Americans for Peace Now (1981 – present)

peacenow.org

Americans for Peace Now (APN) is the sister organization of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in Israel. Its primary mission is to educate and persuade the American public and its leadership to support and adopt policies that will lead to comprehensive, durable, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace, based on a two-state solution, guaranteeing both peoples security, and consistent with US national interests. They also work to ensure Israel's future and the viability of Israel's democracy and Jewish character through education, activism and advocacy in the United States, and by mobilizing American support for Shalom Achshav.

APN’s strategy is four pronged:

  1. To be an authoritative source for balanced information on the Israeli-Arab conflict;
  2. To advocate for US policy positions from the perspective of Jewish Americans who are pro-Israel/pro-peace;
  3. To build a base for political activism and grassroots outreach to Jewish and Arab American communities, university students, and the public at large; and
  4. To provide financial and other support for the work of Shalom Acshav in Israel.

Shalom Achshav, was founded in 1978 after 348 Israeli reserve officers and soldiers published an open letter to Prime Minister Menachem Begin calling on him not to squander an historic opportunity with Egypt’s Prime Minister Anwar Sadat. Shortly thereafter, 200,000 Israelis signed a petition supporting the reservists. This provided public pressure that led to support for the March 1978 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty.

More than 30,000 people attended the first Shalom Acshav organizing meeting in Israel on April 1, 1978. The same year, Americans for a Progressive Israel published ads in Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post in which 560 American Jews announced their support for Peace Now and Leonard (Leibel) Fein organized the “Letter of the 37” in support of Peace Now. Signers included Saul Bellow, Irving Howe, Daniel Bell, and Martin Peretz.

 Soon after Shalom Acshav was founded, ad hoc support for its work began in the US After the group appointed Mark Rosenblum as their US representative in 1981. He brought together various solidarity efforts around the country under one umbrella.

Shalom Achshav came to international prominence following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. It was the principal organizer behind a mass demonstration calling for the government to establish a special commission to investigate the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. More than 400,000 protestors (10% of the Israeli population) converged on Tel Aviv’s Zion Square. In response, the Begin government appointed a commission that concluded that Israel was indirectly responsible for the massacre and that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon bore personal responsibility “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge.”

The outrage provoked by the Sabra and Shatila massacres drove many progressive American Jews to Middle East peace activism, propelling APN’s initial growth. APN activists could genuinely state that they represented hundreds of thousands of Israelis on security and peace-related issues. The group sought to become a respected Zionist voice that could normalize discussion of the two-state solution within the Jewish community.

In 1988, after PLO leader Yasser Arafat recognized the state of Israel within pre-1967-borders, Shalom Achshav led a 100,000-person demonstration calling on Israel to negotiate with the PLO. The Israeli government refused, although the US government did begin to open up dialogue. As a result, APN began to promote policies that encouraged American government action.

In 1990, APN was the only Jewish organization to advocate for the Bush administration’s proposal for settlement-related conditions on loan guarantees to Israel. In 1992, APN worked with AIPAC to draft the language of the Middle East plank of the 1992 Democratic Platform committees on behalf of US Jewish community: “support for the peace process now under way in the Middle East, rooted in the tradition of the Camp David accords…with no imposed solutions.”

APN’s fundraising and promotion of Shalom Acshav includes the Settlement Watch project, founded in 1990. It monitors – and protests –  the building of settlements, new housing tenders, and the expropriation of lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Shalom Acshav’s other work includes public campaigns, surveys, dialogue groups, street activities, vigils, and demonstrations.

In 1993, APN joined the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Within the Conference, APN continues to work with other American Jewish groups to support Israeli-Arab peace. In 1990, APN established the Center for Israeli Peace and Security in Washington, DC to coordinate its US advocacy efforts and build crucial support for the peace process among US decision-makers.  When the national headquarters of APN moved to Washington, the government relations advocacy efforts of the Center were taken over by APN’s national staff.

When the 1993 Oslo Accord between the Israelis and Palestinians was signed, starting a peace process that began with mutual recognition, APN voiced strong support for the Accord through a media campaign, and advocacy on Capitol Hill, and outreach within the Jewish community.

A decade later, APN played a central role in promoting the Geneva Initiative model permanent status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians in the US It brought Geneva Initiative leaders to Washington, DC and helped introduce pro-peace resolutions in the House and the Senate. That same year, APN began to press Congress to support the Roadmap for Middle East Peace authored by the US, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. In 2007, it organized public support for the Annapolis Peace Conference.

Since the mid-2000s, APN has publicized the increasing number of “price tag attacks” by radical settlers, who, according to the New York Times, “exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for any action taken against their settlement enterprise.”

Founded in 2001, APN’s Legislative Round-Up, written by Lara Friedman, APN’s Director of Policy and Government Relations is considered “must-read” material for anyone interested in the intersection of US policy-making and the Middle East.

In both 2011 and 2012, APN was the only major Jewish organization to support the Palestinians’ bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations.