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Section 4: Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI)

Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI)

Timeline: 1919 to the present

Historical Context: PPI has its roots in the socialist Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair (HH) – “The Young Guard,” and its related adult organizations–Progressive Zionist League and Americans for Progressive Israel, together with two  entities formed in support of the agenda of the Israeli political party Ratz, known in English as the  “Movement for Civil Rights and Peace,” and famously headed by Shulamit Aloni.

HH began in Central and Eastern Europe.  It was a socialist-Zionist youth movement, with a  branch  formed in North America in the early-1920s.

Members of HH founded kibbutzim in Mandatory Palestine as early as 1919. In 1927, the four HH kibbutzim formed the Kibbutz Artzi [National] Federation, (which grew to 85 in the 1990s and later merged with the United Kibbutz Movement to comprise 275 kibbutzim today). The movement also founded a political party that shared the name HH, advocating a bi-national state with equality between Arabs and Jews.

In 1936, the HH party launched the Socialist League of Palestine, representing non-kibbutznik city and town dwellers that shared  HH politics. The Socialist League was the only Zionist political party within Palestine to accept Arab members as equals, and to support Arab rights and the call for a bi-national state.

In January 1948, shortly before Israel’s independence, HH and the Socialist League merged with another leftwing party, Achdut Avoda (“Unity of Labor”), to form Mapam, the United Workers Party of Israel. Mapam was Israel’s second largest party in the early 1950s, and the first major party to advocate negotiating directly with the Palestinians. In 1992, the Mapam, Ratz and Shinui (“Change”) parties  formed a single national electoral list, known as Meretz (“Energy”), and served as Yitzhak Rabin’s primary (and later, only) coalition partner.

Back in the US, in the 1950s,he Progressive Zionist League (created  by alumni of HH who did not make aliyah) formed an organization open to people who had not grown up in “the movement” — Americans for Progressive Israel (API).     In Nov. 1952, the PZL launched its monthly journal, Israel Horizons.  IH continued as the official publication of API, which took on the name of “Americans for Progressive Israel-Hashomer Hatzair” in 1955.

In  1997 American Friends of Ratz (which was formed to support the Israeli political party), the Education Fund for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace (an overlapping organization formed  to promote Ratz’s agenda, but not to support the party per se)  merged with API-HH to become “Meretz USA, for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace.” This merger was prompted by the parallel unification in Israel (also in 1997) of Mapam, Ratz and half of Shinui into a single political party, still called Meretz. In 2011,  Meretz USA changed its nameto Partners for Progressive Israel . Also in 2011, PPI discontinued its publication of Israel Horizons — then a quarterly, which it had taken over from API-HH — to focus more energy on the Web.

Brief Description: PPI and Hashomer Hatzair have a long history of activism for Israeli independence, the social welfare of Israelis, pro-Israel activism, and social justice issues affecting the Diaspora. Their members have been committed American Zionists since pre-Independence and some of their leaders have been influential and active both within the US and Israel. The organizations share a vision of a progressive Israel committed to social justice and human rights and encourage “partnership and collaboration between all Israelis and Americans who support a progressive Israel and Zionist movement.”

In 2004, Meretz USA, in cooperation with Ameinu, Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim-Dror, founded, funded and nurtured the Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ), a campus-based group that eventually became part of J Street as “J Street U.”

 Activism Strategy: PPI represents a progressive Zionist position on two-states in the many national and international organizations with which it is connected; it also seeks to encourage progressive Zionism through education and activism.

Membership/Chapters: PPI’s national office is in New York City, with board members and supporters in many places across the United States.  .

Activities: Educational activities include:

  • “The Israel Symposium”: An annual study tour of Israel and the Occupied Territories through which participants  meet key policy makers, social activists, and other stakeholders;
  • A blog discussing current issues;
  • Events featuring Israeli peace and social activists;
  •  ‘Intern in Israel’: a project that awards  stipends to young Americans volunteering with progressive Israeli NGOs ; and
  • Periodic policy statements on current events.

PPI activists promote organized demonstrations and an ongoing boycott of settler products. The group is affiliated with the American Zionist Movement, World Union of Meretz (WUM), an international association of like-minded left-Zionist groups, the Jewish National Fund of America, and the Jewish Labor Committee. PPI participates in elections for, and sends delegates to, the World Zionist Congress, where they are part of the left-leaning WUM faction.

Contributions: Many PPI members have made a lifelong commitment to dovish pro-Israel activism and are active in their organizational affiliates as well as in many other efforts to promote a progressive Israel.

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