WARNING : This site is not for you if you cannot see the otherness of other and sufferings of both sides of the party in the conflict. Security for Israel and Justice for the Palestinians are interdependent, one will not happen without the other. My view focuses on building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I hope and pray a sense of justice to prevail. Amen. Website www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com | Also Check Israel Palestine Confederation a pragmatic solution

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Moment in History

I have always fought stereo typing of any group;

A few Muslims and a few Jews broad brush each other, as if all Muslims or Jews behave the same, it also applies with other groups be it racial, ethnic or otherwise. This is the first thing we have to shelve to build bridges.

I have consciously chosen the path of highlighting the good in people, which is abundant, where as the negative factors are just a few. However, I will always be critical of individuals and not groups.

This is a fine example of a sincere effort made by Brit Tzedek, a Jewish organization for peace. It is time for the moderates, the majority of people to participate in governance for the common good of people, time for the extremists party leaders to sit on the side lines.

Mike Ghouse
# # #

By Diane Balser, Executive Director

Since its inception, Brit Tzedek has organized among Jewish
Americans in preparation for this moment in history. For six
years, we have been building and strengthening a powerful
grassroots network, advocating for new foreign policy around the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We have brought activists together with many of the country's
leading rabbis, and played a crucial role in opening up American
Jewish opinion regarding a two-state solution to the conflict.
We created space in the political arena for these opinions to be
expressed on the national stage, and elected officials began --
at first subtly and then with a louder voice -- to break from
the status quo and call for real leadership toward peace. We
laid the groundwork for a President who would choose to make the
issue a priority.

Now, with President Obama in the White House, there is a
sea-change taking place in American Middle East policy, and it
is happening at lightening speed. The days of neo-conservative
and hawkish foreign policy around Israel are over. It is
important that we stop and take a moment to notice how far we
have come.

Starting with the very first phone call the President made from
the Oval Office to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas, through the naming of former Senator George Mitchell as
special U.S. envoy to the region, and including Secretary of
State Clinton's trip to the area this week, the Obama
Administration has demonstrated an aggressive approach to
diplomacy. See Pro-Peace Activity Timeline: The Obama
Administration and Members of the 111th Session of Congress.

This change was on impressive display in a recent Jewish
leaders' conference call I participated in with Special Middle
East Envoy George Mitchell -- itself a major change from the
Bush Administration, during which pro-peace voices were not even
at the table. A range of opinions were expressed in questions to
Mitchell after he spoke. When several Jewish leaders called on
Mitchell to suspend peace diplomacy pending Palestinian economic
redevelopment, and to delay his next trip until a new Israeli
government was formed, his response was a polite and emphatic
"no." The days of one voice speaking for all in the Jewish
community are over.

Furthermore, Mitchell clearly recognizes the complexity of the
issues with which he will be contending: Palestinian unity,
Jerusalem, settlements, boundaries, etc. When I asked him about
U.S. policy on settlements, Mitchell responded that it is one
among many issues that needs to be looked into -- after all, we
are only at the very beginning stages of this Administration's
peace efforts.

The job of Brit Tzedek now is to support the Administration and
Congress when it takes pro-peace steps, while also maintaining
our own point of view about what still needs to be done. As
things unfold, there will come a time to evaluate the
Administration's steps and press for additional, or different,
action -- and that advocacy will present its own, sizeable
challenge. But right now our duty is to support President
Obama's efforts with large numbers and strong voices from within
the Jewish community, by being actively involved in organized
outreach to sustain these efforts.

Brit Tzedek has been working to support these efforts with
Congressional meetings -- on Capitol Hill and in our
representatives' home districts -- phone calls from Brit
Tzedek's base and leadership, letter-writing campaigns, regular
community-based educational events nationwide, and more. See
Highlights of Recent Brit Tzedek Activity.

During the past Presidential election, the people of this
country rediscovered grassroots organizing. In the coming
months, Brit Tzedek's experience in this area will be needed
more than ever.

