EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UPDATE
June 2005
By Aliza Becker, Executive Director

Advocacy: Home District Meetings A Success
Tours: Daniel Levy and Rafi Dajani; One Voice Campus Dialogue
Issue Updates: Palestinian Aid Status; Maale Adumim Expansion; Silwan Housing Demolition Order
Programming: Audio Recordings of May Town Hall Conference Calls Now Available; Brit Tzedek Sponsors "Another Road Home"
Chapter Highlights:  New York City Launches Young Adult Program; Chapter Joins Greater Boston JCRC
Staff Updates: Welcome Brit Tzedek Summer Interns
Brit Tzedek in the News: CEO Diane Balser's Op-ed Appears in New York Jewish Week; More Articles and Broadcast Media


ADVOCACY

Home District Meetings a Success
In a coordinated nationwide effort, Brit Tzedek chapters met with the home district offices of over 30 U.S. Senators and Representatives. The elected officials and their staff representatives were on the whole very responsive to Brit Tzedek's "Pro-Israel! Pro-Peace! Progress!" message, with many expressing interest in building a long-term relationship with chapter representatives.

One meeting participant reports, "The staff members were very clear that they wanted us to keep them well informed so that when the Congresswoman is on the Floor of the House, she will have the necessary data when she chooses to make a statement on our issues."

Another participant who met with a Senator's State Director said, "I think the value of the visit was in introducing ourselves to the office and opening the door for us in the future. She gave us all her personal email address and said she would be happy to hear from us."

We look forward to building on these home-district meetings during our upcoming National Advocacy Days, June 27-28, when over 50 of Brit Tzedek's national spokespersons and activists take our message to key Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.

TOUR UPDATES
 
Daniel Levy and Rafi Dajani
Daniel Levy, a primary drafter of the Geneva Accord, and Rafi Dajani, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP),headlined a multi-city Brit Tzedek tour, April 14-20, which included numerous venues in Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Madison, Milwaukee and Denver. The events were co-sponsored by Geneva Initiative-North America and the campus group, Union of Progressive Zionists. Local co-sponsors included Ameinu/Labor Zionist Alliance-Detroit, University of Michigan Hillel, American Jewish Committee-Milwaukee, Yalla Salam (Palestinians for Peace Now), and the Geneva Accord-Colorado. Tour page.

The tour received extensive media coverage.

Newspaper Articles and Radio Coverage:

"A Public Affair," by Rafi Dajani of the American Task Force on Palestine. WORT 89.9FM, April 13, 2005.

"Palestinian-Israeli Team Urges Renewed Push for Peace," by Ray Hanania. Arab American Media Syndicate, April 16, 2005.

"Officials Talk about Middle East Conflict," by John Potratz. The Badger Herald, April 20, 2005.

"Progressing toward Peace," by Shira Goldman. The Madison Observer, April 20, 2005.

"Two Sides, Two Peoples, One Hope for Peace," by Amanda Sheaffer. Marquette Tribune, April 21, 2005.

"Giving Peace a Chance," by Ruth Conniff. The Progressive Blog, April 25, 2005. 

"COMMENT: Gaza Withdrawal Requires Solid Leadership and Guidance," by Rafi Dajani and Daniel Levy. Detroit Free Press, May 6, 2005.

One Voice Campus Dialogue
Brit Tzedek joined One Voice in launching its Campus Dialogue Program in Chicago in partnership with the American Task Force on Palestine, The Initiative for Israel on Illinois Campuses: A Partnership of the Jewish United Fund's Jewish Community Relations Council and others.

Israeli and Palestinian One Voice youth leaders Gazit Orit and Sari Husseini were joined by Palestinian One Voice executive director, Nisreen Shahin, and Professor Muli Peleg, who is spearheading the One Voice Youth Leadership Program. Programs were held at the University of Chicago, DePaul University and Northwestern University.

One Voice is a grassroots Middle East peace organization that works to empower the silent majority of moderates on both sides of the Middle East conflict in order to create a popular mandate for peace.

ISSUE UPDATES

Palestinian Aid
In May, the House and Senate passed a compromised version of an emergency supplemental appropriations act for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005 (HR1268), which included the provision of $200 million in aid to the Palestinians as requested by President Bush. The resolution, however, placed unprecedented restrictions on the distribution of the aid, including the following provisions:

a) a wide-ranging new report on PA accountability;
b) an additional audit of PA finances (costing $5 million which will be deducted from the total fund);
c) that $50 million of this package be earmarked for Israel to build high-tech terminals at the checkpoints.

It also earmarks $3.5 million of the aid for Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem and $2 million for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

Furthermore, in an appended manager's statement (which is generally upheld in the implementation), it is specified that this allotment not be used for direct financial support for the PA. The aid instead is to be disbursed indirectly through USAID, under strict conditions, for development projects carried out by nongovernmental organizations.

Expressing the need for more Palestinian aid, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) wrote in an op-ed for USA Today that, "President Abbas cannot turn his words [of peace] into reality if the resources required for success, particularly Gaza, are not readily available [...] We must look ahead and make sure President Abbas has the means to do his part to make peace in the Middle East a real possibility." Full text.

On May 26, President Bush pledged a further $50 million in direct aid to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during the first White House talks in five years between U.S. and Palestinian leaders. This aid will be used for new housing and infrastructure projects in Gaza, "where poverty and unemployment are very high," Bush said during a post-meeting news conference. The money which Bush earmarked "to help ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success," is the first direct aid the United States has given to the Palestinian Authority. Previous donations have gone through non-governmental organizations.

The House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee last week approved a foreign aid package that contains $150 million in economic assistance for the Palestinians. We anticipate that the issue of placing restrictive conditions on the distribution of Palestinian aid will spark new debate in Congress in the near future.

