The Center for American Progress has done the Mideast peace community a tremendous service in creating Middle East Progress (MEP) and the Middle East Bulletin. MEP’s website describes its mission this way:
Middle East Progress helps develop…practical approaches to, and voices involved in…resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, with a primary focus on achieving a sustainable, secure, democratic Palestinian state alongside sustainable, secure, and democratic Israel. We believe such action will improve U.S., Israeli, and regional security, and America’s global standing, and reflects the will and aspirations of a vast majority of Israelis and Arabs…
A hat tip to Muzzlewatch for turning me on to this invaluable new addition to the progressive Mideast landscape. Nathan Guttman at The Forward provides some background to the Bulletin portion of the new project:
The Center for American Progress is set to launch the Middle East Bulletin, which will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes beginning next week. It aims to take on Daily Alert, published by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and prepared by a right-wing think tank in Israel.
Sources involved…said that frustration over what they see as bias in Daily Alert sparked the idea of publishing a product that is similar, but in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We see ourselves as filling the vacuum that now exists,” said Jim Gerstein, a consultant who came up with the idea for the Middle East Bulletin. “We want to take all the good work that is being done by groups working for a two-state solution and amplify it.”
Those of us who’ve been in the trenches of the Israeli peace movement for lo these many decades can only rejoice in the broadening and strengthening of our efforts through initiatives like this. The AIPACs and Conference of Presidents of the Jewish world must be taken on at every opportunity. Alternatives to their hegemonic grip on the Israel message disseminated by the Jewish communal leadership must be developed. It is especially important that we present alternative media sources that can reinforce the message that peace is possible and that it must come through compromise between the parties.
The Mideast consultant who brainstormed the project pinpointed where he hoped its influence would be felt most:
Jim Gerstein hopes that the Middle East Bulletin will become a leading voice for a two-state solution within the Jewish community, but mainly among decision makers who deal with Middle East issues. The bulletin will be sent to Capitol Hill offices and to administration staffers, foreign policy experts and journalists. It will also be spread through already existing e-mail lists of dovish Jewish organizations.
The project is sponsored by the Center for American Progress through its recently launched Middle East Progress initiative. This marks the first time that the center — headed by John Podesta, who served in the White House as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff — is taking a high-profile public position on issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Now it is launching its first effort to sway American public opinion.
“The American public debate on the Middle East is missing significant parts of the robust discussion which is taking place in Israel,” said Mara Rudman, who heads the Middle East Progress program.
The Forward piece also provides interesting background about the partisan slant of the Daily Alert:
The…Daily Alert, an e-mail bulletin [is] widely considered to be one of the most effective focused on Middle East news…Estimates of Daily Alert’s circulation range from 100,000 to 250,000. It is prepared for the Presidents Conference— an umbrella group representing 52 Jewish organizations — by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The center is a think tank in Israel led by Dore Gold, who is a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and a close adviser to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
…Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, did not respond to the Forward’s questions regarding Daily Alert.
While Daily Alert states that its mission is to bring “Israel-related news stories from mainstream English and Hebrew media sources,” critics argue that the summary fails to reflect the mainstream of Israel’s public discourse and that it shuts off news and views associated with the Israeli left.
“It is very skewed to the right,” said M.J. Rosenberg, Israel Policy Forum’s director of policy analysis. IPF is an American Jewish advocacy group that supports aggressive American efforts to help secure a two-state solution. “When you read it, you get the feeling it is coming from the Israeli right wing and from the Jewish right wing.”
Every month seems to bring news of a strengthening of the work and message of the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement. May it go from strength to strength.
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