Peace now rally (file)
Peace now rally (file)Flash 90

Moshe Phillips is a past board member of the American Zionist Movement and was a delegate to the most recent World Zionist Congress.

The decision by Americans for Peace Now to publicly endorse suspending U.S. military aid to Israel directly violates the promises it made in order to gain admittance to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. It’s time for the Conference to reconsider Peace Now’s status.

When Americans for Peace Now (APN) applied for membership in the Conference of Presidents in 1993, some Jewish organizations were wary. They wondered whether the controversial group would be loyal to the pro-Israel consensus that the Conference represents.

Every member-organization in the Conference is entitled to its own opinions, on Israel and everything else. At the same time, the Conference stands for certain bedrock principles that all its members must support.

That’s why extreme anti-Israel groups have never been admitted. J Street’s application was rejected. The anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace would never be welcomed. Neither would the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta.

Three of the Conference’s core principles are rejection of all Arab violence against Israel; support for an undivided Jerusalem under Israel’s sole control; and complete, unequivocal support for U.S. aid to Israel.

In their appeals to be admitted to the Conference, APN spokespeople repeatedly pledged that they would adhere to those positions.

“We are revolted by terrorism,” APN executive committee chair Shifra Bronznick insisted in a widely-circulated op-ed in March 1993.

But four years later, the official spokesman for APN’s parent body, the Peace Now movement in Israel, Mossy Raz, asserted that Palestinian Arab rock-throwing was “peaceful” and “legal” (even though rock-throwers have killed 16 people, including four Americans). Asked in that March 26, 1997 interview (with the news agency IMRA) if he defended rock-throwing at civilians, Raz responded, “Settlers are not civilians.”

Thus, in Peace Now’s view, it is legitimate for Arabs to try to stone, and therefore possibly murder, any Israeli who is a “settler,” that is, who lives beyond the old 1967 armistice line. That would include all Jewish residents of the Old City neighborhood of Jerusalem, as well as other sections of Israel’s capital, such as French Hill and Ramot.

Shifra Bronznick, in that same 1993 op-ed, wrote: “To assert that APN is at odds with the organized Jewish community on the issue of Jerusalem is false.” But in the years to follow, APN repeatedly took positions that were at odds with American Jewry on Jerusalem.

APN opposed the relocation of America’s embassy to Jerusalem. APN called U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “a grenade.” APN’s co-chair wrote an article opposing what she called “total Israeli hegemony” in Jerusalem. APN denounced the Jewish National Fund for developing the Jewish community in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. APN used the term “Judaization” to describe Jews living in some sections of Jerusalem. APN directly defied a Conference of Presidents policy to refrain from meeting PLO officials in the Orient House building in Jerusalem.

In 1993, when APN was seeking admittance to the Conference, APN officials repeatedly insisted that they fully supported the Conference’s position backing full U.S. aid to Israel.

APN’s then-president, Gail Pressburg, told The Forward that her organization “supported [U.S.] foreign aid to Israel.” Pressburg told the interviewer that she “denies that she has ever supported a cut in annual U.S. military and economic aid to Israel.” Pressburg further claimed that she resigned from another organization’s advisory council when that group “began advocating a cut in aid to Israel.”

And in her aforementioned 1993 op-ed, Shifra Bronzick emphasized that APN completely and unequivocally supported “[U.S.] aid to Israel.”

Yet in its May 9, 2024, APN declared: “Americans for Peace Now supports President Biden’s decision to cease sending offensive weapons to Israel…”

APN gained admittance to the Conference of Presidents. Its admittance was predicated on its declared support for the Conference’s positions on terrorism, Jerusalem, and U.S. aid to Israel. APN has now broken all three of those pledges.

Perhaps it is time to reopen the question with APN of whether it is qualified to be a member-organization of the Conference of Presidents.