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A movement grows in a Georgia church basement

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Josh Ruebner speaking at Drake in Des Moines earlier this month. Image, AFSC

Josh Ruebner speaking at Drake in Des Moines earlier this month. Image, AFSC

Last night in Decatur, GA about 30 people gathered in a church basement to hear Josh Ruebner discuss his new book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace. The evening was a small window into the awareness spreading across this county of the U.S. role in Israel/Palestine, and the movement growing in its wake.

ShatteredHopes_JK_FilesforPrinter.inddThe evening was hosted by the Kairos mission group of the Oakhurst Baptist Church, and co-sponsored by a project of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta called Joining Hands for Justice in Israel and Palestine, local chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Interfaith Peace Builders, as well as the Tikkun Olam committee of a nearby reconstructionsist synagogue called Bet Haverim.

As I waited for the event to start I chatted with the woman sitting next to me. She was in her early 50s and told me she is planning on visiting the West Bank in May, her first visit back since 1977 when she lived on a kibbutz as a teenager. She said she loved Israel from those days, but now was worried. Her teenage daughter is currently living with an Israeli family as part of an exchange program and has been surprised by the degree of racism she has encountered in her Israeli high school. She said her daughter had only met one other student who expressed “pro-Palestinian” sympathies, which in this case was just correctly pointing out that a landmark was located in the West Bank, not Israel, during a geography lesson. She was going to travel over to Israel/Palestine when the exchange was finished to travel some with her daughter. She didn’t quite know what to expect.

Ruebner soon came to the podium and we turned our attention forward. He has been on a barnstorming tour to promote his book, and gin up the Palestine solidarity movement in the process. It’s not too many book events that the author passes out postcards to mail to the President, or fliers on companies to boycott as part of the BDS movement, but we got them last night. Ruebner did sit and sign books at the end, but he came across more as a movement circuit rider, going station to station bringing the good news on the activism sprouting up across the county.

But first the crowd had to take its medicine.

Ruebner started with the subject of his book – the peace process. And specifically the Obama administration’s policy during its first term. He said he sought to answer the question of how the administration, that entered office with such high aspirations and relatively strong language, stepped down to the position we see it in today, essentially playing the role of Israel’s lawyer yet again.

Ruebner summarized, “These negotiations are not about bringing a just and lasting peace. These negotiations are a dog and pony show to enable Israel to continue its colonization of Palestinian land. That’s what these negotiations are about.”

After recounting Obama administration policy during its first terms, including how US aid went to arm and train the Palestinian Authority police force used to quell Palestinian protest against the occupation, Ruebner got to the current moment. He said Kerry’s soon-to-be-announced framework for negotiations is bound the fail because the Palestinian state that Israel and the U.S. describe is diametrically opposed to the state Palestinians demand. Palestinians seek to exercise their self-determination while Israel and the U.S. look to deny it. “This U.S.-led ‘peace process’ is not about ending Israeli apartheid, instead the reverse is true. This is about entrenching it, and trying to make permanent Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinian people,” Ruebner said.  “And this is reason that this round of negotiations will fail as have all the others.”

He also addressed Israel’s latest demand, that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. After pointing out that there is no precedent for one country demanding another state to recognize a special characteristic of that state, he broke down what the demand means, “In essence, what Israel is demanding of the Palestinians by saying they have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is trying to legitimate this notion that Israel, unlike any other country of the world, normatively should not be a state of all of its citizens.”

Yet with the scale weighed so heavily against justice, Ruebner ended by saying he has never been more optimistic. He said we are at a historical juncture at the “demise of the paradigm” of the current peace process and that this opening is allowing for “new creative opportunities.” He pointed to the explosive growth of the BDS movement and the Israel lobby’s inability to confront it. Bringing up the recent case of the Northeastern University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter being suspended he said, “Israel’s defenders can no longer defend Israel on the substance of it’s policies. And so, because they can’t do it, it’s all about suppression now.”

After describing the victories the BDS movement has been able to accomplish in its short history he concluded, “I am convinced that Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians are nothing more than a short term proposition at this point . . . we are systematically undermining and pulling out the pillars of U.S. support for Israeli apartheid and when enough of those pillars are pulled out, even though the structure looks solid, it’s going to topple. And when it does it’s going to topple very quickly.”

As the event broke up after an hour and a half or so, Ruebner signed some books, but also had to get going. Today he was headed to a morning event in Augusta, GA and then driving to Chapel Hill, NC for an event tonight. No rest for the weary.

