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From the right: Current Democrats Abroad-Israel Chair Joanne Yaron; DA-Israel members Ari Miller and Hadass Tesher; DNC Chair Gov. Howard Dean; current DA-Israel Vice Chair Hillel Schenker; and current DA-Israel Counsel Adv. Sheldon Schorer.
Networking Central

Democrats Abroad Israel
Bridging the Gap between Israel and America
Israeli-Americans: The Hyphenated Citizens.

-- Joanne Yaron

Thousands of Americans who came to live in Israel in the early days during and immediately following the War of Independence in 1948, as well as many who came in the 50s and even the early 60s, made aliyah for purely ideological reasons: to build the land and to be Israelis. Many, perhaps most – including their children and often their children’s children -- did not think it proper that they should vote in U.S. elections despite the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975, amended in 1978 to improve procedures.

The urban folk, the Americans who came to live in Israel’s cities and attractive suburbs, mainly in or near Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, viewed it differently, and they --- particularly the Jerusalemites --- formed the backbone of Democrats Abroad-Israel’s establishment in 1976, and the controlling element until 2000.

Indeed, this worked well with one of the main tenets of Democrats Abroad (otherwise known as Democratic Party Committee Abroad – DPCA) -- a firm belief in the party’s "big tent" approach to ideas and the need for each branch, i.e., Country Committee, to have diverse membership expressing the various approaches and political solutions to issues on the table.

When it came to Israel, this meant having under one roof basically two very different ways of interpreting "what is good for Israel."

The 2004 presidential campaign tipped the scale. The "idealistic" Israelis of "American origin" responded to Democrats Abroad-Israel’s appeals, recognized the urgent need to vote against the continuation of the Bush administration, realized their potential power as American-Israelis and took back the hyphen.

They came in busses from all over the North to the tiny apartment of one of our members in Haifa who had volunteered to distribute and assist with completing the Registration & Request for Overseas Absentee Ballot Form and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The 500 copies of each document we had given to her did not last very long. Emergency additions had to be sent by taxi!

They came to Mike’s Pub in Tel Aviv where we set up a registration table and to the apartment of another volunteer in Tel Aviv, and to distribution points we had set up in various towns. Excitement and hope for change was in the air. More than 3,000 American-Israelis registered through DA-Israel and thousands more did so directly.

The ensuing loss of the election and the manner in which it occurred – Florida, the Supreme Court decision, etc. – was devasting.

But the change in Democrats Abroad-Israel took root. The big tent was now really in practice. The alternative view of "what’s good for Israel" was now on the table and indeed, at the head of the table. This enabled Democrats Abroad Israel to prepare and propose to an international Democrats Abroad conference in Heidelberg, Germany last March, an at the time quite forward looking resolution for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, co-sponsored with Democrats Abroad-France (copy attached below). It was well accepted, passed with flying colors and eventually presented with other resolutions to the DNC (Democratic National Committee) for consideration. While not much has been done with it in public by the various Democratic candidates for the nomination, it has had an impact on thought.

For DA-Israel the acceptance by its Executive Committee of the resolution was a turning point. It brought the group into direct engagement with the heart of being an American and an Israeli, with the unusual right to vote in two active democracies, and with an awareness of what has occurred in the U.S. these past seven years to weaken the U.S., to lessen its moral and democratic standing in the international community and the effect this has on Israel, the Middle East and the world as a whole.

The hyphenated American-Israeli is active now. Accepting of his/her need to vote and take a stand in U.S. federal elections, while in no way neglecting the need to be involved and to vote in Israeli elections.

Democrats Abroad-Israel and all Democrats Abroad branches are now launching the DA 2008 Global Presidential Primary campaign enabling its members the world over to vote in their countries of residence in the primary, rather than in their state primaries, particularly since many states do not hold them, or do not allow overseas citizens to vote in them. This means costly advertising locally all over the world.

DA can do this because it is an official part of the Democratic Party with the standing of a State Committee and 22 voting electors to the National Nominating Convention in Colorado in August 2008 and eight voting members of the DNC. This is in contrast to Republicans Abroad, which is not an official part of their party.

To participate in the Democrats Abroad Presidential Primary February 5-12, American citizens living abroad must join Democrats Abroad by January 31. For those among the readers of this article who are interested in more information, please see the explanation of the entire process here in Israel. And please tell your family and friends in Israel who are U.S. citizens to visit the website and to join and to vote by one of the methods offered: in person, internet, fax or regular mail.

And for those who wish to go one step further, please make a contribution of whatever amount you can, to Democrats Abroad. Democrats Abroad is allowed by law to accept donations only from U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

And one more request for action -- please tell a friend overseas to register vote in the upcoming primaries and general elections. If you have a website, place on your website a notice for Overseas American Citizens to register to vote using the online forms.

Joanne Yaron is chair of Democrats Abroad-Israel since September 2006. Before that she was Vice Chair for two years. She has been living in Israel since since the mid-1960s, and is one of the founders in 1978 of the first Rape Crisis Center. She is involved in local peace movements and left-of-center politics. Professionally Joanne works as a journalist, editor and copywriter. Joanne has an MA from the School of International Affairs, Specialty Middle East, Faculty of Political Science, Columbia University; and a BA in Journalism and Political Science, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. She lives in Ramat Gan with her Israeli spouse. They have two grown children and two young grandchildren.

The Vice Chair of DA-Israel is Hillel Schenker, who also moved to Israel in the mid-1960s. Hillel is co-editor of the Jerusalem-based independent English-language quarterly "Palestine-Israel Journal". Prior to that he was an editor of the Israeli monthly "New Outlook". Hillel is a co-founder of the Peace Now movement. He lives in Tel Aviv with his family.

Resolution calling for a proactive policy on the part of the United States of America for the renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

Proposed by Joanne Yaron, Chair, Democrats Abroad Israel, and by Susan Vaillant, holding Connie Borde, Democrats Abroad France chair’s proxy to the DPCA International Conference, Heidelberg, Germany, 16-18 March 2007

WHEREAS the Israeli-Palestinian long-term violent conflict has become one of the central problems in the Middle East , a dangerous situation that needs to be resolved for the sake of world peace and stability, and the peoples of the region;

WHEREAS we are encouraged by the numerous peace attempts and actions by the relevant parties and several of the leading Arab countries, and from such important achievements as the long standing 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and 1994 Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty, both concluded with the active facilitation of the United States of America;

WHEREAS the United States has already been proactively involved in such official and unofficial agreements, working papers and conference protocols as the 1991 Madrid Principles, 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, 2000 Camp David Summit, 2001 Clinton Parameters and the 2002 Road Map for Peace;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Democrats Abroad supports a plank in the Democratic Party platform to implement and renew with all judicious speed a proactive policy to be actively facilitated by the United States of America in close cooperation with other interested nations, the United Nations, the European Union as well as official representatives of Israelis and Palestinians who have been instrumental in working for peace in the region;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Democratic Party platform should promote the establishment of a Permanent Ambassador assisted by a team of researchers and negotiators as a resource, stationed in the Middle East, preferably in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and active in the development of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United States of America will develop in cooperation with other nations, a package of economic, social and political incentives as an integral part of its proactive policy, for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, with incentives to begin at a time certain to continue or be suspended based on benchmarks for progress;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that agreement by the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel to cease and desist all acts and rhetoric of violence and the development or expansion of settlements, and to publicly and mutually respect each other's rights to exist and recognize relevant prior agreements, will contribute to the execution of a treaty that respects international law, attested by neighboring states, thereby bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its long overdue peaceful conclusion."

Past Networking Central Groups of the Month

In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.

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