Who is Jerome M. Segal?
Policy Analyst, Conflict-Resolution Practitioner, Peace Activist, Philosopher
I was born in the Bronx in 1943. My parents were democratic socialists. My dad, Anshel, was an immigrant, a Jewish political activist, and union organizer who in his early twenties had been an elected official in his village in Poland. In America, he made his living in the garment industry as a blue-collar worker, traveling the New York City subways to “the shop” in Brooklyn six days a week. It was quite a dislocation, as he had come from a distinguished line of Rabbis.
As a child, my parents decided that after school, five days a week, I would attend the local Workmen's Circle shule, a Jewish school focused on Yiddish and Jewish culture. Most of us kids in the shule would have rather been out playing. I've forgotten much of what I learned there, but at age 10, we did all enjoy reading Sholem Aleichem stories in the original Yiddish.
I loved my summers, especially those in which I lived with my aunts at a cooperative community about 40 miles north of New York City. My mother's older sister, Etta, was a friend of socialist leader Norman Thomas. For years he visited the community to deliver the Labor Day speech. When I made my first trip to Europe, I traveled on a Yugoslavian freighter. Etta had insisted that I carry a letter of introduction to European heads of state from Thomas. Of course, I never used it. I was nineteen.
I went to the Bronx High School of Science and then to The City College of New York, where I did a double major in economics and philosophy, graduating with honors and awards in both fields. In my senior year, I was powerfully struck by a book by John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society, and it became the topic of my economics honors thesis. Galbraith argued that people who were well off reached a point at which having more money didn't really add to their happiness. He saw American consumers as on a hampster wheel, running faster and faster, but not going anywhere. Years later I would return to such issues in my own book: Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream.
In those days, there was no tuition at City College, and I lived at home with my parents and three sisters. After graduating from "City," I went on to graduate school in philosophy at the University of Michigan. But that summer after graduating, in search of adventure, or perhaps something more complex, I decided to hitchhike across America. I made it as far as Omaha, Nebraska, where I purchased my first car, a 1956 Chevy.
In the fall of 1964, I arrived in Ann Arbor to begin my studies. It was terrific; philosophy was to be my life choice. But when the first of America's teach-ins on the Vietnam War occurred on the Michigan campus in the spring of 1965, my life was turned upside down. I was drawn into a life of political engagement that has taken many forms, but has endured for the last 52 years.
After much anti-war protest activity and an effort at community organizing in the African-American neighborhoods of Cairo, Illinois, I became involved in electoral politics. One of my professors, Arnold Kaufmann was working with Allard Lowenstein and other Democratic Party activists to find an anti-war candidate who would challenge President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 Democratic Primaries. Professor Kaufmann asked me to put together a report on the voting record of a Senator from Minnesota named Gene McCarthy. After McCarthy declared his candidacy, I worked on his campaign, and will never forget that evening in Milwaukee, on the eve of the Wisconsin Primary, when President Johnson announced that he would not be running for re-election. When Bobby Kennedy enter the race, I found his the more inspiring candidacy and worked on his campaign up until his assassination that summer. In the 1968 Presidential election, faced with a choice between Vice President Hubert Humphrey (who supported the war) and Richard Nixon, I voted for Dick Gregory, the comedian and civil rights activist who ran as an Independent.
In September 1968, not yet having finished my doctorate, and not yet 25, I was hired to teach in the Philosophy Department of the University of Pennsylvania. I taught highly popular courses in Existentialism and Philosophy of Education but came into conflict with the University’s administration when in my Philosophy of Education course, (in the spirit of the 60's) I announced that I would not engage in "competitive grading.” Students were to either register "pass-fail" or accept a set "C" grade given for basic participation. Many students from the University's Wharton Business School who had registered for the course, dropped it. Donald Trump, who graduated from Wharton in 1968, was not one of my students. Sad. In 1972, I decided to leave my academic career in Philosophy, in search of a more politically-engaged endeavor.
In 1974-75, having completed my doctorate with a thesis on “Human Agency and Alienation,” I enrolled in a Master's degree program in Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The University kindly awarded me a Post-graduate fellowship in Evaluation Methodology focused on assessing the efficacy of government programs. One thing led to another, and in the summer of '75, I went to Washington to join the staff of Congressman Donald M. Fraser (D. - Minnesota).
Coming from more radical political activity only a few years earlier, I was a bit amazed to find myself working for the Congress. I quickly found other young staffers having a similar experience. Together we founded, The Congressional Staff Caucus, an organization, we solemnly proclaimed, "dedicated to the re-distribution of income, wealth and power in the United States."