We are committed to AGGRESSIVE grassroots organizing
initiatives, now more than ever before, because in this way we
will multiply and leverage our efforts. Please join a chapter,
become a Brit Tzedek organizer, send out your letters and
forward action alerts to friends. We need to systematically
demonstrate to Congress and the Administration that the American
Jewish community wants and expects movement and resolution of
the conflict.

In truth, Israelis and Palestinians are in trouble. The recent
war in Gaza was devastating. The internal political divisions on
both sides have been more than detrimental to the peace process.
Israel needs strong U.S. leadership to move out of the morass --
we need to be the force in this country that makes clear to the
President that there are many, many Jews who will support him
and back his administration in its peace initiatives. We must
let our President know: "We are with you."

PRO-PEACE ACTIVITY TIMELINE: The Obama Administration and
Members of the 111th Session of Congress (JAN 3 -- MARCH 5,

January 8: The Senate and House pass resolutions in support of
Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. While
the resolutions as a whole were problematic, both included
references to the need for an immediate ceasefire,
acknowledgment of the suffering on both sides, and a demand for
U.S. leadership in reinvigorating the peace process. In
addition, a number of Representatives and Senators issued their
own strongly worded pro-peace statements about the war.

January 21: Barack Obama made his first official phone calls in
office, to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority
(PA), Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel, President Hosni
Mubarek of Egypt, and King Abdullah of Jordan. The President
used the opportunity to pledge "his commitment to active
engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning
of his term," to help consolidate the Hamas-Israeli cease-fire,
and to help the PA with a major reconstruction effort in Gaza.

January 22: President Obama named former Sen. George Mitchell
his special U.S. envoy to the Middle East. Sen. Mitchell is a
man with significant international stature, a former Senate
majority leader, mediator of the successful 1998 peace talks in
Northern Ireland, and author of an influential report on the
causes and impact of the second intifada. Mitchell has the trust
and respect of both Israelis and Palestinians, and --
significantly -- the full attention of his President. "Sen.
Mitchell is fully empowered by me and Secretary Clinton," Obama
said, "When he speaks, he speaks for us."

January 23: In a phone call with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,
President Obama "underscored the importance of a strong
U.S.-Saudi relationship," praised the Saudi-initiated Arab Peace
Initiative (calling for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict in
its entirety, in exchange for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian
solution), and requested Saudi Arabia's assistance in stopping
weapons smuggling into Gaza, among other topics.

January 26: President Obama granted his first interview from the
White House to al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based news channel. In the
interview, Obama emphasized that "the most important thing is
for the United States to get engaged right away," adding "I do
believe that the moment is ripe ...to return to the negotiating
table." The President later went on to say that he thinks it's
possible to achieve a Palestinian state "that is contiguous,
that allows freedom of movement for its people ... so that
people have a better life."

January 27: George Mitchell arrived in Cairo, Egypt to start an
eight-day trip that also included stops in Israel, the West Bank
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain. The President said
that Mitchell was sent to "solidify the cease-fire, ensure
Israel's security, ensure that Palestinians in Gaza are able to
get the necessities they need and that they can see a long-term
pathway to getting the development they need," but also told
al-Arabiya: "I told [Mitchell to] start by listening, because
all too often the United States starts by dictating."

January 28:

* George Mitchell met with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, and
then proceeded to Israel where his schedule included meetings
with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Foreign
Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On
Thursday, Mitchell met with Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin
Bet director Yuval Diskin and Mossad chief Meir Dagan before
proceeding to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam

* U.S. Representative John Olver (D-MA) delivered a "Dear
Colleague" letter to Secretary of State Clinton, ultimately
signed by 64 Congress members, saying "As strong supporters of
both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, we are writing to
express our deep concern for the humanitarian situation in the
Gaza Strip and to request immediate action by the United States
to address this crisis.... We therefore respectfully request
that the State Department release emergency funds to UNRWA for
reconstruction and humanitarian assistance."

