Op-ed: J Street U WashU to Congressman William Lacy Clay: Speak out about demolitions

Michael Berkowitz | Class of 2020

As students at Washington University and leaders of the pro-Israel, pro-peace, anti-occupation organization J Street U, we strongly appreciate Congressman William Lacy Clay’s record as a longtime supporter of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and for human rights for all people in the region.

In light of that strong record, we believe that Congressman Lacy Clay should add his name to a new letter circulating in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Jan Schakowsky and John Yarmuth, which calls on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt the demolition of Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

These demolitions pose both a humanitarian and political threat, devastating communities and undermining the prospects for an urgently needed two-state solution. Demolishing Palestinian communities is also the cornerstone of the Israeli far-right’s strategy. By evicting Palestinians from their homes and establishing Jewish settlements in those areas, the Israeli far-right hopes to entrench its presence on territory intended for a future Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Consider the example of Susya, a village of about 350 individuals in the West Bank. For the third time in less than a year, the community is being threatened with the demolition of crucial structures, including its lone school. Israeli settlers hope that dismantling Susya will allow them to expand a nearby Israeli settlement.

In order to push back on these dangerous and deeply damaging actions by the current Israeli government, J Street U has launched our “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace” campaign. By calling on our elected and communal leaders to oppose demolitions and settlement expansion, we hope to protect Palestinian communities and defend Israel’s future by ensuring the continued viability of a two-state solution.

Across the country, our chapters have partnered with dozens of other progressive student organizations in this effort. At Washington University, we have held events with other campus groups like Habitat For Humanity and GlobeMed and received endorsements from Green Action and the Catholic Student Union executive board. As fighting for a two-state solution is widely recognized as a key component of the progressive platform in this country, we hope our elected officials in Congress will also stand with us.

Public outcry and attention from American leaders has successfully impacted Israel’s West Bank policies in the past. In November, 10 U.S. senators, led by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, urged Prime Minister Netanyahu not to demolish Susya—an important message which may have contributed to the subsequent postponement of the demolitions. By speaking out, our leaders can help fight for pragmatic and principled policy choices that will advance the prospects for peace instead of undermining them. They can promote a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

We urge Representative Lacy Clay to add his voice to this growing chorus, by signing on to the the Schakowsky-Yarmuth letter.

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