The Forward reports that the new dovish American Jewish Mideast peace coalition announced in the Jewish press last month has continued developing apace. George Soros himself attended a meeting held last month indicating his deepening interest in the concept:
Planners of a new pro-peace Jewish lobbying initiative say they are considering an initial, two-phase strategy, entailing fundraising for existing peace groups in its first stage and launching a new action initiative in the second stage.
The group aims to raise millions of dollars in the coming months to fund existing groups working toward a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace…
Activists from several Jewish peace groups met in New York on October 25 with potential donors and their representatives to discuss their needs. Among the participants at this meeting were Soros himself, who in the past has refrained from contributing to Jewish groups, and Alan Solomont, a prominent community activist and Democratic Party fundraiser who has long supported Middle East peace initiatives.
To further indicate the seriousness of the efforts, two well-connected Jewish political operatives have taken on the lead coordinator roles:
Two Washington professionals emerged from the meeting as active coordinators who will take charge of raising funds and preparing a blueprint for further actions. One, Morton Halperin, who held foreign policy posts in the Nixon and Clinton administrations, now serves as director of American advocacy for the Open Society Institute, which was founded by George Soros. The other, Jeremy Ben-Ami, is senior vice president of Fenton Communications and served as an adviser to President Clinton.
Halperin and Ben-Ami have held a series of meetings in recent months with Jewish groups and individuals known to be supporters of the two-state solution. The main question raised in these meetings, participants said, has been whether to form a new group that will conduct its own lobbying operations, or work with existing groups and concentrate on channeling funds to these organizations.
“There is a lot of work being done and a lot of interest in the idea,” Ben-Ami told the Forward. “We will have to see in the next few months if this enthusiasm can be translated into contributions and practical measures.”
I also like the ambitiousness of the fundraising effort:
…Participants in [an organizational planning] meeting insist that it is only a matter of time before the group comes up with a set of recommendations for practical action. The main goal now is to raise some $10 million to $15 million, described by participants as “venture capital” for investment in pro-peace groups. The goal, according to one of the activists, is to “significantly raise” the level of donations that existing peace groups are receiving and upgrade them into the spectrum of the millions of dollars.
Having been deeply involved in numerous Jewish peace groups over the decades (and having worked for one or two), I can attest to the utter poverty conditions under which they did their work. Everything is hand to mouth. And sometimes the amateurish results attested to this. But I think the three groups which are spearheading this effort have got their act together despite operating on a shoestring budget (currently at least).
For these groups to get such an infusion of cash and energy from these fundraising efforts would revolutionize the Jewish peace movement, allowing it to play on almost equal terms to the big boys like Aipac and the ADL.
Unfortunately, some of the folks behind this effort still are maintaining the fiction that the new group will get on like a house afire with Aipac:
Several participants in one of the first meetings, held in mid-September, were said to be offended by media reports that the new initiative will in some way compete with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the best-known pro-Israel lobbying organization. Organizers sought to emphasize that regardless of the new group’s final shape, it will work side by side with Aipac and should not be seen as a competition to the long-established lobbying organization.
As I’ve written here before: who are they kiddin’? Peace Now, Brit Tzedek and Israel Policy Forum united to clean Aipac’s clock a few months ago during the lobbying campaign to pass the Palestinian Anti-Terror Act. Again, as I’ve written here–if this new group does NOT take on Aipac in similar ways, then there is virtually no reason for it to exist. Though if someone wants to maintain this fiction in the group’s initial startup phase so as not to begin organizing on a confrontational note, then that’s OK by me.
With today’s news of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians, this new lobbying effort is needed more desperately than ever. We must push the Bush Administration to engage as an honest broker in the negotiation process. Aipac isn’t going to be pushing for this. Someone in our community must do this and do it forcefully and with sufficient funding to really make a difference. We must tell the American people and this president that Jews want peace–a 2 state solution, an end to violence, and mutual recognition–and that we will support any president who can get us there.
KEN CARLSON says
It is good to hear that members of the American Jewish Community are starting to realize that the continuing unchecked land grabs by Israeli Settlers are imperiling the chances of a comprehensive peace in Greater Israel. For the very land that is available for a truly independent Palestinian State is rapidly disappearing due to the expansion of Settlements scattered all throughout the West Bank.
Today I saw an effective Television add called: Save DARFOR. It showed the suffering people, esp the children. Has anyone approached this group with the idea of buying key television time to show Palestinian suffering and that we are in such a critical juncture to either make peace or go down the path of Apartheid. Perhaps, now that Former President Jimmy Carter has written a book highlighting the crisis in Israel of which he hopes to stimulate debate, Perhaps some TV adds might fuel the fire and keep the mainstream media from ignoring this issue……
When Mr Carlson says, “Has anyone approached this group…”, is he talking about the Darfur group? Many good people, including some organized Jewish groups, are very involved in saving Darfur. However they will not touch the Palestine issue due to fear of ‘controversy’.
Re: Jimmy Carter’s book, I heard him interviewed by Larry King and Terry Gross. President Carter does a great job in getting the facts about Palestine out. Certainly no lesser personage would be able to. I do agree with Mr. Carlson that this is a time to take advantage of this.
Interesting, in both interviews, every time Carter managed to discuss the horrific conditions in the OT, the interviewer would switch gears. Nevertheless, he imparted a lot of information never heard on US mainstream media.
Another small but powerful break in the silence was last week’s PBS’s Independent Lens documentary featuring Haaretz reporters Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, among others.
[including the brave Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya]
If anyone hasn’t seen this, I really recommend it, and if you appreciate it, suggest you e-mail them, because for sure they have gotten hundreds of e-mails accusing them of ‘not showing the other side’, ‘being anti-Israel’, and the usual.
Richard Silverstein says
No, I think he was referring to the new progressive group with which Soros is involved. He’s advocating an ad campaign by them to inform the world about Palestinian suffering.
I don’t agree w. you about Carter being the only source in our media for good info on Palestinian suffering & the evils of the Occupation. That’s what this entire blog is about & I find good sources all over the U.S., European & Israeli media. But I would certainly agree w. you that Carter is a great champion of human rights & the necessity of both Israelis & Palestinians living together in peace w. neither side harming or subjugating the other.
Thanks for that PBS link. I’ve never seen Levy or Hass on TV & look forward to that.
“No, I think he was referring to the new progressive group with which Soros is involved. He’s advocating an ad campaign by them to inform the world about Palestinian suffering.”
That’s a great idea!!
re the media and Palestine news: I meant CNN, ABC, etc. There is a LOT on blogs, and Internet news sites, which is where I’m going to turn right now to see if I can discover what dear Mr. Olmert is up to.
Richard Silverstein says
I appreciate what Keith & you are getting at regarding telling the U.S. about Palestinian suffering. And I agree that such suffering has been terrible & inexcusable. But being entirely pragmatic about what will move American Jews & Americans in general to change their attitudes toward this conflict, I think it has to be phrased more in terms that explain the danger to Israel of its government continuing down this path. Unfortunately, Palestinian suffering is far removed fr. the avg. American’s consciousness. American Jews must be told, & told over & over again till it sinks in, that this policy is a mortal danger to Israel.
You’re prob. right, Ellen, about the big mainstream media sites like ABC & CNN being devoid of good analysis of the conflict. But if you read NY Times, LA Times, WashPo, listen to NPR or PBS News Hour, you’ll get plenty of good info.