January 30: Two days after Secretary Clinton received Rep.
Olver's letter, the President authorized the use of $20.3
million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance
(ERMA) Fund "to address critical post-conflict humanitarian
needs in Gaza."

February 4: U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) introduced House
Resolution 130, expressing support for the appointment of Sen.
Mitchell as envoy to the region, saying further that the House
of Representatives "commits to supporting President Obama,
Secretary Clinton, and Special Envoy Mitchell in their vigorous
pursuit of a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian
and Israeli-Arab conflicts based on the establishment of 2
states, the State of Israel and Palestine, living side by side
in peace and security, and with recognized borders; [and]
reaffirms that peace between Israel and the Palestinians and
Israel and the Arab world are essential national security
interests of the United States." To date the resolution has 76
co-sponsors, and has been referred to the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs.

February 12: Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), speaking as chair of the
House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, made it
absolutely clear that Israel shares responsibility for the
impasse in the conflict and must take bold political steps:
"Palestinians have restored law and order in Jenin and Nablus,
and are finally starting to put some authority back into the
Palestinian Authority... What can be made of the new and growing
security dynamic in the West Bank," will depend a lot "on
whether Israel--in a break from years of habit -- can recognize
its own self-interest in the success of this Palestinian
enterprise." Most importantly, he put the settlements and the
behavior of the most radical settlers at the very heart of the
matter: "We're spiraling downward," he said, adding "the
downward pressure comes from terrorism and the march of
settlements and outposts; from the firing of rockets and the
perpetration of settler pogroms...."

February 17: Newly-named Senator from New York Kirsten
Gillibrand said to reporters that in discussing the future of
the Mideast with Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin
Netanyahu, "I will certainly offer what I think is the best
policy, regardless of what Netanyahu says is what he wants to
do. I will always be an advocate for the solutions that I think
will be most effective." She continued: "I think the President
will use all the means and all the tools in his toolbox to reach
a solution for peace in the Middle East... if he offers positive
reinforcement or negative reinforcement, that will be a
strategic decision for the administration and our secretary of
state." Her comments were particularly notable, given that in
the past, New York Senators have traditionally supported Israeli
government policy fully.

February 19: Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, arrives in the region, visiting
Sderot, the Israeli city most hit by Hamas rockets, and the Gaza
Strip, in order to assess the damage done in the war; while
there, he spoke with Palestinians about what they most need in
the wake of hostilities. During his visit, he was given a letter
for President Barack Obama that was believed to be from Hamas.
Also in Gaza on the same day, though traveling separately, were
two House Representatives: Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) and Rep.
Keith Ellison (D-MN). Sen. Kerry's trip also included visits to
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, where he met with President
Bashar Assad.

February 20: Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) delivered a letter to
Secretary Clinton on the eve of her Mideast trip, signed by 31
Senators -- nearly a third of the Senate. In the letter, the
Senators commended both Secretary Clinton and President Obama
for their statements regarding the urgency and importance of a
two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and
urged her "to use your upcoming visit to Israel and the West
Bank to underscore your personal commitment, and that of
President Obama, to Israel's security and to achieving
Israeli-Palestinian peace. Both are vital U.S. national security
interests that must not be neglected."

February 23: George Mitchell began a ten-day trip in the Middle
East and Europe, to meet with senior officials and discuss the
peace process "as part of our ongoing efforts to actively and
aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the
Palestinians, as well as between Israel and its other Arab
neighbors." Sen. Mitchell joined Secretary Clinton in Egypt for
the March 2 Donors Conference for Gaza Recovery.

March 2: Secretary of State Clinton landed in Egypt, where she
attended the Donors Conference for Gaza Recovery. She brought
with her a pledge of $300 million in aid to rebuild Gaza, and
promised an additional $600 million to the Palestinian
Authority. On Monday, before flying to Jerusalem, Secretary
Clinton told the press: "The U.S. is prepared to engage in
aggressive diplomacy with all sides in pursuit of a
comprehensive settlement that brings peace and security to
Israel and its Arab neighbors."