I returned to my conversation with the mother sitting next to me. She seemed energized, saying she felt very involved in the issue in the late seventies when she visited and has taken some time off, but now is back. She asked me about the one-state solution. She said it just makes sense to her. I recommended she read Ali Abunimah’s One Country, and agreed with her. “It’s hard to argue against equal rights”, I said. She smiled and nodded as if that was the most common sensical thing in the world.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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33 Responses

  1. on March 25, 2014, 3:08 pm

    This is a very well written article about an important book. Thanks Adam. It makes me feel more optimistic than usual. Actually, we will soon know the answer about Obama’s true motivation when the framework is released. If he is genuine he will start to put more and more pressure on Israel. If he backs off we will know that he is just a pawn in the Zionist army.

    • Citizen on March 26, 2014, 5:33 am

      Pretty hard to make a framework out of a rubber band. Are the Palestinians still trying without a lawyer present? How many lawyers do the US and Israel have present in these negotiations?

  2. seafoid on March 25, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Zionism is just not decent. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting and I agree that things are going to unravel very quickly for Israel after the right amount of pressure. They bet the house on YESHA.

  3. ritzl on March 25, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Very hopeful, Adam. I also agree that once the blindfolds come off, most normal people are morally centered enough to recognize the wrong and the right of the situation and act quickly and en masse.

  4. Antidote on March 25, 2014, 3:40 pm

    “Zionism is just not decent. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting and I agree that things are going to unravel very quickly for Israel after the right amount of pressure”

    I see no particular historical evidence for the claim that decency predicts longevity in national and international affairs.

  5. on March 25, 2014, 4:30 pm

    The problem is very simple. Most Americans do not know the real truth about Israel and Palestine. There has been a lot of deception (conflict of interest) in the reporting about Israel. Important people with credibility like Jimmy Carter who have tried to tell the truth have been smeared and falsely discredited by the supporters of Israel. When the lack of honesty is set right there will be tremendous negative repercussions for Israel and this will surely happen soon in this internet age of social media and email.

  6. Krauss on March 25, 2014, 6:16 pm

    Great article, well written.
    Reubner’s predictions are probably a bit too optimistic, but I don’t think he is far off. I think a lot of us are seriously underestimating how far the BDS movement has come. Even the FT editorial page is taking our side against Scarlett’s shameful actions.

    But the FT is a British publication. Once the NYT openly criticizes her, instead of merely reporting on it in an aloof manner or the New Yorker dismissing the criticism as “comical” and then praising her in a glowing profile, then we know we have serious progress.

  7. annie on March 25, 2014, 6:31 pm

    excellent article about an exceptional person. if you ever get the opportunity to hear josh speak, run don’t walk! he’s fantastic/invigorating and his mind is on the pulse of what’s happening.

  8. stevelaudig on March 25, 2014, 6:39 pm

    ” see no particular historical evidence for the claim that decency predicts longevity in national and international affairs.”

    True enough. Indecency [or call it an inability to act and justify the act to the satisfaction of others] does seem a factor for brevity. as in most things it depends on the definition of ‘decent/indecent’ and longevity/brevity.

  9. Daniel Rich on March 25, 2014, 6:39 pm

    @ Adam Horowitz,

    Thanks for putting this up here/out there. I really mean that.

    First, the headline sounds like an intro to a ‘so-so’ sci-fi flick [I can live with that]

    ‘Belligerence Brews in Evangelical Basement’ is something I would’ve come up with

    Second, ask Josh Ruebner to dish the current cover of his book. A broken up ‘Shattered Hopes’ is fine, but the rest of it is an eyesore and distracts from the real message.

    You can hook him up with me [if you want] and I’ll make a cover for him for free [in 3D], using Cinema 4D.

    Here’s my email address: [email protected]

    ‘Changing the world starts where you are today, never where you want to be tomorrow.’

    • bilal a on March 25, 2014, 11:22 pm

      Changing the world starts where you are today, never where you want to be tomorrow.’

      Israeli President Peres asks the Russian President:

      – Vladimir, are you of Jewish ancestry?

      – Putin: What makes you think so, Shimon?

      – Peres: You made the US pay five billion dollars to deliver Crimea to Russia. Even for a Jew, that is audacious!

    • Citizen on March 26, 2014, 5:42 am

      @ Daniel Rich
      I disagree
      The cover tells the eye exactly what the book is about, short and sweet.