I worked for Congressman Fraser in Washington and then at the United Nations, where Fraser was part of the US Delegation in the fall of 1975. It was the session in which the UN General Assembly enacted the infamous "Zionist is a Form of Racism" resolution.
At the UN I worked closely with civil rights leader Clarence Mitchell who for decades had represented the NAACP in Washington. I worked on developing a major policy speech on South Africa that was to be delivered by Mitchell who, like Fraser, was also a member of the US Delegation. The speech that emerged was an unusually strong attack on apartheid by an US representative, and had to be cleared by Secretary of State Kissinger. This became the first American speech in a decade to be re-printed as a UN Document, and it was cited by then US Ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan as one of the highlights of his tenure as Ambassador. In D.C.
I continued to work for Congressman Fraser over the next several years; my portfolio covered domestic and foreign policy issues, including those of nuclear proliferation. Most astonishingly, in those days there was a proposal (which we vigorously worked against) to privatize the U.S. government's uranium enrichment program. It was to be turned over to an international consortium headed by the Bechtel Corporation, and this, it was expected, would include the Government of Iran, still under the Shah. We helped thwart this madness.
During my last two years on the Hill, Congressman Fraser was appointed to the House Budget Committee, and I worked with him to establish a Budget Committee Task Force on the Distributive Impact of Budget and Economic Policies. I became the Administrator of the Task Force, and among the most interesting of the Congressional hearings we held was a two-day inquiry into the distribution of wealth in the United States, a topic few talked about in those days.
In this position, I authored a staff report published by the Budget Committee, entitled: "Changing the Pattern of Unemployment: The Potential of Humphrey-Hawkins." The report focused on the importance to America of altering, not just the overall level of unemployment, but also the pattern of unemployment, especially the fact that it falls most heavily upon African-Americans. I argued that unemployment is often the predictable price we pay for policies we use to control inflation, and that this burden of deliberate efforts to cool down the economy should be both softened and more equitably shared. The report built on a new legislative provision in the Humphrey-Hawkins Act (Public Law 95-523) which set as national policy the objective of reducing,
"those differences between the rates of unemployment among youth, women, minorities, handicapped persons, veterans, middle-aged and older persons, and other labor force groups and the overall rate of unemployment. . ."
I played a role in getting this provision into the law. It has never been implemented.
In January 1979, after Fraser lost his bid to gain the Democratic nomination for the US Senate from Minnesota, I took a position at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), where I worked in the Central Policy Bureau as the Coordinator for the Near East. This was still during the Carter Administration, and my central role was to promote the implementation of the "New Directions" legislation in US-funded development strategies and projects in the Middle East. Fraser had been a primary author of the New Directions legislation, a remarkable new law that called for shifting the orientation of US foreign aid toward fighting poverty by directly dealing with unmet basic needs, promoting the participation of the poor in decision-making, women's rights, and protection of the environment.
When Ronald Reagan was elected President in November 1980, even before his people took over at the Agency, the bureaucracy started moving away from the New Direction approach, even though it was built into the law governing our foreign aid programs. I found myself digging in, yet at the same time wondering if I would want to remain working for the government. As a civil servant, my position was secure.
Then, early in the Reagan Presidency, in support of Reagan's decision to back the right-wing dictatorship in El Salvador, the State Department issued a document called "The White Paper on El Salvador." It claimed to show, from captured documents, that the revolt against the dictatorship was really an effort by the Soviet Union to penetrate the Western Hemisphere. This term "White Paper" set off bells. I had heard it only once before, and that was in 1965, when the State Department tried to show that the struggle in South Vietnam was really aggression by a foreign communist country against a neighboring people. I remembered how important to the anti-war effort was a rebuttal by the independent journalist, I.F. Stone. I thought that if he were alive, he would be taking on this new "white paper." The State Department had made translations of the captured documents available to the public. I got a copy, studied them carefully, and came to a startling conclusion: The documents themselves showed just the opposite, that the El Salvador rebels, when they went to the Soviet Union for support, got a brush off. I put this into an op-ed piece, and then following regulations, sent it to the Agency's legal department for "clearance" to publish it. I was told that "it shoots down policy" and that clearance was denied. I turned to the ACLU, and faced with a major court battle, AID reversed course and gave me permission to publish my piece. It ran in the Washington Star. A few weeks later, I got a call from a man I thought had died years before. It was I.F. Stone himself, asking if he could cite my piece, when he spoke to The Washington Press Club and critiqued the mainstream press for its inadequate coverage of Reagan Administration policy. Tears still come to my eyes when I remember that phone call.
