier this month its supporters marched in protest over the vicious incitement campaigns of right wing groups against progressive NGOs. They also demonstrated against the anti-democratic NGO bill. In addition Peace Now representatives have spoken out against the anti-democratic wave in numerous TV, radio and newspaper interviews.

They are doing their part. Let’s do ours.
Help them increase their impact in on the future of Israel. Please click on the “Donate” button and make your tax deductible donation before the end of the year.

Thousands at Peace Now’s Protest March

Last Saturday approximately 6000 people marched through the streets of Tel Aviv’s to protest the government’s policies in the midst of another wave of violence. Demonstrators chanted: “Bibi you failed – go home,” “occupation is disastrous, peace is security” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” MK Stav Shafir from the Zionist Camp and head of Meretz Zehava Galon spoke at the conference, and called for a negotiated solution as the only way forward. Other speakers included the acting mayor of Rahat Ata Abu-Medaem, Chen Alon of Combatants for Peace who read out a message from a Palestinian member of the organization who could not make it to the march, our General Director Yariv Oppenheimer and Roni Hirschenson of the Parents Circle Family Forum.

For additional photos click here.

Next week we will be joining the Rabin memorial rally in Tel Aviv, “Remembering the Assassination, Struggling for Democracy.” During the rally our presence will emphasize Rabin’s path to peace and two states – for which he was murdered – and the urgent need to go back to this path today.

Netanyahu’s Real Settlement Policy

Last week during the World Zionist Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu argued that Settlement construction slowed down under his watch. He was His argument was based on a single statistic, which obscures far more than it reveals. Click here for our analysis of Netanyahu’s real Settlement record, jointly authored by Lara Friedman APN (USA) and Hagit Ofran.

A New Video: One State – The Trailer

The current reality in the region is a proof to why a two state solution is the only solution. Watch and share our new video.

Thousands demonstrate with Peace Now against violence and incitement

We are horrified by the deadly attacks in Jerusalem and the Palestinian village of Duma by right-wing terrorists. It is clear that the continued occupation and the permissive attitude towards the settlements encourage extremism and destroy Israel as we know it. Unfortunately, the right wing leadership does hardly anything to prevent violence, and sadly, continues to incite for purposes of political gain.

On August 1, thousands attended the Peace Now organized demonstration in Rabin Square. Among the speakers was Nasser Dawabsheh, the uncle of the baby killed in Duma, who asked Netanyahu: “Why wasAli murdered, eighteen months old? What did [Netanyahu] do? What did he do to the IDF? What did he do to settlers? We ask that this be the end of our people’s suffering. Before Ali there was also Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and now Ali, and we don’t know who is next in line.”

Members of Knesset who spoke at the demonstration included Opposition Chief Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Camp), Head of Meretz Zehava Galon, and MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Camp). The other two speakers were Former Head of Shin Bet Carmi Gillon and Peace Now’s General Director Yariv Oppenheimer. Click on their names or photos for translated videos of their speeches.

For photos from the demonstration click here.
For the report on Ynetnews click here.

Peace Now launches new campaign to advance two-state solution 

During its July 24 conference, Peace Now launched a new campaign to counter both the international anti-Israel boycott and the Netanyahu government’s pro-settler policies. Titled “Support Israel: Fight the Occupation,” the campaign presents an alternative to certain “either-or” messages.

“Netanyahu exploits fears over BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) to stifle criticism of its support for settlements,” Ben Nun explains.

By calling for the left and right to unite against boycotts, she says, Netanyahu attempts to create a situation in which you are either with him or anti-Israel. To oppose him becomes twisted to mean condoning boycotts aimed at hurting the Israeli economy and delegitimizing the State of Israel. At the other extreme, the BDS movement speaks of ending the Occupation, but its rhetoric and actions take broader shots, often condemning and harming Israel as a whole. And its effect is to push Israelis into a defensive, uncompromising stance.

Peace Now argues you can oppose BDS but at the same time oppose Israeli rule over the occupied territories. In fact, Peace Now says, fighting settlements and the Occupation is a way of showing love for country since the status quo is inimical to Israel’s long term viability. Says Ben Nun:

“Supporting Israel as Jewish and democratic means stopping the settlement enterprise. Supporting Israel’s security means not controlling the lives of four million Palestinians.”

Both BDS and Occupation/settlement expansion reinforce polarization and stalemate. Peace Now promotes a third alternative: the two-state solution to bring Israel back within the Green Line and back within the fold of the international community.

This message is not in essence new. But, says Peace Now, it is important to reframe the argument in light of the intense BDS debate. The two-state solution and ending the Occupation are the right answer to international pressure; not “circling the wagons.”

