Peace Now Leaders in U.S. Respond to Statements by Partners in Israel

Leaders of the Peace Now movement in the United States say they fully understand the support for the Persian Gulf war expressed by prominent Israeli doves, but remain firm in their belief that only an ultimate settlement with the Palestinians will bring peace to Israel.

The American leaders were responding to statements Monday by four prominent Israeli writers and peace activists, who told a news conference in Tel Aviv that anti-war demonstrations in America and Europe amounted to appeasement of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

One of the Israeli participants, Yael Dayan, said, “Peace Now in Israel means war now.”

Another speaker, Yoram Kaniuk, was quoted as saying, “When I see peace movements demonstrating around the world — the movement I’m part of — I feel ashamed.”

In phone interviews on Tuesday, four leaders of Friends of Peace Now in Los Angeles and New York defended their past and present positions.

The strongest statement came from Stanley Sheinbaum, one of five American Jews who met with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat in Stockholm in December 1988.

“There is deep resentment by people like me and my colleagues in Peace Now, who are told because we don’t think that a military solution will work, we are for Saddam Hussein,” Sheinbaum said in Los Angeles.

“I understand that people in Israel, who live under real or imagined threats, are affected,” but “war will bring more instability to the region and increase the threat to Israel,” he said.

NO REGRETS

Asked whether he felt any regret for his past dialogue with the PLO, Sheinbaum responded heatedly. “Anyone who is ashamed of having been for peace ought to be ashamed of himself in general,” he said.

Jonathan Jacoby, national president of Friends of Peace Now, said in New York that there was unanimous agreement that Iraq must be defeated, but that “we must point to what the post-war scenario should look like.

“We are not pulling back at all from the position that the Palestinian problem must be resolved as soon as possible after the war.”

Like Jacoby, Ahavia Scheindlin, chair of the U.S. executive committee for Peace Now, expressed her full understanding for “the enormous pressure on Israel. The first priority is now survival. We support Israel’s course 100 percent.”

At the same time, she reaffirmed “with great fervor and passion” her continuing identification with the goal of Peace Now.

“The war hasn’t changed that one iota,” Scheindlin said. “Once the war is over, there will be a more fertile ground for peace with the Palestinians.”

Richard Gunther, a veteran Los Angeles community leader and peace activist, said he fully supported the war against Iraq as the top priority, but not without internal conflict.

“I marched with my children against the Vietnam war,” he said, but when he was asked to participate in the recent anti-war demonstration in San Francisco, he decided that “I couldn’t march in that parade.”

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