This has been a difficult, sad, and surprising week for many of us.
Tuesday’s results have challenged many of the values and morals we hold dear, and the incoming administration poses real threats to some of our most vulnerable communities.
Many on campus are hurting. Many are fearful. As we process our reactions and prepare for this new future, it is vital that we strengthen our community and support each other, and that we don’t lose sight of our goals.
For the Jewish community, that means standing up to the anti-semitism, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and hatred Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has encouraged and tolerated. It also means standing up for the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For the first time in history, an American administration that does not explicitly support a two-state solution will take office. The President-elect’s Israel advisors have released a statement full of promises to reject a two-state solution and take steps to seriously threaten its viability.
The two-state solution, and thus with it the promise for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians, is more at risk now than it has ever been. And those who want to destroy it—including some in Trump’s inner circles and some in the Israeli government—are using this chaotic moment in America as cover to expand their efforts.
On Nov. 15, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will decide whether to demolish the tent village of Susya and forcibly remove 100 Palestinians from their homes. Susya is located in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. Its 340 inhabitants live without running water or electricity in makeshift structures made of stones, old tires, and tarps.
The Palestinian population of Susya has repeatedly been evicted because their structures were built without permits. Like many Palestinians, they have had no choice but to construct shelters illegally because Israeli authorities rarely approve building projects in Area C of the West Bank, which is under complete Israeli civil and military control.
Illegal Israeli construction is not uncommon in the West Bank, either. Israeli settlers often set down trailers and create outposts, staking out land for themselves. Even though they are prohibited under international law, these outposts can be legalized retroactively by the Israeli government when they grow larger and expand.
Like many other American Jews, we as members of J Street U feel an abiding connection to the land of Israel and its people. We’ve spent summers and vacations visiting family and immersing ourselves in Israel’s rich cultural history. We want a safe and secure Israel, and we know that only a two-state solution can ensure Israel’s security and democracy and the Palestinian’s right to self-determination.
As pro-Israel student leaders at the Claremont Colleges, we are deeply concerned about the threat that settlement expansion poses to the prospects for a future two-state solution. Home demolitions erode trust between the two parties and do not represent a genuine commitment to peace. This demolition would also pave the way for the expansion of nearby settlements throughout the South Hebron Hills, cutting out land that would be part of a future Palestinian state.
We are not alone in our concern. The U.S. State Department under Obama labeled the demolition a “counterproductive” action that “raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement.”
To our dismay, the American Jewish community has largely been silent on this issue. Our Jewish community raised us to stand up for social justice, yet few are willing to speak out against the demolition of Susya. Jewish students at the Claremont Colleges frequently speak out against persecution and prejudice in our college community and the U.S., but there has been no discussion of Susya on campus. Our Jewish roots tell us to do one thing, but our national communal leaders are demonstrating something entirely different with their lack of action.
It’s more important now than ever before to speak up loudly on behalf of our values, and to make clear that we will not tolerate any action that threatens those values—starting with the demolition of Susya.
We encourage all those who stand for peace in the region to speak out. Students across the Claremont Colleges who believe strongly in human rights and progressive values should stand with us against the policy of home demolitions. And it is critical that pro-Israel students of all stripes speak out against any threat to a future solution to the conflict.
That’s why we’re taking action. J Street U is sending a delegation to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, one of the largest gatherings of Jewish leaders in the US. We will be expressing our deep concern about what the Trump administration represents, and asking our leaders to join us in protecting the two-state solution.
J Street U is also organizing a National Day of Action on Nov. 14, to show our support for Susya and draw attention to the consequences of its potential demolition. We encourage any student who opposes these demolitions, believes in a two-state solution, or just wants to learn more to join us in North Quad during lunch on Monday, Nov. 12 as we stand in solidarity with the villagers of Susya. We will also open up space to discuss the results of the election and how we can continue to pursue peace during these times.
Our community has the power to make a change. Now is not the time to be silent or ignore the threats we are facing. We can speak out and ask that our communal leaders show initiative. We can and must build community and fight, together, against threats to our values and our safety. We won’t look away. Our communal leaders shouldn’t either. Will you?
Board of J Street U Claremont Colleges
J Street U Claremont Colleges is a campus chapter of the student organizing arm of J Street: the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. Like us on Facebook or sign up for our email list to get information about future events on campus.