  10. just on March 25, 2014, 7:04 pm

    How uplifting to know that he is teaching with his solid sense and passel of facts.

    Thanks Adam. All the best to Josh. I think the change has come, and will snowball.

    I especially loved this: “”It’s hard to argue against equal rights”, I said. She smiled and nodded as if that was the most common sensical thing in the world.”

  11. Kay24 on March 25, 2014, 10:12 pm

    Great article Adam. It is heartening to know that people like Josh Ruebner still feel optimistic about justice for the Palestinian people. It is hard to hear of Israel getting away with such horrendous crimes against helpless people, deaths by fences, deprivation of water, electricity, and lately about little kids being dragged away in the middle of the night, terrified, and languishing in Israeli jails, and that my country is primarily to be blamed, for aiding, protecting, and supporting the culprits. We all know that these peace talks are just a sham, and that the US is, and never will be, an honest broker. All the brokering is for the benefit of Israel. A recent map of illegal settlements will show that it is indeed a colonization by Israel, using the defense card, collective punishment and the occupation, it has been able to seize lands from these powerless people, using every excuse in the book. When the Palestinians legally bid for state recognition at the UN, they “retaliated” by announcing more illegal settlements.
    The rest of the world sent a strong message, voting for the Palestinians, but it seems the US is selectively deaf to the obvious, that as Josh Ruebner says, US support is slipping, and no skewed polls can hide the reality. Israel will surely topple, and they will have themselves, and their zionist policies, to blame.

  12. wondering jew on March 26, 2014, 12:28 am

    It’s hard to argue against equal rights.

    True. If one imagines the new palestine as being as free as the United States, it is hard to argue against it. but if one imagines the new palestine as free as Egypt under Morsi or as free as Syria under Assad, it is quite easy to argue against it.

    • talknic on March 26, 2014, 1:06 am

      @ yonah fredman

      “It’s hard to argue against equal rights”


      Uh huh. You then display the common un-equal ziotactic of purposefully lower casing ‘p’alestine to belittle Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and anyone else ziobigots don’t like.

      • wondering jew on March 26, 2014, 1:11 am

        sorry for lower case Palestine. my bad.

      • Krauss on March 26, 2014, 1:40 am

        Yonah, you don’t have to lie to us. We know how you really feel.

    • tree on March 26, 2014, 1:14 am

      But then again one can certainly argue against Palestinians being as “free” as they are under the control of Jewish supremacist state of Israel, and one doesn’t even have to “imagine” it. Its a concrete reality that Palestinians are not given equal rights by Israel. Israel’s had over 65 years of failure at treating its citizens and subjects equally regardless of religion/ethnicity. Its time to press for equality.

    • Ecru on March 26, 2014, 3:15 am

      @ yonah fredman

      “It’s hard to argue against equal rights.”

      Which is why you then proceed to do so. But I suppose Zionists have decades of practise arguing against human rights. Only Jewish rights count after all……..

    • Woody Tanaka on March 26, 2014, 7:50 am

      yonah, given that Egypt and Syria are particular situations without any seeming connection to Palestine save for the fact that they are Arab countries, why choose them? Seems rather bigoted to me that you’d choose them rather than, say, Italy and Tuvalu or Costa Rica and New Zealand.

      Also, why specify Egypt under Morsi rather than now,where death sentences are being handed out after “trials” where defense attorneys are not even present?

      Further, how about free as Palestine under the occupation by Israel?? Would you approve of a one state solution with that level of freedom, equally applied to Arab and Jew alike? If not, maybe basic humanity counsels you in favor of agitating to get the Israelis to cease inflicting it on the Palestinians…

      • wondering jew on March 26, 2014, 10:04 pm

        Woody T. – Criticism of the status quo is well placed. But labeling a comparison of the possibilities of a future Palestine with Palestine’s neighbors: Egypt and Syria, with which they share a culture, a language and a history rather than with Italy, Costa Rica or New Zealand as bigoted, seems to me rather stupid. One cannot assume that Palestine will be as bad as Egypt under the generals or under Morsi, nor as bad as Syria under Assad, but to look at the neighbors, which have a common history and a common culture and to figure out the odds about what would happen, rather than to countries that share nothing but the Mediterranean or human membership, is just common sense. If common sense is bigotry, then no wonder this is called the war of ideas- practical facts need not apply.