CFPN hopeful on Iran Nuclear Accord

Canadian Friends of Peace Now is cautiously optimistic that the agreement signed between Iran and the US and five other major powers will curtail Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions.

Of course, it would be better for Israel’s security and for world peace if Iran’s entire nuclear program was stopped, but no mutual agreement could have achieved that end. What remains are hopefully verifiable nuclear controls for at least a decade. These, under the most pessimistic assessment, might allow a determinedly aggressive Iran to break out to nuclear weapons within a year. This is considerably better than the two-month break-out time that is estimated to currently exist without a deal.

The agreement does not address potential Iranian aid to Hezbollah, Hamas and other threats to Israel, for good reason.   A nuclear control agreement could not have become a kind of omnibus wish list. It can only be hoped that this first step may persuade Iran to be more cooperative but there are no guarantees. We call upon the world powers to develop strategies that will curtail Iranian adventurism in the Middle East.

Continued opposition to the deal from Prime Minister Netanyahu will serve no good purpose. CFPN urges future co-operation between the U.S. and Israel on the Iran file rather than more rancour, so as to ensure Israel some role in the nuclear deal’s implementation.

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper puts it well:

“Although Israel was not a partner to the negotiations, it cannot give up the role of watchdog that it has taken upon itself. At the same time, it must give a fair chance to Iran and the world powers to inaugurate a new path in their mutual relations.”

There is no good alternative to the Iran deal. Continued tough sanctions would have created hardship for the Iranians but would not have put the brakes on a regime determined to develop nuclear weapons and might, in fact, have had the opposite effect. The agreement offers some breathing space and some leverage. Not ideal, but not inconsiderable either.

Working to Stop The Establishment of a New Settlement

Yesterday, we organized a protest tour to the site by the El-Aroub refugee camp, where settlers are trying to erect a new settlement. Meretz Head Zehava Glaon, MK Omer Bar Lev (Zionist Camp), MK Mickey Rosenthal (Zionist Camp) and MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) joined the tour and spoke against this development. Click here for more information about the attempt to establish a new settlement and it’s implications.

The establishment of a new settlement outside of the “blocs” would be another proof that Israel does not want peace and would force a constant IDF presence by the El-Aroub refugee camp. While the settlers are trying to create facts on the ground and force the government and the IDF to succumb to them, the government has the power to stop this. Last week we sent a letter to the Minister of Defense demanding that he will not allow the establishment of a new settlement.

Direct Negotiations Over Settlement Blocs? Let’s Set The Record Straight

In an opinion article in Haaretz, Settlement Watch Director, Hagit Ofran, calls Netanyahu’s bluff: “Experience shows that Netanyahu’s method has several principles: pretending to strive for peace, presenting an initiative that the Palestinians can’t possibly agree to, and blaming them while creating facts on the ground aimed at torpedoing any chance for a two-state solution.”

Click here for the full article in Haaretz.

Bus Segregation May be Postponed, But It Doesn’t End There

The Defense Minister’s pilot program to ban Palestinians from Israeli-run buses to the West Bank was suspended following a local and international outcry. Peace Now, that demonstrated in front of the DM’s office in October when the decision was made, now too was one of the most dominant voices against the move.It’s becoming more and more clear that continued occupation is leading Israel to lose its democratic character. While the bus segregation plan was suspended, and must be canceled altogether, separation does not end there and exists in roads and in separate legal systems in the West Bank. We will not let our government lead us to the sins of the segregated South and of Apartheid South Africa.

1958fbbf-1079-44d7-b978-f0a2e6ad4e05It’s The Occupation, Stupid

What happened this week at FIFA, which is likely to continue in other shapes and forms in the near future,  proves that the world sees very clearly the difference between Israel proper and the settlements.

The only way to prevent continued pressure and isolation is to end the occupation and arrive at a two state solution.

Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran speaks out in Ha’aretz

Netanyahu has ways of putting critics of the occupation to sleep

His proposals on discussing the borders of the settlement blocs is the latest plank in a strategy crafted in 1996. 

By Hagit Ofran in Ha’aretz, Jun. 4, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most recent proposal – negotiations on the settlement blocs – is nothing but a sophisticated trap. He can tell his ministers the talks are designed to win the Palestinians’ acquiescence for more construction in the settlements, without establishing a Palestinian state and ending the occupation.

He can also present this initiative to the opposition and Israel’s friends abroad as talks on the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. In fact, this initiative is geared toward buying quiet both at home and abroad, without paying a political price.

