The Boston Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom presents: "Election '08:  The Presidential Candidates' Vision of U.S. Foreign Policy" on Thursday, October 30 at 7 pm at 52 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge, MA. read more

Organizing for Real Change
By Diane Balser, Interim Executive Director

It is only by gathering all of our strength together, acting from the ground up, that we will make our voices heard, and change the reality in the Middle East. With a new President about to take office, there’s never been a better time than now.

As we approach next month's Presidential election, there can be no doubting that there has been a real change in the climate surrounding the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The failure of George Bush's foreign policy, in particular with regard to the Middle East, has played a major role in setting the tone of the discourse in the election cycle, and both Presidential candidates have said that establishing a two-state solution will be a priority of their Administration -- a notion that would have been unheard of in elections past.

This change in tone is a result of many factors coming together at the same time, not least the fact that both the outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and his apparent successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, have committed themselves to a two-state agreement -- indeed, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, Olmert called his fellow citizens to recognize that such an agreement will require the return of virtually all occupied lands.

Time to Choose Israeli-Palestinian Peace
A Selected List of Election-Related Resources

But it must be remembered that we, the American Jewish peace community, have played an enormous role in these developments, as well. From the actions of grassroots activists, sending letters and acting on action alerts, to the presence of Brit Tzedek members on Capitol Hill, meeting with decision makers and shapers, to the involvement of our Rabbinic Cabinet -- Brit Tzedek's recent Rabbinic Letter, calling on the candidates to commit to vigorously pursuing an Israeli-Palestinians peace, garnered the signatures of some 700 clergy members -- our voices have grown and multiplied, and are very clearly being heard.

We have witnessed and been a part of the emergence of a very visible, rational force for diplomatic engagement.  We are American Jews calling for a real solution to the conflict, as opposed to the traditional, right wing voices which were long perceived to be representative of American Jewry. Refusing to accept the inevitability of conflict, the more moderate, rational voice now says that  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can and must be resolved; that the creation of a stable Palestinian States alongside a secure Israel is vital not only for the Palestinian people and for Israel, for the United States as well.

Make our Voices Heard

Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, Israel Policy Forum and like-minded organizations and individuals have worked hard, hand in hand, to create that force. When Brit Tzedek was first established in 2002, there were only a few lone voices in Congress who spoke to the need for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but today the landscape has changed dramatically, with growing numbers of Representatives and Senators sponsoring and signing on to letters and resolutions, each calling for greater U. S. involvement, real compromise, and a just two state solution. These include the Hyde-Capps letter, the Ackerman-Boustany letter, the Davis Resolution (HR 143) , and the Feinstein-Lugar Resolution  -- all literally unthinkable just a few years ago.

All of these changes are also reflected in the establishment this year of a new PAC: J Street. J Street's endorsements of 34 candidates makes dramatically clear the fact that within electoral politics, there is room for a very honest, up-front message that is pro-Israel/pro-peace.

Each of these organizations -- Brit Tzedek, J Street, APN, IPF -- plays a critical role in shifting the discussion surrounding the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Brit Tzedek brings in the people.

Brit Tzedek turned to the grassroots of the American Jewish community as a basic formulating principle, from day one. Our people are on the ground, making sure that in a myriad of ways, each of our representatives gets the message: There is a rising call for real peace from the American Jewish community.

Our members and activists bring information and apply pressure through action alerts, letters to the editor and to our elected representatives, home district meetings, and annual meetings on Capitol Hill. We have organized consistently and constantly for five years, and our base is solid and reliable.

In organizing, there can really be no substitute to reaching the people on the ground and encouraging them to make their voices heard at the highest levels. Brit Tzedek reaches out to Jews in the community, in Jewish organizations, on campuses and in synagogues, in cyberspace. 

And these are the contacts, this is the organizing, that must take place if we are to take the change in discourse and create a real, lasting change on the ground. If we want to see the words of the candidates translated in to action, we will have to continue to amplify our message, explain our positions, and work toward their realization. We will have to make abundantly clear to all those running for office that if they work to place Israeli-Palestinian peace at the top of the American foreign policy agenda, they will have solid backing from within the American Jewish community.

That is why Brit Tzedek, and you, are so important. It is only by gathering all of our strength together, acting from the ground up, that we will make our voices heard, and change the reality in the Middle East. With a new President about to take office, there's never been a better time than now.

Diane Balser is Interim Executive Director of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom and is also a professor of Women's Studies at Boston University. From 1983-1994, Balser founded, built and directed the Women's Legislative Network of Massachusetts and served as the lobbyist in the State House for the network's sister organization, the Women's Lobby.


The Boston Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom presents: "Election '08:  The Presidential Candidates' Vision of U.S. Foreign Policy" a forum featuring Kerry Healey as surrogate for Senator John McCain and Steve Grossman as surrogate for Senator Barack Obama. Thursday, October 30 at 7 pm at 52 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge, MA.

Sponsors: Harvard Hillel; Brit Tzedek v'Shalom; Harvard College  Progressive Jewish Alliance, and Harvard Students for Israel.

Co-Sponsors: Temple Beth Israel (Waltham), Temple Beth Shalom(Cambridge), Beth El Temple Center (Belmont), and the Union for Progressive Zionists.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

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