45 years ago this week, Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. For more than two generations, the now four million Palestinians there have lived under Israel’s brutal military rule.
Over the past 45 years, Israel has tried, but failed, to break the indomitable will of Palestinians to lead lives of dignity, freedom, and equality. Israel has tried to do so by expropriating Palestinian land to build Jewish-only settlements, by uprooting Palestinian olive trees and demolishing Palestinian homes, by subjecting Palestinians to an apartheid system of roadblocks, checkpoints, walls, and blockades that deny Palestinians their human right to move about freely, and by injuring and killing tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians to maintain this oppressive regime.
Let’s be very clear about why we, as Americans, are responsible for this gross injustice. Without virtually unconditional U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israeli occupation, there is no conceivable way that the international community would permit Israel to continue its systematic human rights abuses of Palestinians living under military occupation.
Our weapons and our veto in the United Nations underwrite and undergird Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Therefore, it is our responsibility to undo U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid.
When we began the US Campaign 10 years ago, it was hard to imagine Israeli military occupation lasting another decade. Yet, today, Israeli military occupation appears more firmly entrenched than ever. But, at the same time, all our efforts, especially those of the member groups in our coalition, to undermine the pillars of U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid are becoming more effective each day.
Look around: Our coalition has helped to dramatically affect public discourse. Through our thousands of teach-ins, video screenings, letters to the editor, demonstrations, and much, much more, we have demonstrated to millions of our fellow citizens that our country’s policies toward Israel and the Palestinian people are fundamentally wrong and must be changed.
The Israel lobby cannot put this genie back in the bottle. There is no going back to the days when Israel’s broken record of perpetual victimhood and Palestinian perfidy and violence dominated. Israel’s apologists wring their hands at having lost control of the campus. They race around trying to stamp out boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) efforts that are spreading like brushfire. Wherever they succeed in putting out one fire, 10 new ones erupt. And, for the first time, people advocating Palestinian human rights and a fundamental change in U.S. policy are gaining consistent, important access to the mainstream media.
Of course our campaigns will continue to be subject to censorship; our opponents will continue to resort to intimidation, bullying, and smears; and we will continue to be subject to efforts to curtail our rights. But the fact that Israel and its supporters have to resort to these tactics is a sign of weakness, not strength. It bespeaks an unwillingness to confront us directly, on the merits of our case, because they know that they cannot win that contest.
As things stand today, the remaining bastion of support is the U.S. government and our elected officials, larded with campaign contributions, who continue to defend Israeli apartheid. But here too the foundation of support is crumbling. Many of our political elites realize in private, though so far still refuse to acknowledge in public, that the days of Israeli occupation and apartheid are numbered.
How do we tackle our government, that last remaining pillar supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid? That is our key challenge. It will be the centerpiece of our work in the US Campaign’s second decade of activism, as we gain new knowledge, new strength and new members. We are hopeful that, together, we will soon be able to transform present U.S. policy into a policy grounded in human rights and international law.
Ending U.S. support for Israeli military occupation will not in and of itself bring freedom, justice and equality to the Palestinian people, but it is an urgent and important step in that process.
Member, Advisory Board
National Advocacy Director
National Advocacy Director