- Co-founder and spokesman for the Israeli activist peace group Gush-Shalom, which boasts about its radical views, describing itself as "hard core," "militant," and "radical"
- Supports Palestinian "right of return"
- Works with International Solidarity Movement
- "Israelis and Palestinians are two manifestly unequal entities. There is a weak side and an enormously stronger one, oppressor and oppressed."
Adam Keller is an Israeli who is a co-founder and spokesperson for the Israeli activist peace group Gush-Shalom. His speaking style is non-combative. He mumbles softly and is earnest and clearly idealistic. His views seem balanced. He calls for people to “get rid of false myths” and to find the validity in the competing Palestinian-Israeli historical narratives. His group supports a two-state solution, a shared capital in Jerusalem, a return to the 1967 borders with some adjustments, and respect for both the Jewish and Palestinian national movements.
But Keller’s apparent balance and idealism are deceptive. He and Gush-Shalom are not moderates working to find compromise and to protect human life. Gush-Shalom has been described as a "radical left-wing organization," and its actions raised so much controversy that even Israel contemplated bringing legal action against the group in 2002. Gush-Shalom boasts about its radical views, describing itself as “hard core,” “militant,” and “radical.” Despite his call for a two-sided view of the conflict, Keller accepts the Palestinian narrative and maximal Palestinian demands, including a "right of return." His assessment of the Oslo years is no more even-handed. Oslo’s failure and the continuing violence are, in his view, entirely Israel's fault. Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and incitement are not on his radar screen; on those rare occasions when he does mention those realities, he justifies them as reactions to Israeli provocations. He works with the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) to obstruct Israel’s counter-terrorism measures. He has been prominent in the current refusnik movement, which earns him warm applause from peace-loving college audiences. In speeches he gave in the U.S. in September 2004, he depicted Ariel Sharon as the symbol of everything bad in Israeli policy, past and present. Consider some of his and Gush-Shalom’s positions:
“The Zionist movement accepted the [UN] Partition Plan . . . [but] Ben-Gurion never concealed his intention to expand. . . . That is why Israel’s Declaration of Independence did not define the state’s borders.” (Gush-Shalom, “80 Theses for a New Peace Camp”)
“[W]ith all the beautiful and positive aspects of the Zionist enterprise, a terrible injustice was done to the Palestinian people. This injustice, which peaked during the ‘Naqba,’ obliges us to assume responsibility and correct as much as possible." (Gush-Shalom, “80 Theses for a New Peace Camp”)
“Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of Palestinians praying in a mosque in 1994 is what triggered the Palestinians’ suicide bombing campaign.” (Adam Keller speech for the Honors Program at Cal State Fullerton, September 21 2004)
“Israelis and Palestinians are two manifestly unequal entities. There is a weak side and an enormously stronger one, oppressor and oppressed . . . [and] there is a poor Third World people who have been dispossessed and oppressed, given hope and put down again during these fifty-two years, who are striving with enormous persistence and unimaginable sacrifice for the right to be free in at least a fragment of their homeland.” (Adam Keller, “How We See Things,” The Ethical Spectacle, November 2000)
During the brief June 2003 ceasefire in the Palestinian Intifada, Keller said that there is “no clear victor. Considering the enormous discrepancy in economic and military power, such a result is an enormous tribute to Palestinian endurance and steadfastness.” (Adam Keller’s “View of the Road Map,” The Experiment Network, July 2 2003)
On the Security Fence: “But even if the Wall was complete, and this claim was true (that the barrier saved lives), does this justify the Wall? The question remains: does Israel have the right to sentence an entire people to a life of imprisonment,demanding security for itself, while holding the Palestinian people in the iron grip of occupation?” (Gush-Shalom website)
“I am very proud that we work alongside the ISM (the International Solidarity Campaign). We have tried very hard to block the deportation of ISM internationals.” (Adam Keller speech for the Honors Program at Cal State Fullerton, September 21 2004)
“Ariel Sharon cannot be trusted. . . . His Gaza pull-out plan is a way to expand the occupation.” (Adam Keller speech for the Honors Program at Cal State Fullerton, September 21 2004)
On Yasser Arafat: “We [Gush-Shalom] appreciate not only your place in history as the leader of the Palestinian National Movement, but also recognize you as the only Palestinian leader who can make peace with Israel.” (Keller and Gush-Shalom members during a support visit to Arafat on April 10, 2004 after PM Sharon threatened that Arafat was no more off-limits than Sheikh Yassin had been.)