March 3: In Israel, Clinton met with Defense Minister Ehud
Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister-designate
Benjamin Netanyahu, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Secretary
Clinton stressed the importance of Israel allowing more
humanitarian aid to get to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and of
broadening the list of items that it considers "humanitarian
aid" which critics say is constricting deliveries of necessary
goods. She also emphasized that Israel must meet its commitments
to the Bush Administration's Road Map to Peace, which primarily
involves the freezing of settlement construction. Clinton stated
that there could be no economic take-off in Palestine without a
political settlement, contradicting Netanyahu's idea that
economic peace could lay the groundwork for a political
settlement some time in the future. She further announced that
the U.S. would be sending two envoys to Syria, emphasizing the
need to create a regional alliance to counter a possible Iranian

March 4:

* Clinton visited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah. She
promised vigorous personal involvement in reviving Mideast peace
efforts and criticized Israel's 143 orders for demolitions of
homes in East Jerusalem since last week, where dozens of such
orders has recently been issued, as unhelpful. Meanwhile, Israel
announced that it will increase the range of goods permitted
into the Gaza Strip as a gesture to Secretary Clinton.

* Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, gave a report on his recent trip to the Middle East
at the Brookings Institution on the challenges and opportunities
facing the Obama administration in the region. "The rise of
Iran," he said, "has created an unprecedented willingness among
moderate Arab nations to work with Israel." At the same time,
Kerry said U.S. opposition to new Israeli settlement activity
has "usually existed on paper alone" and went on to say that
while "we will defend Israel's security unflinchingly" that "the
settlements are fragmenting a future Palestinian state and
complicating the work of Israel's defense forces." He further
stated that, "Nothing will do more to make clear our seriousness
about turning the page than demonstrating -- with actions rather
than words -- that we are serious about Israel freezing
settlement activity in the West Bank."

March 5: Reps. Baird (D-WA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) conducted a
briefing on Capitol Hill regarding their recent trip to Israel,
Gaza and the West Bank.


December 2008-January 2009:

* Brit Tzedek Executive Director Diane Balser attended a meeting
for leaders of Jewish organizations in Washington, DC with
President-elect Obama's transition team. She presented our
Rabbinic Letter to the President-elect, with more than 1000
signers, to Daniel Shapiro, then-Policy Advisor and Jewish
Outreach Coordinator for the Obama campaign, now head of the
Middle East desk at the National Security Council. Brit Tzedek
later released a popular video about the letter, featuring
prominent movement rabbis, a Chicago rabbi who is also Michelle
Obama's cousin, and the late Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, friend and
neighbor of the Obama's in Hyde Park.

* Brit Tzedek chapters took advantage of the Congressional
recess, holding nearly 50 meetings with Representatives,
Senators and their staffs at their home district offices. The
relationships established in these meetings proved pivotal in
follow-up work in the following weeks, and continue to yield
important results.

* Brit Tzedek chapters held more than 30 events across the
country, many attracting hundreds of participants eager to
engage in much needed dialogue about the Gaza War.

* Brit Tzedek Executive Director, Diane Balser engaged in a talk
radio discussion on the Gaza conflict with Rabbi Eric Yoffie,
president of the Reform movement's Union for Reform Judaism
(URJ) who had been publicly supportive of Israel's war efforts.

* After Brit Tzedek learned that AIPAC was planning to initiate
a Congressional resolution supportive of the Gaza War during the
opening week of the 111th Congressional session, we collaborated
with J Street to make more than 4000 calls, asking that any
resolution include a demand for an immediate ceasefire,
acknowledgment of the suffering on both sides, and a demand for
U.S. leadership in reinvigorating the peace process. While the
resolutions were problematic, all three points were alluded to
in both the House and Senate versions. In a break from the
status quo, Congressional staffers initiated and wrote the
resolutions, seeking input from AIPAC as well as the pro-Israel,
pro-peace community. In addition, a number of members of
Congress wrote their own pro-peace statements on the war.

