Mazel Tov President-Elect Obama
By Diane Balser and Steve Masters

To those who seek peace and security -- we support you...While we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.

--President-Elect Barack Obama, speaking at his victory party
in Grant Park (Chicago) on November 4, 2008                    

We at Brit Tzedek v’Shalom would like to extend our heart-felt congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama and to the grassroots movement that won this election as we and the entire country begin a new chapter in American history.

Last night’s election was an enormously important moment for the United States, an indication of our ability as a nation to look to the future, rather than the past, and to nurture hope, rather than fear. It was, we believe, a first step toward a much better future.

America’s Jews rightly share in this victory.  The vast majority of us threw our support behind the change of which Obama’s campaign spoke – despite an extensive and well-funded effort to play to the most base fears of our community, focusing, in particular, on our concern for Israel.

As Brit Tzedek supporters we should be particularly pleased to congratulate President-elect Obama on his electoral victory. He has spoken consistently to the need for America to constructively reengage, to address threats and resolve conflicts diplomatically, and to prioritize comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace-making.

In a recent policy speech, Obama stated:

Real security can only come through lasting peace and that is why we, as friends of Israel, must resolve to do all we can to help Israel and its neighbors to achieve it... As President I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states... I will take an active role and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration.

This is a deeply encouraging sign of the new President’s intentions. The last eight years of diplomatic neglect have demonstrated the dangers in failing to be genuinely involved with the search for peace. The credibility of all those involved with peace efforts has been badly diminished, and massive Israeli settlement expansion – silently condoned by the Bush Administration – has done very real damage to the possibility of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state. The Obama Administration has a real chance to establish a just, durable two-state solution; it is crucial that Obama act on his stated desire to start the process in the very beginning of his administration.

Brit Tzedek’s 40,000 activists will play a vital role in seeing to it that he does so. Brit Tzedek will immediately step up our Time to Choose Peace campaign with the new Congress and administration now elected.

We have already played a significant role in setting the tone that allowed Candidate Obama to make the statements he did on the campaign trail. Brit Tzedek has helped move Congress to a greater understanding of the strategic importance of peace for Israel’s future security, we have contributed to the sea-change in the discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among Americans generally, and the Jewish community in particular. We have provided crucial information to the media-consuming public, and a solid base of support for those politicians willing to speak the simple truth.

Perhaps the clearest sign of our impact came during our first meeting with the Obama campaign, when one of Senator Obama’s key Middle East advisors stated that Senator Obama believes that “there is more than one way to be pro-Israel,” quoting Brit Tzedek’s slogan verbatim that we unveiled during our first year.

As we have throughout this long campaign season, we will continue to bring our message directly to the new Administration. We will build on relationships we cultivated during the election campaign and those inside our camp who are likely to have positions within or close relationships with members of the administration. We will put to good use the many techniques we have honed over the years in order to amplify the voice of the grassroots, so that it may be heard in the Oval Office.

For President-elect Obama to be able to succeed where others have failed, Brit Tzedek will have to redouble our organizing efforts among American Jews, and build a groundswell of organized support nationwide.

The Obama campaign proved the importance the importance the grassroots has in making a powerful difference.  With your help, we will speak loudly and with one voice.  Please join us in welcoming a new Administration. As President-elect Obama plans his transition and moves into the Oval Office, we are committed to make our voices heard.

Israeli-Palestinian peace cannot happen without us. We will have to work hard, and without hesitation.  But it most certainly can happen.

Once again, our warm congratulations to President-elect Obama and to the new and reelected members of Congress.


Diane Balser is Interim Executive Director of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.  She is a Jewish leader and activist on the issues of Israeli-Palestinian peace and women’s rights. A leading member of Brit Tzedek since its inception, Dr. Balser has served in a number of capacities and was one of Brit Tzedek’s representatives at the 2003 signing of the Geneva Accords. She has been
instrumental in developing strong ties between Brit Tzedek and public policy leaders.

Dr. Balser has also worked on Middle East peace issues with the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council and the Boston chapter of the Workmen’s Circle, and has further served as a consultant and trainer for Hadassah, ORT and the Israeli Women’s Network. In 2002, she was a delegate to the World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa.

In 1996, Dr. Balser joined the faculty of Boston University, where she teaches in the Women’s Studies Department. She was received her doctorate in Philosophy in Sociology from Brandeis University in 1983.

Steve Masters is President of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. As President, Mr. Masters has led Brit Tzedek’s efforts to advance the cause of a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, spearheading advocacy efforts in the offices of U.S. Senators and Congress members, speaking and writing extensively on the issues, and further extending Brit Tzedek’s impact on the public and political discourse surrounding the conflict. In 2003, he attended the signing of the Geneva Accord, representing Brit Tzedek. This event and the role Brit Tzedek played in it were subsequently featured in the PBS documentary “Passionate Voices: American Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

Mr. Masters earned his B.A. in Political Science from Yale University and his J.D. from Boston University School of Law. His law practice has included work as a poverty lawyer, union-side labor lawyer, and legislative attorney for the Philadelphia City Council. While living in Israel during the mid-1980’s, he volunteered with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and lectured on Zionism and Middle East peace issues for the Moshe Sharrett Institute of the World Labor Zionist Movement.  Mr. Masters has also served on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council, as well as the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Jewish Labor Committee.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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