Adam Keller was born in Tel Aviv in 1955, and by the time he was 14, he had become active in the peace movement. The short biography that he distributed on the Internet boasts that he “started out at a very young age to be the one who could overnight cover the whole of Tel-Aviv with peace graffiti.”
Keller was called up and served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in 1974, just after the Yom Kippur War. When he subsequently attended Tel Aviv University, he became deeply involved in student movements. He went on to become the spokesperson for the Shelley Peace Party (1980-83) and then for the Jewish-Arab Progressive List for Peace (1984-88). It was also in 1984 that he first became a refusnik because he objected to Israel’s war in Lebanon. His brief bio proudly reports that he served jail time for his refusal, and that he subsequently served other jail terms as well: in 1988 for painting 117 military tanks with graffiti that urged soldiers not to serve in the Territories, and again in 1990 when he severed contact with the IDF because he objected to the light sentence given to four soldiers who had killed a Palestinian. His other resistance activities included a 1986 meeting with PLO leaders in Rumania despite Israeli legislation that outlawed contacts with the PLO.
When the Oslo peace process began in 1993, Keller joined with left-of-center journalist Uri Avnery to form Gush-Shalom, “The Peace Block,” whose initial purpose was to resist the “repressive measures” of the Rabin government (Rabin had expelled 415 Islamic militants in late 1992). Distressed that other peace groups did not object to this action, Avnery and others formed Gush-Shalom.
Gush-Shalom’s primary goal was “to influence Israeli public opinion and lead it towards peace and conciliation with the Palestinian people, based on the following principles”: Israel’s return to the 1967 borders, a shared capital in Jerusalem, the principle of the right of return, acceptance of the PLO, and complete sovereign independence for the future Palestinian state. Keller and Gush-Shalom believed this should be the end-goal of Oslo, and strenuously criticized the Barak-Clinton plan because under its terms, the Palestinians would have to “end the conflict by relinquishing the Right of Return and the Return itself, accept complicated arrangements for East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount without achieving sovereignty over them; agree to large territorial annexations . . . and to an Israeli military presence in other large areas and to Israeli control over the borders separating the Palestinian state from the rest of the world.”
The outbreak of the Intifada did not surprise Keller or his group. “No Palestinian leader would ever sign such an agreement [the Camp David and Taba offers]," said Gush-Shalom.
Keller and Gush-Shalom believe that Israel alone sabotaged the Oslo Accords. The group issued a statement entitled “Who Is Violating the Agreements?” on January 28, 1998. The indictments were only against Israel. There was no mention of terrorism, of Arafat swelling his security forces far beyond the number allowed in signed agreements, of Arafat’s failure to arrest known terrorists, or of the 256 Jews who had been killed by terrorists during the Oslo years. The report did acknowledge that the Palestinian Authority (PA) could do a better job of controlling “incitement against Israel in the Palestinian media,” but quickly pointed out that Israel, too, was guilty of incitement: “The Netanyahu government gives free reign to Israelis who incite against Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.” Their evidence was that Netanyahu still referred to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” and to Arafat as “Chairman” instead of as “President,” which they (Keller and Gush-Shalom) deemed inciteful language. They also condemned the criticism of Arafat and of the PA that could be heard in the Knesset.
Keller and Gush-Shalom did not just try to sway Israeli public opinion. They also were activists. In 1998, they called for a boycott of all products from the Territories, and they continue to regularly update the names of each business and product. Keller “proudly” advised the European Union about which Israeli products were from the Territories so that they could be stripped of their favored tax status, in line with the European Union's new policy in 2001 to put pressure on Israeli settlements.