In 1982, when Israel, led by Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, invaded Lebanon in an effort to wipe out the PLO, I saw it as an unnecessary war that was driven by an ideological determination to forever maintain Israeli control over the West Bank. In Israel, many on the left were protesting, and with a small handful of others, including Marc Raskin (father of my present Congressman, Jamie Raskin) I helped to organize an ad hoc group called “Washington Area Jews Opposed to Israel's Invasion of Lebanon.” We regularly held Jewish demonstrations in front of the Israeli embassy. This was before the terrible atrocities at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, at which hundreds of Palestinians were executed by the Lebanese Phalange, whose actions were facilitated by Israeli troops under Ariel Sharon, and for which Sharon was forced to resign as Defense Minister. Subsequently our ad hoc group became “Washington Area Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” and in 1987, I represented this organization as part of the first American Jewish delegation to travel to Tunis and open dialogue with Arafat and other leaders of the PLO. In Tunis, I pressed upon Arafat the importance of ending any involvement in terrorism. When we returned we had meetings with key people in the White House and the State Department, who were not allowed direct contact with the PLO. We told them that Arafat had told us that he was looking for an Israeli partner to try to end the conflict.
In March of 1988 there were not many American Jews calling for Palestinian statehood, and almost none who had engaged with the PLO. With this background, I was invited by Senator James Abourezk to be a keynote speaker at the convention of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. I think I startled my hosts, when I delivered a hard-hitting address entitled, "The PLO Must Address the Terrorism Issue." Senator Abourezk (jokingly) later told me that he almost pulled me off the stage. A few weeks later, I arranged to have this essay published in the Arabic version of the Palestinian paper, al Fajr. It was the first time the Palestinian press had carried an in-depth analysis and criticism of Palestinian terrorism, and how it was undermining the Palestinian cause. The Voice of America broadcast a story about the essay and its publication.
Shortly thereafter, as the First Intifada was in its fifth month, I took up the broader question of whether the Palestinians had a viable strategy for achieving independence. Writing in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, I proposed that the Palestinians adopt a strategic approach I call "unilateral peace-making," -- I proposed a series of bold steps, starting with a unilateral Declaration of Independence proclaiming the State of Palestine, followed by a law forbidding acts of terrorism, the dissolution of the PLO, the announcement of peace with Israel, and sending a Palestinian Ambassador to Israel. The article was the catalyst for much Palestinian debate in the territories. It was reprinted in The Washington Post, and entered into The Congressional Record. William Quandt, Jimmy Carter's former Senior Advisor for the Middle East on the NSC, arranged for me to present my ideas at the Brookings Institute. Two people who subsequently became major "peace process" players, Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, attended my presentation.
Subsequently, I expanded this "unilateral peace making" approach into a book: Creating the Palestinian State - A Strategy for Peace, the manuscript of which I gave to Arafat in August 1988. In November of that year, the PLO did, in fact, issue a Declaration of Independence, one that unilaterally accepted the legitimacy of the 1947 UN Partition Resolution which had called for two-states, "one Arab and one Jewish." Only recently, in John Kerry's final speech as Secretary of State, did the US Government acknowledge the significance of this 1988 Declaration. It remains one of the big missed opportunities to resolve the conflict.
In the months leading up to the Declaration, I played a back-channel role between the PLO and the State Department in an effort to get the PLO to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist. In this I worked closely with former Senator George McGovern, and coordinated with former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban. In part because of this activity, I resigned from USAID, (my office was in the State Department building) and took a position at the University of Maryland's Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, where I remained active for over twenty years.
In 1989, I decided to form a new Jewish organization, one that would challenge AIPAC's claim to represent the views of American Jews when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I expected to face efforts at de-legitimization, and made it a condition of going forward that I find 50 rabbis who would join me. To my surprise this was not difficult. We called it The Jewish Peace Lobby (JPL), and it came to have 5,000 members including 400 Rabbis. It was a pre-cursor to J Street, which came 18 years later, in a much more hospitable environment. JPL endures into the present, and its 25 Year Report is available at: www.Jewishpeacelobby.org. In the months prior to the 2000 Camp David Summit, JPL stunned many observers with a call for sharing Jerusalem between the two states; it was signed by 300 rabbis. In its legislative efforts JPL succeeded in getting the US to start a program of grants for people-to-people, cooperative Israeli-Palestinian projects. This program, first called "The Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation Project," (PIC), endured under various names, and exists today, providing $10 million a year for grassroots peace-building efforts.
In pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace on Capital Hill, it proved nearly impossible to find any members of Congress willing to stand up to AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affair Committee, which, to this day, is the dominant force in Washington when it comes to anything bearing on Israel. At the time, Congressman Lee Hamilton, who chaired the Subcommittee on the Middle East of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, did agree to co-sponsor a Congressional Resolution I authored. It called on the PLO to end all terrorism, on the Arab States to abandon the secondary boycott of Israel, and on Israel to halt settlement expansion. Congressman Hamilton had one condition: I had to find nine other members to join him as co-sponsors. I never found them.
Gradually JPL turned away from Congress and shifted more directly towards the conflict itself, focusing on innovative policy development and direct contact with the Israeli Government, the PLO, and the Executive Branch of the US Government.
In 2000, with support from the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the US Institute of Peace, I published, with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, Negotiating Jerusalem. This book was, and remains, the most comprehensive inquiry into the values and attitudes of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples on the question of Jerusalem. The core research of the work was a major news story in The Washington Post and received coverage in The New York Times, and Israeli and Palestinian papers. Our research showed that when "Jerusalem" is disaggregated into the component parts of the city, the "Jerusalem Question" is revealed to be far more open to a negotiated solution than had been previously understood. This information underpinned the willingness of Israeli Prime Minister Barak at Camp David, in the summer of 2000, and at the subsequent negotiations in Taba, to consider a division of Jerusalem along the lines of President Bill Clinton's parameter: What is Jewish will be Israeli, what is Arab will be Palestinian. At the request of the Clinton White House, I prepared material that was included in President Clinton's briefing book for the Camp David negotiations, and which the President cited during the negotiations.
Around that time, still at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, I returned to my longstanding interest in the place of the economic realm within “the good life.” In 1999, I published Graceful Simplicity: Towards a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living (1999). The book was an effort to move the simple-living movement from its “how-to/self-help” orientation towards a broad public-policy approach that takes as a central goal, making the US economy a “user-friendly” environment for Americans with a different American Dream, one in which they achieve vital lives with modest levels of consumption and increased leisure time. I put forward a new paradigm that challenged main-steam economics in answering the question: "What is an economy for, anyhow?" Reaching back to Aristotle, I argued that all thinking about economic policy must be grounded in a conception of the good life, and further, that the good life of “The American Dream” has always meant something more than “getting and spending.”
A second project of Graceful Simplicity was to argue for the importance of beauty in any adequate conception of the good life and the good society. I argued that we have a vital need for beauty in our lives, both as consumers and creators, and that an enriched aesthetic sense on the part of American consumers, is central to creating demand for work-products and thus, jobs, that draw upon the creative abilities of American beauty-creators. By "beauty" I mean much more than fine art. Beauty, potentially, can be everywhere. It can be in good bread, a tossed salad, or a front lawn. It can be in a shopkeeper's arrangement of fruits and vegetables, or in former President George Bush's paintings. It certainly is in our national parks, but could be in every urban environment in America. If we will it, we can have an American Renaissance. The book itself was a selection of The Book of the Month Club, and has the odd distinction of having been translated into both Danish and Chinese.
In Graceful Simplicity, as has Bernie Sanders more recently, I called for free higher education -- just as I had received at City College, 35 years before. In those days, as a teenager coming from the Bronx, I took it that "free college" was a right. I still do. My concern, however, is not just for young people and what I see as their right to a debt-free education, but also for parents, to free them from the need to plan ten or twenty years in advance for how their children can be guaranteed a quality education that will enable them to live vibrant and economically secure lives. We are the richest society in world history. We can do this for ourselves.
Around this time, I joined with others from around the country who had written about simple living, to establish The Simplicity Forum. With film-maker John de Graaf, I co-chaired the Forum's public policy committee, and we came up with the idea of Take Back Your Time Day, a day, modeled on Earth Day, that would focus of regaining control over time in our lives. TBYT Day is celebrated on many college campuses and has been adopted by several states. John went on to start the organization, Take Back Your Time, and I served on its board of directors. We were making considerable progress, until the Great Recession. According to economists it started with the explosion of the housing bubble, and lasted 19 months, from December 2007 until June 2009. 19 months? Don't believe it. In truth it was a staggering blow to American self-confidence, one from which we have not yet recovered.
