Friday, August 22, 2014

Zehava Gal-On Sees Hamas Strengthened by War

This +972 mag piece by Larry Derfner is a bit dated now (Aug. 15), when negotiations were still going on.  He and those he quote (including Meretz leader Gal-On) make the point that the war has boosted Hamas politically:

. . .  Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On gave an accurate reading of the situation:
This is what Netanyahu promised during Operation Protective Edge: Demilitarization of Gaza, bringing Hamas to its knees, and achieving long-term deterrence. And this is what we now have: Israel is holding direct talks with Hamas in Cairo, has agreed not to demand Gaza’s demilitarization, and is discussing a series of steps such as opening the crossings, bringing in goods and expanding fishing zones, which will be credited to Hamas and to those who side with violence.
Also, the emerging truce calls for talks on construction of an airport and seaport for Gaza to begin within a month of the document’s signing.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Extent of Gaza's Devastation and Israel's Siege

First, there's this from the NY Times, "Gaza Cost Far Exceeds Estimate, Official Says":
Hundreds of thousands more Gazans have been displaced than the United Nations thought was possible in an emergency, a Unicef official said.
. . .  with 350,000 people so far displaced from a six-week-old conflict — seven times the 50,000 foreseen in its contingency plan, the top Unicef official for the crowded Palestinian enclave said Wednesday.
The official, Pernille Ironside, also said that if the severe Israeli trade constraints on Gaza were not relaxed, a preliminary analysis showed it could take 18 years to rebuild destroyed housing, furthering the prospect that young Gazans would reach adulthood in deprivation, anger and despair.  . . .
We at Partners for Progressive Israel are trying to learn more about the nature of Israel's blockade of Gaza.  We know it's not a complete siege or else people would be dying of hunger in huge numbers. We know it's a severe limitation on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Theo Bikel (PPI chair) mourns Leonard 'Leibel' Fein

The following is from our board chair, Theodore Bikel:

PPI board chair, Theo Bikel
Last week the progressive American Jewish community lost one of its giants. Leonard 'Leibel' Fein's contribution to the Jewish social justice movement in the United States was without parallel, and as a professor of politics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he built an intellectual foundation for his activism. As an early board member of such organizations as the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now, he found a pragmatic outlet for his vision for Israel. As a talented and witty writer, he made clear that the act of supporting progressive movements in Israel was the core of Zionism's vitality.

He was a personal friend to several members of the Partners for Progressive Israel board. Lilly Rivlin grew up with Leibel, both of them having attended Moshava, the Habonim camp.

Lilly said of Leibel: "We will miss his analyses, his sense of humor, his yiddishkite, and his soul."

As a close, personal friend, I wrote a special kaddish for Leibel:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jerome Chanes: 'Has Israel Lost Its Moral Balance?'

PPI Board Member, Professor Jerome Chanes
Historian Jerome Chanes has written the following in NY Jewish Week:

The debate, already ongoing as the Palestinian civilian death count rose in Gaza, was amped up by Leon Wieseltier — to many, the Jewish community’s “public intellectual” — in his Aug. 6 New Republic article, “Israel and Gaza: A Just and Unjust War.” Wieseltier, in his declaration of surprise “by the magnitude of the indifference in the Jewish world to the human costs of Israel’s defense against the missiles and the tunnels,” raised questions among some analysts about “armchair moralism.” How, for instance, does Wieseltier measure “magnitude?”

It appears that his views may be based not on data but on anecdotes. “Some of the e-mails I have received have been lunatic in their lack of compassion.” That’s it?

Supportive, at least in part, of Wieseltier’s stance, is a public-affairs analyst (who asked not to be identified) who expressed distress about those who, pandering to the Jewish “street,” “talked at length about Jewish mothers’ suffering. I have waited in vain for comments about the suffering of many more Palestinian mothers,” the analyst said, adding: “I would not equate the two, and would blame Hamas for their suffering. But at least acknowledge it. Where is the decency?”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

PPI and Meretz in the NY Times

On August 4, Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at Birzeit University and a former minister of the Palestinian Authority, wrote an Op-Ed in the International New York Times titled, "Israel's Colonialism Must End." In it he argued intelligently for the need to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank. He also shed some light on some very troubling instances of anti-Palestinian racism coming from ministers in the Knesset.

For the most part, we agree with Mr. Jarbawi's column; Israel must end the occupation and growing extremism in Israel runs counter to Israel's own values. But he made some suggestions about the Israeli left that we firmly disagree with. Below is my response. (Click here to read it on the NY Times website.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New Jersey Progressive Zionists Speak Out

Larry Lerner
This New Jersey Jewish News article, "Gaza combat leaves Zionist Left conflicted," solicits opinions from New Jersey residents who are known activists in our pro-Israel/pro-peace camp.  It concludes with a lengthy quote from one of our past presidents, Larry Lerner, who remains active on the PPI board: 

Larry Lerner, a Warren resident, is a board member of Partners for Progressive Israel (formerly Meretz USA). While he said he believes “there is no justification for what Hamas is doing,” and that “Hamas doesn’t give a s--t about its own people,” he is nonetheless highly critical of the Israeli government.

“I think there was a failure on the part of the Israeli intelligence community” to grasp the extent of the tunnels Hamas had been building in Gaza,” he said.

“Why is Israel bombing all over the place?” Lerner asked. “Somebody has got to break the cycle, and I think the side that has got to break the cycle is Israel. They talked to Hamas when they wanted to get [kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit] out, didn’t they? How are you going to work out a ceasefire unless you talk to them?”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Big Peace Demo Cancelled; Hope Returns Today

Today, a three-day ceasefire seems to be holding as negotiators return to Cairo, but after the previous ceasefire expired with renewed attacks, the police banned the big peace demonstration scheduled for Saturday night at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.  See the background in my Times of Israel post, which begins as follows:
"No to the path of wars – We must have a diplomatic solution"
That was the title of the mass demonstration organized last [Saturday] night at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.  Among the speakers [scheduled] were writer David Grossman, Meretz Party Chair MK Zehava Galon, writer/sportscaster Zohir Bahalul, Hadash Party Chair MK Muhammad Baraka, Nomika Zion from “Another Voice” in Sderot, representatives of Peace Now, Combatants for Peace, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Family Forum, and singers Mira Awad and Adam Gorlitzki.