Brit Tzedek will remain actively involved in promoting additional Palestinian aid. At this time of renewed hope and progress toward peace, we believe that the U.S. must send a message of strong support for the path of peace and non-violence currently being pursued by the democratically-elected Palestinian leadership.

Maale Adumim Expansion
Construction plans to add 3,500 housing units to expand Maale Adumim westward have been suspended for the time being. The expansion would have completed the "envelope" of Israeli neighborhoods and settlements surrounding Arab East Jerusalem. This would cut off any territorial contiguity between the 250,000 Palestinian residents of the city and the rest of the West Bank.

Silwan Housing Demolition Order
We joined thousands of voices around the world in urging President Bush to insist that the Israeli government halt plans for the demolition of 88 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Brit Tzedek sent nearly 3000 messages to our elected officials. Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski subsequently announced, "The Jerusalem municipality does not intend to issue demolition orders for houses in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan." Read more from Haaretz or an update from the BBC.

PROGRAMMING

Audio Recordings of May Town Hall Conference Calls Available
Audio recordings of Brit Tzedek's most recent Town Hall Conference Call series, "Looking Forward," are now available. 
* Challenges and Successes of the Palestinian Authority since the Elections with Yasser Abed Rabbo Audio
* Current Israeli Policies in and Plans for Jerusalem with Daniel Seideman Audio
* Where to from Gaza? with Daniel Levy Audio

Brit Tzedek Sponsors Another Road Home
Brit Tzedek is delighted to sponsor the nationwide screenings of Another Road Home, Danae Elon's film about the search for the Palestinian man who helped raise her. Read JTA review. Brit Tzedek chapters across the country are organizing viewings and discussion sessions. Read more about the movie.

CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS

New York City Launches Young Adult Program
Brit Tzedek's New York City chapter recently launched a young adult program with a monthly discussion group and happy hour. Post-college, progressive Jewish New Yorkers meet monthly to discuss  current topics of interest to the American Jewish community, vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, considering its effects on Brit Tzedek and our organizing efforts. Previous discussion topics include: "The Role of American Jews in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", and "the Gaza Disengagement Plan." For more information, email nyc@btvshalom.org

Chapter Joins Greater Boston JCRC
The Boston chapter recently became a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council  (JCRC) of Greater Boston which is comprised of a range of community organizations that work together to facilitate dialogue and forge an action agenda by encouraging collaborative partnerships within the Jewish community and between the Boston Jewish community and broader society. Beth Wasserman represents the local chapter on the board while Brit Tzedek CEO Diane Balser sits on the Israeli Roundtable of Jewish Professionals.

STAFF UPDATES

Brit Tzedek Welcomes Summer Interns
We are pleased to welcome Jason Pollens, a senior at Clark University, and Daryn Glassbrook, a doctoral candidate at Purdue University and lecturer in the English Department of the University of Nevada-Reno, who recently commenced an eight-week summer internship at our national office in Chicago. Pollens, whose work will focus on advocacy and public policy, previously served as the Executive Vice President of the Clark University Hillel and as intern in the Congressional Office of James McGovern (D-MA). Glassbrook, whose work will focus on the organization's education and communications, has been active in local Jewish peace organizations and has spoken publicly to university audiences on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BRIT TZEDEK IN THE NEWS

CEO Diane Balser's Op-Ed Appears in Jewish Week 
An op-ed by Diane Balser, who will assume the new position of CEO this summer, recently appeared in the New York Jewish Week, whose five regional editions reach 90,000 households weekly. The op-ed, entitled, "Push U.S. on Peace," calls on American Jews to "tell Congress and the administration that our country must be pro-Israel by becoming an active partner for peace...[by] support[ing] this summer's disengagement and oppos[ing] any attempt by anti-peace factions on either side to derail negotiations or prejudice their outcome."

"Push U.S. On Peace," by Diane Balser. New York Jewish Week, May 27, 2005.

More Coverage:
"Boston's Far Left-Wing Jews Are Determined not to Be Left Out," by Shira Schoenberg. Boston Jewish Advocate, April 22-28, 2005.

"Brit Tzedek v'Shalom: Supporting the Peace Process," by Joseph Dimow. Jewish Currents, May-June 2005.

"Virtual Political Tour of Jerusalem Sunday." Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, May 13, 2005.

"City of Brotherly Love." JTA News, May 20, 2005.

"Despite Distaste for Settlements, Philadelphia's Jews Shun Boycott," by Jordana Jacobs, JTA News, May 24, 2005.

"AIPAC: Big, But Not the Only Game in Town," by Luke Mullins. Roll Call, May 26, 2005.

"Fulfilling the Dream," by Allan Abrams. Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, May 27, 2005.

"Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Progress," by Rich Breitkopf. Atlanta Jewish Times, June 3, 2005.

"Pressing Peace in Era of GOP, Pro-Oslo Group Gets New Look," by Ori Nir. Forward, June 3, 2005.

"Fulfilling the Dream of Peace," by Raphael Ezekiel and Beth Wasserman. Boston Jewish Advocate, June 3-9, 2005.

"Memorial Day Campaign Launched." Boston Jewish Advocate, June 3-9, 2005.

Broadcast Media
Executive Director Aliza Becker appeared in a TV interfaith panel discussion on "Judaism, Christianity and Peace" aired on Sunday, June 12th on WBBM, a CBS affiliate. The show, called Different Drummers, was produced by Chicago Broadcast Ministries, an interdenominational Christian organization producing educational TV programs on religious topics for various Chicago-area churches.

President Marcia Freedman was interviewed by the BBC's "World Today" radio show on May 21st.

 
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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