I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, been here for thirty years, and in the 1990’s, following the birth of my son, my family joined Fabrangen Cheder, a local cooperative Jewish group that provides Jewish education to its members’ children, often through, very necesary, self-education for the adults. That's what happened to me. For roughly ten years I served as the group’s primary Bible teacher in our Sunday morning classes. It drew me deeper and deeper into Bible-study. In 2002, the Penguin Group published a book I never imagined I'd write -- Joseph’s Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible. The book is an exploration of the Bible-as-literature, and Jack Miles, one of the giants in reading the Bible as literature, (he won the Pulitzer Prize in biography for God: A Biography), characterized it as “a work of stunning originality," saying that "nothing like it has been published in years." Miles is a brilliant scholar and writer, so this meant a lot.
In my discussion of Genesis, I offered a new analysis of the dialogue between God and Abraham when Abraham seeks to have God spare Sodom for the sake of the innocent that dwell in the evil city. Abraham, who I see as the central moral hero in the Bible story, makes this challenge to God:
Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? . . .Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of the earth deal justly? [Genesis 18:23-25]
Here Abraham asserts the centrality of the individual and the dignity of each human life, in any adequate concept of justice. It is the central pillar of morality and of any decent society. Amazingly, in the Bible, it is a human being who tells God that this is His true identity.
For many years, I have been strongly committed to the central importance of overcoming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a peace rooted in justice, as emphasized in Judaism’s prophetic tradition. I believe that through a just Israeli-Palestinian peace there can be not only a dialogue of civilizations, but also the emergence of a sense of an overarching Abrahamic connectedness that encompasses Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and thus some 56% of humankind. It seems to me that much of the conflict in the world today is not between “civilizations” but between competing branches within civilizations. I believe that an Israel committed to a peace based on justice, is an Israel that will fulfill the project of Abraham, and will give meaning to suffering that has been so much a part of the Jewish historical saga. I also believe that Jews should hold Israel to a higher standard than other nations.
I've always been very healthy, and then, out of the blue, in 2008, my skin started to look a bit yellow. My wife saw it first, but I didn't take it seriously until my racquetball partner said the same thing. Ten days later, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a disease with only a 5% survival rate. I underwent major surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. My surgeon was the world-famous John Cameron. Along with my gallbladder, part of my pancreas, and several other things, he removed 35 lymph nodes, finding that my cancer had spread to seven of them. I then underwent radiation and two different courses of chemotherapy, one of them an experimental treatment for which I moved to Seattle for seven weeks. I'm now a nine-year survivor. Knock on wood. I don't really know why my cancer hasn't returned, but all seems good. But with cancer, you never know. In all this, I've learned a great deal about medical care, both its problems and promise. I much believe in empowered patient-hood, and in the need for health policies that go well beyond the current focus on medical insurance. We are on the edge of a future of astonishing medical advances. They will transform the human experience, at least for those that have access to the health revolution that is coming. We must plan for this, making sure that the revolution-to-come will be of benefit to all.
As a conflict-resolution practitioner, now for some 30 years, I believe in meeting and dialoguing with anyone who will sit down with me. It's not that I don't make judgments, but I keep them to myself. Doctors and lawyers do the same thing. In 2006, following Hamas' victory in the Parliamentary Elections of the Palestinian Authority, and in the face of growing efforts by Fatah, the United States, and Israel, to deny Hamas the role in governing that it had won at the polls, I traveled to Gaza and met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the newly elected Prime Minister. I spoke with Haniyeh about further developing a Hamas commitment to abide by any peace treaty negotiated by PLO Chairman Abbas, provided that it was ratified by a referendum of the Palestinian people. Following that meeting, I transmitted to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Bush White House, a letter that Haniyeh drafted in the course of our meeting. In the letter to President Bush, the Hamas leader characterized himself as a "peace maker" and asked for an opportunity to be allowed to govern.
We are so concerned about stability and security in the area that we are prepared to establish a Palestinian State in the 1967 territories and to offer a truce for many years.
We are not war mongers. We are peace-makers, and we call on the American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government.
Unfortunately, this plea was ignored by the Bush Administration. I don't believe that Hamas offers any viable solutions for the Palestinians, and that if allowed to govern, they would have been swept from office in 2010. Unfortunately, a commitment to Palestinian democracy was not a priority for Fatah, the Israeli government, or the Bush Administration. None were willing to live with the results of the election. We will never know what might have been, but in my view, not allowing Hamas a chance at governing in 2006 was a fateful mistake, one that severely set back the chances of ending the conflict, and led to the devastation of the three Gaza wars between Israel and Hamas. In recent weeks, (Oct. 2017) former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who played a major role in freezing Hamas out of a chance to govern, has expressed his view that doing so was a mistake.