      • Woody Tanaka on March 27, 2014, 6:59 am

        yonah, except that this future state, after equal rights are implimemted, will be half Jewish and have a history, culture and language that accordingly sets it apart from its neighbors (and would likely be not in as hostile a relationship with those states, owing to the lack of a beligerent Apartheid state). So then it would seem to me that your comment assumes that giving citizens who are Arabs equality must mean that the state would necessarily, regardless of anything, descend into some version of the racist and stereotypical Orientalist version of the “Arab despotism” trope.

        Yeah, that’s pretty racist.

      • wondering jew on March 27, 2014, 10:28 pm

        Woody, I will discuss Free Palestine (the good scenario) later. But first: just this. You seem capable of great optimism regarding the Free Palestine, but meanwhile here in your own back yard you can’t get along with me long enough to hold the racist term in your arsenal and not shoot it off every ten minutes. So, let us try to imagine a better future here too and skip the racism taunt. It gets tired. And it is not then a war of ideas (let alone dialogue). It is shorthand for I am too lazy to think.

        The fact is that the first step towards a Free Palestine would be annexing the West Bank by Israel, which last time I mentioned it, sent you into a tizzy.

        Once we adopt the realistic notion that the next step towards a (good scenario) Free Palestine will be a less unfree Israel, then we might imagine the reaction of the region and the residents/citizens of Israel and the West Bank.

        Yes, if we are optimistic, then the notion that inevitably unFree Palestine (bad scenario) will act like Morsi or Assad is overly negative. But still, am I not allowed to take into consideration Islam and its role in the region? Am I not allowed to take into consideration the sectarianism of post war Iraq, the civil war in Syria? Am I not allowed to try to fathom the history of the Middle East since the brits and french carved it up. That history is irrelevant and racist? It would be irresponsible not to take the facts of the region and of the immediate neighbors of Israel into account.

        Yes, the fear may be facile. But how can we know unless we examine the problems and the probabilities. Let us go towards the future based upon real facts rather than wishes. This idea that the war of ideas is already won is bull. What is causing the troubles of the Arab Spring. Where is the Arab spring headed? Why did Morsi overplay his hand? Why did Egypt approve the coup to throw out Morsi? How will Egypt move forward? If you think Egypt is irrelevant to Palestine you are just plain wrong. To toss around the racism term like you do is just plain stupid and not at all in the realm of ideas. I mentioned Arab despotism? No. I did not. You are lazy. By all means let us imagine the future, but ignore Islam, Egypt and Syria, because to mention them one gets charged with racism? Get lost.

      • Woody Tanaka on March 28, 2014, 10:25 am

        “You seem capable of great optimism regarding the Free Palestine, but meanwhile here in your own back yard you can’t get along with me long enough to hold the racist term in your arsenal and not shoot it off every ten minutes.”

        Before we go any further, support that statement. Either demonstrate that I use “racist term[s]” — not just unwelcome terms for people you like, but racist terms — or withdraw that claim and apologize for it or show yourself to be a liar and a person of low character.

    • puppies on March 26, 2014, 9:17 am

      @Friedman – Despicable. Palestine now is way worse than any Morsis or Assads or any other boogaboos that your propaganda-fed brain can invoke; it has been so for 70 years. Only complete morons cannot understand what foreign occupation does to people.

  13. notatall on March 26, 2014, 5:56 am

    Would have liked to hear more about the audience: how many attended, who were they, what were their reactions? A Baptist church?

  14. Citizen on March 26, 2014, 6:51 am

    53 min interview of Josh Ruebner:

  15. Citizen on March 26, 2014, 7:46 am

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry–here’s Josh Ruebner talking with a Main Street radio host about the issues–the host displays his ignorance constantly during the discussion and is oblivious he’s parroting hasbara talking points. Near the end the host reads off some email, all of it ignorant and/or hasbara too. Ruebner never got ruffled. He’s quite a guy!

    • annie on March 26, 2014, 12:08 pm

      that was a great interview citizen. yeah, he’s cooler than a cucumber.

  16. Pamela Olson on March 26, 2014, 9:35 am

    Tremendously hopeful and inspiring. Huge gratitude to both Josh and Adam. The work is not easy (or glamorous), but that’s how you eat an elephant — one bite at a time.

    Segregation, the Soviet Union, South African Apartheid — these things all seemed rock-solid. Until their rotting foundations finally collapsed. Here’s hoping Israeli apartheid will go out without too much of a bang…

  17. Citizen on March 26, 2014, 10:21 am

    Florida Senate bill #SR894 Tries To Silence voices critical of Israel:
    Go #BDS

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