At J Street U, we are passionate supporters of Israel who are deeply concerned about its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. On our college campuses and in our communities, we work to support a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to oppose the efforts of the Global BDS Movement. Unfortunately, we believe that the anti-BDS approach adopted and advocated by the Israeli government and much of the pro-Israel community is unhelpful and counterproductive. This approach has failed, and it’s time for a change.
The only true way to overcome the Global BDS Movement is to end the occupation and live up to Israel’s founding values of democracy, equality, and social justice. Ultimately, only a two-state peace agreement can bolster Israel’s security and its international standing, marginalizing those who seek to isolate and delegitimize it.
Tactics and messages that seek to censor, target and ban opponents of the settlement movement do not win Israel new friends on campus. Messages that ignore the conflict and the occupation only alienate well-informed and well-intentioned students who want to support a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Often, these same students become BDS supporters, as they see no effective alternative way to address their concerns.
There is so much to celebrate about Israel – but simply celebrating Israel while demonizing and dismissing its critics does not work. Students today don’t want new sets of talking points and marching orders – they want serious engagement that is responsive to their hopes and fears about Israel’s future.
We propose a new approach, rooted in supporting and celebrating Israel and its achievements, while actively working to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state by opposing the injustices of the occupation and advocating for a two-state solution.
We must advocate for major investment in Israel’s economy and civil society without legitimizing or defending the settlements in the West Bank. We must invest in building up infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, helping to lay the groundwork for a future state of Palestine. We must address the arguments made by BDS supporters in open and honest debates. We can help make our campus conversations more reasoned and productive, and stop the cycle of polarization and recrimination.
It’s time for a better way forward – a path that is truly pro-Israel and pro-peace, anti-BDS and anti-occupation.