Over the last three decades, I've met with and conversed with many of the key players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This includes Yasser Arafat, President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and George Habash. It also includes Shimon Peres, Israeli President Ezer Weizman, former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, former head of Israel’s Security Force (Shin Bet) Ami Ayalon, and former National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, General Yaakov Amidror. I've worked collaboratively on peace initiatives with former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, and Former Chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. In 2014, General Yaakov Amidror and former Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor took part in several Track II meetings on “the 1948 issues” (i.e., Palestinian refugees, Jewish State) that I led in London. This past year, I've made it a focus to write essays published in Palestinian newspapers and directed at the Palestinian public. Over the years in addition to my books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I've written over one hundred op-eds and essays, a fair number of which appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. Almost all of these are what I call “peace prescriptions” -- innovative ideas for moving towards an end to the conflict.
In 2012, with three super-distinguished co-authors, former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, former European Union High Commissioner for Foreign Policy and International Security, Javier Solana, and Nobel Prize Winner, Thomas C. Schelling, I published in The New York Times, a peace proposal called "Going Directly to Israelis and Palestinians." The core idea is to focus on the two peoples rather than the PLO and the specific government of Israel. Modeled, in part, on the process that produced the historic UN Partition Resolution of 1947, the proposal calls for the UN to establish a Commission (UNSCOP-2) that would draft a fully detailed permanent status treaty, acceptable to the two peoples, which if agreed to by the two governments, would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN would not seek to impose this solution. Rather, this draft treaty would be put on the table, and the Israeli government and the PLO would be asked to negotiate for six months to see if they could agree on mutually acceptable improvements. After six months, each government would be called on to either accept the modified treaty or to put it to a referendum of its people. If either side agreed, and the original draft was acceptable to both peoples, the internal pressure on the remaining side to also say "yes" would be compelling. And if neither would agree, or if a referendum failed, then a moment of truth would have been attained, and conflict management rather than peace would become the focus of policy for a decade or more.
Now that President Trump has blown up the peace process with his effort to "take Jerusalem off the table" by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinians may adopt this UNSCOP-2 proposal, a step I have urged in two articles I published recently in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds.
Much of my current peace-policy work focuses on the Palestinian refugee issue, an issue that has not been prominent in the last 24 years of negotiations, but one which remains at the heart of the conflict. I have some radically new ideas on this, and have presented them to both the PLO leadership and important figures on the Israeli side, including top negotiators in the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as to the late Shimon Peres, and to senior figures in the Obama White House and the State Department.
I voted for Ben Cardin in 2006 and 2012. In the 2016 Presidential Primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders.
My present challenge to Senator Cardin (and AIPAC) in the June 2018 Democratic Primary emerged out of a growing awareness that Cardin is not who I thought he was. With respect to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, with relations with Iran, and now with American civil liberties, he is part of the problem. Though rooted in Israeli-Palestinian issues, this is not a one-issue campaign. It will discuss the full range of issues facing the United States, abroad and at home, especially about the need for new ways of thinking about the economy. It will be a campaign about Peace, Justice and American Renaissance. Though very much a campaign of ideas, it is a serious and determined effort to defeat Senator Cardin, and then, in November 2018, to be elected the next US Senator from Maryland.
For anyone interest in further information on my ideas and activities one might consult the following publications:
- The Twenty-Five Year Report of the Jewish Peace Lobby (www.Jewishpeacelobby.org)
- The 2016 Annual Report of the Jewish Peace Lobby (www.Jewishpeacelobby.org)
- Agency and Alienation: A Theory of Human Presence
- Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream
- Joseph's Bones: Understanding the Conflict Between God and Mankind in the Bible
- Negotiating Jerusalem
- Creating the Palestinian State: A Strategy for Peace
- Agency, Illusion, and Well-Being: Essays in Moral Psychology and Philosophical Economics
My Policy Objectives
- A Guaranteed Job or Guaranteed Retraining for all who are able to work. A legally enforceable right to one or the other. This is the fundamental plank, more transformative, if we achieve it, than all else.
- The Right to a Childhood Without Fear: Restoring sanity in setting limits to private weapons ownership. Transforming our most crime-ridden cities, where America's least advantaged children are 24/7 in a shooting gallery. A Marshall Plan for Baltimore. Building a Wealth-Stake in Poor Neighborhoods through Home Ownership by Those at the Bottom. Rethinking Imprisonment. Using inner-city creativity and energy to bring beauty to the mean streets of America. Immediate: Two Months of Safety = Sleep-away camp for the kids in our worst cities.
