The newly established Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, an advocacy group that opposes Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, has issued its support for pro-democracy demonstrators across the Middle East.

William Seaman, a co-founder and member of the Portland chapter, said that while this is a precarious moment for the region, it is also a hopeful one. With massive amounts of diplomatic and financial aid flowing to the Middle East, the United States wields tremendous sway in the region—and Seaman said it must exercise this influence carefully.

"Will there be support for the emergence of other kinds of political parties that reflect the diversity of Egyptian views?" Seaman asked. "Will the United States work in an even-handed fashion to support the emergence of these different political expressions in Egyptian society, or will it simply be a replay of the Mubarak regime?"

Seaman acknowledged that political change in Egypt holds great implications for Israel and Palestine, but said concerns about an Islamist takeover of the country are overblown. Jewish and Israeli commentators have in recent weeks expressed fears that political upheaval in Egypt could bring to power the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with close ties to Hamas. But Seaman characterized the Muslim Brotherhood as more moderate and mainstream than other Islamist parties in the region. Seaman says such worries distract from the larger discussion.

"The concern with the Muslim Brotherhood is being very cynically to stir up concern for what plays out in Egypt, when I think the Israeli government and the American government have a fear of genuine democracy in Egypt," Seaman said. "They fear that what the people of Egypt want may be at odds with what America or Israel wants."

For more information about the Portland chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, which launched earlier this month, email can be sent to