* Brit Tzedek held four Town Hall Conference Calls for our
supporters on the Gaza War-related issues. Nearly 1000 people
participated in the live calls with Rabbi Marc Gopin (Director
of the Center on Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at
George Mason University), Daniel Levy (Senior Fellow and
Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America
Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for
Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation), Mitchell Plitnick
(Director of the American Office of B'Tselem, the Israeli Center
for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), and Nathan Brown
(director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at The George
Washington University). Podcasts can be found at:


* Brit Tzedek board, staff, and Rabbinic Cabinet members held
more than a dozen meetings with Senators and Representatives on
Capitol Hill. Brit Tzedek leadership also met with Daniel
Shapiro, currently head of the Middle East desk at the National
Security Council.

* When Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) introduced House Resolution
130, expressing support for the appointment of Sen. Mitchell as
envoy to the region, Brit Tzedek organized phone calls in
cooperation with J Street expressing support for the resolution
nationally and through chapters in key districts. To date the
resolution has 76 co-sponsors.

* When Rep. John Olver (D-MA) introduced a "Dear Colleague"
letter to Secretary of State Clinton, calling on the State
Department to release emergency funds for reconstruction and
humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, Brit Tzedek organized
a phone-call campaign in support of the effort through our
chapter leadership. The letter was ultimately signed by 64
members of the House of Representatives.

* Jewish pro-Israel Rep. Gary Ackerman, (D-NY) made a powerful
statement calling on Israel to take responsibility for its part
in the breakdown of the peace process and halt settlement
expansion. Brit Tzedek's New York City chapter organized thank
you calls from constituents and a nation-wide letter writing
campaign thanking Ackerman for taking such a strong stand while
maintaining his strong commitment to Israeli security in his
capacity as chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East
and South Asia.

* Newly-appointed New York Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand broke with
the historical policy of New York's Senators to back the Israeli
government at all costs, when she said that she plans to suggest
to the Israeli government "what I think is the best policy,
regardless of what Netanyahu says is what he wants to do." Brit
Tzedek's New York chapters organized phone calls and thank you
notes to her office.

* When Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, traveled to Gaza to view first-hand the
impact of the recent war -- the highest-level visit by a U.S.
official to the territory since Hamas seized control nearly two
years ago -- Brit Tzedek's Massachusetts chapter leaders wrote
to thank him for his leadership in witnessing the situation and
spending time with Gaza residents, asking them what they needed
in order to rebuild. They also requested that he do a briefing
on his trip in Washington, DC and/or their home district. He did
his first briefing with the Brookings Institute on March 4 in

* When House Representatives Brian Baird (D-WA) and Keith
Ellison (D-MN) traveled to Gaza to assess the damage done by the
war, our Minnesota and Washington chapters mobilized to thank
them for their efforts, making clear to both that they had the
backing of many in their Jewish communities, and asking that
they do a briefing on their trip. On March 5 they conducted a
briefing on Capitol Hill.

* Brit Tzedek Executive Director, Diane Balser participated in a
conference call with Senator George Mitchell and other Jewish
organizational leaders from across the political and religious
spectrum. During the question and answer section of the meeting,
she raised the issue of settlements with the Special Envoy, who
expressed the importance of studying the issue closely.

* When Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) began circulating her letter
to Secretary Clinton, commending both Secretary Clinton and
President Obama for their statements regarding the urgency and
importance of a two-state solution, and urging her to "use your
upcoming visit to Israel and the West Bank to underscore your
personal commitment, and that of President Obama, to Israel's
security and to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace," Brit
Tzedek mobilized its base in letter-writing and phone calls to
senators nationwide. In just two days, 31 Senators -- nearly a
third of the Senate--signed on.