- A Living Wage and a Livable Work-life: A $15/hour minimum wage, or retraining, supplemented by the earned income tax credit. Putting shorter hours back on the national agenda, after an 80 year hiatus. Expanding leisure. Slowing down.
- Free higher education in all public colleges (just as I had at City College of New York). Untying education spending from personal earnings. Free public childcare as well. Education for simple living. Learning how to be happy without being rich, without having to have more than the other guy. Accessing, through education, the wealth that we have by virtue of inheriting the works of Shakespeare, Robert Frost, and Jane Austin. This means schools in which each and every student loves to read and learns how to be “value added” to the world.
- Medicare Option for All: To address, immediately, the needs of those who cannot access or afford decent health insurance from the private sector. Enhancing Medicare to cover long-term care, and gradual premium-elimination funded through tax reform, thus, untying health care from personal earnings. It also means Medicare that will be forward-looking as we transition into the health care revolution that is just beginning, one that will ultimately explode the life-span and transform the human condition.
- Take Back Your Time: Worker Liberation—The right of every person to determine how much time they will put up for sale to the so-called “job creators.” Paid time-off, paid sick leave, paid family leave, paid vacation time -- minimum total of 30 days a year. Returning to the traditional Labor Agenda of a Shorter Work Week and a Short Work Day. Lowering the need for money by making America a truly efficient society in which basic needs can be met with modest incomes. Education of all young people in start-up. Becoming your own non-profit, as we all become our own “job creators."
- And Beauty for All: Equal access to America’s natural and human-made beauty. Protecting the environment for the next generation. Urban Renaissance. A recognition of the unappreciated role of beauty and creativity, both in economic development and as an essential part of the good life. Creativity classes in our schools. Arts for the elderly. Funding the humanities. Not just bread, but good bread, and New York style bagels too.
- Foreign Affairs: De-escalation in Korea. De-escalation in our relations with Iran; letting the ink dry on the nuclear deal. An even-handed policy in pursuit of a just Israeli-Palestinian peace, and making full use of the US role on the UN Security Council to do so. Values-based foreign policy. Building international structures of law and robust mechanisms of humanitarian intervention under the United Nations. Recognition of a legal right to boycott. Increased economic development assistance directed at the poor majority through basic human needs development strategies. And really, really, meaning it when we say: Never Again -- Not To Anyone -- Not Anywhere.
What This Campaign Is About
This campaign is about winning in June. The window for a Republican Candidate to enter their primary closed February 27th. There will be no Republican powerhouse on the ballot in November. The June Primary, only open to Democratic voters, will pick Maryland's next Senator. This campaign is about my defeating Ben Cardin, a sitting Senator, who has been an elected official for 50 years.
There are two aspects to this challenge, one having to do with foreign affairs and the other with domestic policy, except the foreign/domestic distinction tends to ignore the powerful linkages. The Iraq war cost the United States around $2 trillion, that's enough to have eliminated tuition at every public college in the United States for 20 years. Just the interest payments on this $2 trillion increase in the national debt, at 3% a year, comes to $60 billion a year. And ask this: If we go to war with Iran, as in Vietnam, from which social class do our soldiers come? Not the top 1%.
I'm regularly told, "You can't win in Maryland on foreign policy." That's correct, but misplaced advice. I don't intend to. As is clear above, my campaign is focused on the core issues of American life: work, time and money. That said, let me make two points about what it is to be a Senator. First, Senators are the Constitutional check on run-away war-power by any President. One of the greatest tragedies of American history was that this power was not exercised under both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, both of whom led tens of thousands of American boys and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese men, women and children to their pointless deaths because neither wanted to be "the first American President to lose a war." And the utter bungling of George W. Bush's ill-conceived invasion of Iraq exacted a price on the world that is still accumulating.
Secondly, about being a Senator, the truth of the matter is that all liberal Democrats basically vote the same (with a few exceptions such as Ben Cardin on the Iran nuclear deal). And almost all provide good constituent service and watch after the special needs of their state. What really matters is the focused area where the Senator carves out his or her influence and expertise, and becomes a leader for other Senators. For Ben Cardin, that just happens to be in Foreign Affairs, and most centrally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. My own area of expertise. And Ben Cardin has made himself part of the problem, and whether it is the priority of Marylanders or not, it is here that replacing him will have the greatest impact for good.
I address this at length in other parts of this website. Here are the main points:
1. Cardin is a vehicle of AIPAC, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, only second to the NRA in its influence over Congress. AIPAC carries the agenda of Bibi Netanyahu, for Israel and, unfortunately, too often for the United States as well. Twenty-nine years ago, I founded the Jewish Peace Lobby (www.Jewishpeacelobby.org) as an alternative vision of what it means to be pro-Israeli. This campaign is the first time we, or anyone, has challenged AIPAC electorally, and challenged their tight grip on Congressional action on all things directly or indirectly related to Israel.
