Community Organizing for Peace

Aug 23, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

Last week, I wrote about two important events that signaled the Obama Administration's willingness to get serious about supporting Israel in working toward peace with the Palestinians. One was a meeting with Jewish leaders at the White House and the other was a major policy speech by Secretary Clinton, which included, among other matters, a very balanced and direct call for peace talks, with actions that both the Israelis and Palestinians should be encouraged to take. As to be expected, the naysaying voices on the more extreme right, which proclaim to desire peace but have yet to show they will support any of the difficult decisions needed to make that peace a potential reality, have been out in force telling American Jews that Obama is the most "hostile president to Israel in recent history," and that his policies are aimed at delegitimizing and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. I hope that the fear tactics won't work this time. We have spent the past eight years being scared into believing that peace is a nice dream but seemingly impossible to achieve. Don't let the fear tactics work this time! That is the reason, to some folks dismay, certain more extremist Jewish groups, who had an open invitation to the Bush White House, were not invited to last week's meeting. This president is interested in hearing many opinions, and there were many at the table, but thankfully he is not interested in listening to extreme voices, on either side, voices that only serve to promote a vision of perpetual conflict and distrust.

I am often asked what the average American, and specifically the American Jewish community, can do to support a vision of peace, a vision of reconciliation, and how we can support President Obama in this quest. The main action is to let the president know you support him, raise your voice and make your views known. Having spent the past decade advocating in different congressional districts for peace in the Middle East and other causes, I have found a similar response: our elected officials act when they hear from their constituents. It is a simple, yet oftentimes ignored profound truth. The voices for peace need to be really consistent in the mobilization effort and stay connected within the district and develop relationships with staffers and members. Another great way to raise a voice on this issue is to join with Brit Tzedek V'shalom's pledge, "We've Got Your Back Mr. President." You can view the pledge and sign on at The grassroots work that Brit Tzedek is doing is crucial to the peace effort, crucial to showing our elected officials that we do have the majority of the American Jewish community behind a two-state solution. Numbers matter. Add your voice!

From health care to energy to Middle East peace, the resistance from those who are interested in the status quo, for whatever reason, be it political, ideological, religious or misinformed fear, cannot be allowed to derail what is potentially an historical moment to bring the fundamental change our country and world needs and wants. Talk to your friends, stay informed, hold a house meeting, read lots of different news coverage, especially the Israeli press, and let your elected representatives, and the president, know that we are out here and ready to go the distance to reach our dreams. This is community organizing for peace! Dr. King taught us that change doesn't roll in on the backs of inevitability. We must straighten our backs and shoulder the change we desire.

This is the time in the Jewish calendar where we remember the horrible tragedies and the destruction we endured. One of the main causes of the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, according to the traditional rabbinic literature, was sinat chinam, senseless and baseless hatred and political infighting among the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. That caused destruction and exile 2000 years ago. Let us learn the lessons of the past and unify for the good of Israel, America, Palestine and the world.