Experience shows that Netanyahu’s method has several principles: pretending to strive for peace, presenting an initiative that the Palestinians can’t possibly agree to, and blaming them while creating facts on the ground aimed at torpedoing any chance for a two-state solution.

Under the first principle, there has to be some diplomatic process, any kind of  negotiation, with the world mobilizing to ensure some success while easing the pressure on Israel. The existence of a diplomatic process makes it harder for the left to oppose the government; any opposition comes mainly from the right. When the process fails, the public perceives it as a failure of the left, justifying the right’s path.

Under the second principle, the initiative must seem expressing a sincere desire to attain peace. But it has to be crafted so that the Palestinians can’t accept it, due to its real meaning.

This is what happened when Netanyahu first became prime minister in 1996 and embraced the Oslo Accords, after having been a chief opponent. Netanyahu said he would stick to that path but in his own way, adding a principle of reciprocity: “If they give, they’ll get; if they don’t, they won’t.”

This principle sounded reasonable, but it let Netanyahu declare anytime that the Palestinians weren’t delivering, so they didn’t deserve receiving anything in return. A stone-throwing incident or inflammatory words could always be a pretext for inaction.

This is what happened when Netanyahu signed the Hebron agreementwith Yasser Arafat in 1997 and the Wye River Memorandum in 1998. In fact, these deals were redundant because they addressed the implementation of interim stages that had already been agreed on in 1995 and Israel was procrastinating in carrying out, including a withdrawal from Hebron. According to the Oslo Accords, the two sides were supposed to discuss the conflict’s final resolution and sign an agreement by May 1999, but Netanyahu never even started serious negotiations.

Under Netanyahu’s third principle, when an initiative fails the Palestinians are to blame. This is what happened when they refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu knew that this condition – which sounds reasonable to Israeli ears – couldn’t be accepted by the Palestinians as a precondition. So as long as the Palestinians reject this, Netanyahu can portray them as rejecting the peace process.

A similar move was his freezing construction in the settlements for 10 months in 2009 and refusing to extend the period. The Palestinians refused to negotiate as long as construction continued, so Netanyahu could blame them.

The offer to negotiate the borders of the settlement blocs is yet another similar trap. Netanyahu has never presented a map of the blocs he’s referring to, having declared in the past that Hebron and Beit El would remain in Israel. If we go by the route of the separation barrier, 85 percent of the Israelis outside the 1967 borders (including Jerusalem) – 470,000 people – live in such blocs.

In contrast, the blocs according to Palestinian negotiators – based on a map they produced at the Annapolis talks – contain only 59 percent of the Israelis outside the 1967 borders; 325,000 people. This is a gap of 145,000 settlers and nearly 100,000 acres.

If Netanyahu’s goal is to obtain the Palestinians’ consent to continued Israeli construction in some settlements, without receiving assurances on borders, he’s deceiving everyone. The Palestinians can’t agree to construction in places that ruin any chance of establishing a viable state.

If he intends to discuss borders, the dialogue must include East Jerusalem and land swaps. If Netanyahu can reach an agreement on borders and Jerusalem, he can reach an agreement on a permanent two-state solution. It would be foolish to agree on borders without obtaining anything in return and completing the entire deal.

But Netanyahu has no interest in a resolution; this is only a trap. A diplomatic process is the best formula for putting the opposition to sleep. The left must avoid this trap and oppose his initiative of discussing settlement blocs.

Hagit Ofran heads Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project.

Peace Now’s Analysis of the Coalition Agreement between the Likud and the Jewish Home Party

The coalition agreement between the Likud and the Jewish Home party (Bayit Yehudi) reveals the plans of the new government and indicates its intentions, including:

1. Granting the settlers control over the construction of settlements and over Israel’s authority in the West Bank, while allocating more funds to the settlements.

2. Passing legislation and reforms that change the democratic rules of the game.

3. Allocating public funds to bolster the political power of the Israeli Right.

This agreement, which includes a Jewish Home stronghold on a variety of positions directly related to settlement development, constitutes a clear danger to the possibility of arriving at a two state solution and illustrates the true intention of the current government – massive settlement expansion and the silencing of opposition to the occupation. 

Click here to download Peace Now’s analysis of the coalition agreement

Peace Now continues to work in order to preserve the possibility for a two state solution – through Settlement Watch, through education, through advocacy and through direct action – today more than ever before we are the gatekeepers of the two state solution.

To make a donation, click this link.

For further information, please call: 416-322-5559. CFPN is a Zionist organization that is dedicated to enhancing the State of Israel¹s security through peace and to supporting Israel’s Peace Now movement. CFPN has chapters in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

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