2. AIPAC/Cardin defends and shelters the aggressive settlement activity of the current Israeli government. This is destroying the possibility of the two-state solution, and thus, necessitates an Israeli choice between being a Jewish state or being a democracy. It is clear that democracy is losing in that contest. This is a heart breaking tragedy, and must be fought with all we have got.
3. Secondly, Cardin, again aligned with AIPAC, joined with all 54 Republican Senators in opposing the Iran Nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration. President Obama told us that the choice was either between the nuclear deal or the use of force against Iran. Bibi wanted an American attack. John Kerry confirmed this publicly a month ago. In effect, Ben Cardin voted for war against Iran. Anything he says to the contrary is BS.
4. Cardin, in his blank-check support of any Israeli government policy introduced legislation that would felonize (up to 20 years in jail) any American who joined and supported a boycott of the Israeli settlements, if that boycott was called by the United Nations or any of our European allies. The ACLU has condemned this as un-Constitutional, as has my excellent Congressman, Jamie Raskin, formerly a Professor of Constitutional Law.
Further, I join the Congressional Black Caucus in calling on Israel to halt the deportation of African refugees seeking asylum in Israel. Of course, Israel has to have control of its borders, but as a country that calls itself the Nation State of the Jewish People, Israel must be true to our people's historical experience. We must remember Exodus 22:21 "And a stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt."
I am running against Cardin from the left. My campaign banner is Bread and Roses, the banner carried by women textile workers in their historic strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912.
Bread basically means A Decent Society, one in which basic human needs are met, even for the poor. Roughly speaking this is Bernie Sanders. I support the goals of Bernie's agenda, and most of his policy positions. If elected, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Jerome Segal will form a solid tripod, to which I will add my strengths and benefit from theirs.
Roses means something else. Something not attained through higher pay. It speaks to the more complex needs of people, even beaten-down immigrant workers in 1912. It is about our deeper need for beauty and meaning, about having time for life itself, time for being with old friends, time for enjoying our children when they are very young, time for being with our parents as they age, or in a book club, or for playing racquetball with an old buddy, three times a week. It's what I call the Alternative American Dream. It is captured in the bumper sticker wisdom: Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time at the office. My campaign offers something new to progressive politics. It offer a policy agenda for Roses, one I developed in my book: Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream.
I raise the most basic question of public policy: What is an economy for, anyway? My answer is this: To give us all a material platform that satisfies core needs with enough time and energy left over to allow us to turn away from the economic realm and to do those things that are most important in life, each according to his and her own drummer.
I CAN WIN
The main question that hovers over this campaign is whether there is any, even remote possibility, that I can beat Cardin. If people believe it is possible, then funds, money and passion will pour in. So here is the basic point: Bernie got 34% of the Democratic vote when he ran against Hillary in Maryland. Today he is even more popular. This 34% is my starting point. I build from there. People voted for Hillary for all sorts of reasons that don't apply to Cardin (e.g. She is a woman and might have been our first woman President; As a Clinton she had long and strong relationships with the black community; She was viewed by many as one of the most highly qualified candidates the Democratic Party had ever fielded.)
And Cardin is vulnerable. The ACLU has come out forcefully against his anti-BDS legislation. Donald Trump has triggered an enormous response around the country and Bernie has shown that real change is possible. America is transforming as we speak. Ben Cardin is not a transformational figure. But if I am anything, that is who I am.
Cardin's vote on the Iran nuclear deal disqualifies him for leadership in the Democratic Party on Foreign Policy. That vote was a vote for an American attack on Iran, or at the very least, American support for an Israeli attack. But this was madness. We would never know whether a humiliated Iran, with the nuclear agreement destroyed and IAEA inspectors expelled, was then racing for nuclear weapons. American troops in Iran would be the next order of business, and that with no exit strategy. We have seen this horror movie before.
And how did Cardin come to be the point-man in the Senate for all this? Follow the money. AIPAC-related PACs give to everyone. In his last race as a Congressman in 2004, Cardin was number 432; he received $750. Two years later when he ran for the Senate he was number 2 in the country and received $420,000, enough to ensure his 44% to 41% victory in the key Democratic primary against black Congressman Kweisi Mfume. Enough said.
You must view the Bread and Roses video below. Tip: Get a handkerchief first.
Bread & Roses