‘Americans for Peace Now’ Bucks ‘Times,’ and Mainstream Jewish Opinion, Re Hamas

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Today the Times has a front-page article saying that antisemitic vitriol in Gaza, licensed by Hamas, is an impediment to the peace process. The one comment I’d make is that if Jews were starving and blockading your territory, and denying the sick hospital supplies, you might call them apes too. Yesterday I asked, Is the Times part of the Israel Lobby? The answer is that the Times, as the tone-setter for the Establishment, is under tremendous pressure from and is remarkably responsive to the conservative mainstream of the Jewish leadership that has for 60 years placed the issue of Security for Israel over the value of Self-Determination for the Palestinian people. And for 60 years: No Palestinian state.

I wish the Times were more responsive to other American Jewish voices that give primacy to Palestinian self-determination and do not support the demonization of Hamas. Americans for Peace Now has often demonstrated great courage on this issue. Lately I talked to Lara Friedman of the organization about APN's stance re Hamas. Here's her comment:

APN has long challenged the  US and Israeli policies regarding Hamas. For example, on Oct. 2006 we issued a statement that suggesting to the President that he should be "Reconsidering your Administration's policy of refusing all contacts with Hamas. There are potentially exploitable cleavages within Hamas which need to be explored and tested, and there are more moderate voices within Hamas who could contribute to stabilizing the situation in Gaza."

More recently, on January 25th (in the context of the Gaza border breach), APN called for engaging Hamas (in a press release, and a message sent in my name to the entire wonk community and all Hill offices). That statement noted, among other things, that "By now it should be clear that the policy of placing Gaza under siege is succeeding neither in stopping Qassam fire, nor in ousting Hamas. Tactics of this nature have been tried and have failed, repeatedly. Rather than continue down this disastrous path, Israel, with the support and urging of the U.S., should forge a more responsible, constructive, and far-sighted way forward in terms of both its tactics and strategy for Gaza. This new way forward should include ending the blockade of Gaza. It should also include urgent diplomatic efforts to address the security challenges associated with Gaza. In particular, Israel should explore the possibility of achieving understandings with Hamas to end the violence, including a ceasefire or a "hudna," either through direct contacts or via third parties, including President Abbas." (The entire statement addresses both Israeli and Palestinian suffering and concerns.)

In the context of the most recent military escalation, on March 3rd APN released a statement (again, in the form of a press release, a message sent in my name to the entire policy community, and an email sent to every Hill office) arguing that "Any realistic, sustainable resolution to this crisis will require Israel and Hamas to engage, directly or indirectly, to achieve a ceasefire or hudna. The only questions then are: how many Israelis and Palestinians will die or be wounded in the interim; how much less international sympathy Israel will have when the ceasefire is being negotiated; how much bigger will the disaster on the ground be, both in Israel and Gaza, once a ceasefire is achieved; and how much damage will have been done to the credibility and viability of the peace process and the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps."

We followed this statement with a statement following the passage of
H. Res. 951 (regarding the
Gaza escalation), expressing our
disappointment in the resolution and including a compendium of articles
and polling data showing that (a) Israelis support a ceasefire with
Hamas,
and (b) many Israeli security experts, including
hawks, support such
engagement and support a ceasefire. This compendium was posted on
our website and has gotten a huge number of hits.
Each of these statement generated a huge -- and largely positive --
response, including from the Hill.

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