What’s At Stake
For years, right-wing Israeli government leaders and the settler movement have steadily carried out a destructive campaign of creeping annexation in key areas of the occupied West Bank. Through the ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes and communities, the displacement of Palestinian families, and the construction of new access roads and infrastructure purely for the benefit of settlements, this creeping annexation campaign has entrenched the Israeli occupation and deliberately sought to seize and control Palestinian territory. This moves us further from US policies that promote genuine peace, justice, and sovereignty for both Palestinians and Israelis. It has routinely trampled on and violated Palestinian rights while also exacerbating conflict. For American Jews who support justice, equality and hope for a peaceful future for both Israelis and Palestinians, creeping annexation and demolitions are a disaster. We want to see the new Israeli government uphold our Jewish value of Tikkun Olam and democratic value of human rights.
What makes these actions even more alarming and upsetting is that they may currently be supported by US aid. At the moment, Israel receives $3.8 billion in security assistance from the United States with inadequate oversight and insufficient enforcement of restrictions as to how this aid is and can be ultimately used. As a result, it’s likely that weapons and equipment supplied by the US or purchased with US aid money are used by Israeli forces to help carry out demolitions and other harmful acts of creeping annexation — actions that violate international law, US law and Palestinian rights while doing nothing to aid Israel’s actual security. For Americans who care about human rights, international law and the future of both peoples, this should be unacceptable.
Over the past 1-2 years, this harmful status quo of a blank check to Israel has faced a serious and growing challenge within Congress, the Democratic party and the Jewish community — a challenge led in part by J Street. Congressional vehicles have sought to impose clearer restrictions on US aid, to better ensure that it can only be used for legitimate security purposes and not for actions that violate Palestinian rights. J Street U will build support for legislation around aid use restrictions on college campuses and among young people nationwide, with the aim of influencing key decision-makers.
Through campus education, engagement with local institutions, and advocacy directed towards (and in some cases in partnership with) members of Congress, J Street U hopes to ignite a conversation and increase our collective sense of urgency on aid on our campuses to the point that it becomes central to the policy conversation around Israel/Palestine. Through education, organizing and mobilization on our campuses and beyond, we aim to help build a grassroots movement that is more capable of pushing Members of Congress as well as communal leaders to embrace the need for a serious change in American aid policy toward Israel and to support legislative vehicles that could bring it about.
By heightening awareness of the problems of home demolition/creeping annexation, we will help build opposition to the prospect that US aid might be used to help fund such destructive policies — and would build a base of activists who see the need for aid use restrictions as common sense. We will seek to win over a wide range of potential allies and targets including College Democrats, Jewish student groups/leaders, and other progressive/pro-peace/anti-occupation groups.