In Condemning the “Occupation,” Liberal Jewish Organizations Accept the Anti-Israel Position

January 8, 2020 | Asaf Romirowsky
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement last November that the U.S. would no longer consider it illegal for Israelis to reside in the West Bank brought widespread condemnation—some of it from mainstream Jewish leaders and organizations. To Asaf Romirowsky, these critics misunderstand not only the historical and legal issues at play but also the underlying causes of the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, said the U.S. government’s new position on Israeli settlements will undercut the fight against the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) , . . . specifically on college campuses.

It is not clear when Rabbi Jacobs was last on a college campus, but the debate in North American universities is not about the so-called “occupation” but about whether Israel has a right to exist, period. Pro-BDS groups, including “Jewish” ones, are talking about the illegitimacy of the 1949 armistice lines, not those of 1967. Moreover, a recent survey . . . shows that most students who care strongly about the “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” do not have knowledge of even basic facts on the subject.

Far more than American policy, it is the language of “occupation” that plays a key role in [the accepted dogma about the] Israel-Palestinian conflict. The main feature of this dogma is the Palestinian claim that their alleged territories are “occupied” by Israel, regardless of where they are located on the map, much less in any legal sense under international law. The mantra of “occupation,” and the demand that Israel be shunned until the “occupation” is ended—meaning the time when Israel is dissolved by the implementation of the Palestinian “right of return”—is the key demand of the Palestinians and the BDS movement.

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