When the Intifada broke out in September 2000, the other Israeli peace camps began to change their views in the face of the terrorist campaign. Keller and Gush-Shalom did not share their disillusionment. Indeed, Keller and Gush-Shalom condemned the former peaceniks, arguing that their “convictions were shallow,” that they had “never performed a thorough revision of the Zionist ‘narrative,’ and criticized them for now believing that “the Palestinians had deceived” them and “that their [the Palestinians’] true purpose is to throw the Jews into the sea, as the Zionist right has always claimed.”
Instead of making them reconsider their analysis, the Intifada prompted Keller and Gush-Shalom to become more active. They insistently condemned Israel, but never condemned the PA and the terrorists. They condemned Israel’s counter-terrorism measures, and joined with the ISM to obstruct roadblocks, demonstrate at checkpoints, protest against the building of the security fence, demonstrate against house demolitions, and help Palestinians rebuild their demolished homes.
Gush-Shalom’s view and methods became extremely controversial among American Jewish groups and Israelis. When Gush-Shalom’s website portrayed Prime Minister Barak standing on the bleeding body of a Palestinian child in the early days of the Intifada, both the ADL and the ZOA vigorously protested. Gush-Shalom raised another storm of protest when, in a letter to IDF officers in August 2002, it warned that it was compiling a file of “war crimes” committed by the IDF that “is likely to be submitted as evidence in an Israeli court, or to an international war crimes tribunal” (Reported August 4 2002). Gush-Shalom threatened to submit Israeli Air Force officers’ names to the Hague for the killing of terrorist Salah Shehadeh.
Keller and his group tried to start a letter-writing campaign to Bill Gates, protesting a Microsoft billboard in Israel that read, “From the depth of Our Heart -- thanks to the IDF.” They call for the release of all Palestinian prisoners, and during Marwan Barghouti’s trial, they came to the courtroom to support him.
Keller’s and Gush-Shalom’s condemnations always concentrate on Israeli leaders, never on Palestinians leaders. Between January and February 2002, they even attacked the liberal Shimon Peres, holding six weekly “protest vigils” where they charged: “Peres, You are Partner to War Crimes” and “Peres, Resign NOW.”
While they criticized Israeli leaders, Keller and Gush-Shalom remained unswerving in their support of Yasser Arafat. They visited Arafat in his “besieged compound” in January 2002 to express their “solidarity” with him. In April 2004, they went on another visit of support to Arafat and reported saying to him: “We [Gush-Shalom] appreciate not only your place in history as the leader of the Palestinian National Movement, but also recognize you as the only Palestinian leader who can make peace with Israel.” They gave this support despite the fact that by the summer of 2004, Arab journalists were strongly condemning Arafat -- one newspaper called on him to “fall on his sword” for destroying Palestinian society and hopes for peace -- and even the Palestinian National Council was loudly calling for Arafat to relax his grip and allow for reforms.
Keller’s support for the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause led him to accept an invitation to a UN International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People in New York in September 2004. The Conference was one of the myriad programs and committees the UN has established to support the Palestinians.
Gush-Shalom also coordinates activities with other pro-Palestinian groups. It endorsed and took part in a “Peace Cycle Initiative” in August 2004, a bicycle ride in London sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Movement. Gush-Shalom’s statement was the only one featured on the website promoting the event: "With the inaction of the official organs of the international community towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gush Shalom sees The Peace Cycle initiative as filling a vacuum, encouraging us not to give up the struggle for a peace based on the Green Line as the border between Israel and Palestine -- in order to start living side by side -- as good neighbors."
Keller has also become prominent in the refusnik movement, and identifies himself as a “journalist/peace activist/refusnik.” He has been editor of The Other Israel-- (the "newsletter of the peace movement") since its founding in 1983; he contributes regularly to New Politics, a New York-based quarterly journal; and in 1987 he published his observations and analyses in the book Terrible Days: Social Divisions and Political Paradoxes in Israel.
This profile is adapted, with permission, from Stand4Facts.org.