Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Increasing attention is being paid to the upcoming J Street conference taking place in Washington DC on October 25-28.  I will be attending this conference and am greatly looking forward to it.  A recent article from The Forward, reprinted on the Ha’aretz website, called Sure, J Street is pro-peace – but is it pro-Israel? illustrates pretty clearly the problem of the current Israeli government.  The article says J Street

is still struggling to prove its pro-Israel credentials.  The latest bump in the road was the refusal of Israel’s ambassador to the United States to meet with the group, citing concerns that J Street’s views might harm Israel’s interests.

The problem here is that the Israeli government has not proven that it is truly interested in making any efforts to engage in real negotiations.  The simple dismissal that has come from the Israeli embassy does not bolster their case.  No specifics are offered as to what they don’t like, and instead of engaging in discussion, the ambassador chooses to ignore the group’s invitation.

I think J Street is a pretty moderate group that clearly supports the State of Israel.  I know people on the left who are skeptical of the group because of their strong support of the country.  In my opinion, J Street is acting pragmatically and I have real hope for the group.

If the Israeli government really regarded peace as an important goal, it would at least claim to support J Street’s aims.  Israel has a history of undermining American Jewish groups that advocate for peace efforts.  In the 1970s Israeli officials spoke out against the group Breira, which urged Israel to make greater efforts for peace with the Arab world.

Today’s Ha’aretz has an article elaborating on the Israeli response, and the positive reception by the Obama Administration. It’s encouraging and perfectly understandable that the Obama Administration would see J Street in a positive light, particularly as the Israeli government has been less than honest with the American government.  As pointed out in an article from a few days ago pointing out that ‘despite promises to Obama, construction continues in dozens of W. Bank settlements’ .  It’s difficult to take claims by Netanyahu seriously when he constantly thumbs his nose at the US.  A group like J Street is needed for those who genuinely care about Israel.  The Israeli’s seem set on driving off a cliff, and J Street is trying to stop them.

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Israeli and Palestinian talking

(Above: Israeli and Palestinian talking)

The initial reason I decided to write a blog was to recount my experiences in the South Mount Hebron area of the West Bank.  Not many people know what is going on there, and I wanted to help disseminate information.

I sometimes go out with members of the Israeli-Palestinian group Taayush, which works for relations and cooperation between Jews and Arabs.  The specific activities vary, but involve establishing relationships with Palestinians in the area, and in trying to prevent settler violence.

This Saturday, I went out with the group to the very small Palestinian village of Susya.  It used to be larger and in a different location, which settlers now occupy.  On Saturday our group (Israelis and Palestinians) went to look at a new outpost being built called Givat Hadegel.  This outpost is an extension of the settlement of Susya (not to be confused with the village) and is illegal even under Israeli law.

With us was the Palestinian man who owns the land Givat Hadegel is being built on.  He even has the appropriate documentation to prove it, but the army still allows the settlers to build their outpost.

The Outpost

The Outpost

Above is a view of Givat Hadegel.  In the background the settlement of Susya is visible on the next hilltop.  Not visible in the valley is the illegal outpost of Havat Ya’ir.  Effectively Givat Hadegel will serve as another hilltop the settlers control, and they will then be able to take the places in between in order to connect them.

Givat Hadegel is still clearly not a real settlement, but this is how the outposts often start.  First they make a sort of hang-out spot



As you can see, there is a cot, a stove-top and such.  There were also a couple other places where people could sleep.  So the settlers might start hanging out here, and then sleeping here sometimes, and then, suddenly, they put up a real structure, get water and electricity connected,  and it becomes an extension of the settlement.

A 'flag' of sorts

A 'flag' of sorts

I want to stress again that this land is indisputably owned by a Palestinian.  Nevertheless, the IDF and the police are unwilling to remove the settlers or the structures they put up.

Despite the recent violence in Gaza and all the other problems, there are still Jews and Arabs who meet, work together, and desire peace.  I want to remind everyone that there are people to talk to on both sides, and there are people struggling to improve the situation, through small acts of peace.

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