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Annexation and BDS are two sides of the same coin

This is one of many pieces The Forward is running on annexation. Read another point of view here and here.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps his promises. I made that very point in my September article when Netanyahu first proposed annexing large portions of the West Bank, in the heat of his then tightly contested election campaign. So while Netanyahu has temporarily delayed his July 1 plan to begin annexing up to 30% of the West Bank under pressure from the Trump administration, I can assure you that he will move forward with this while Donald Trump is still in the White House.

He knows that a Democratic administration will not support such a land grab. In fact, a growing number of Democrats in Congress, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, slammed the proposed plan in a letter that calls for placing conditions on aid to Israel if the Netanyahu-led government moves forward with annexation.

In the case of my family, we don’t need Netanyahu to provide the full details of his annexation plan to see how this plays out. My Palestinian family lived in the West Bank for five generations before Israel was created. But after the 1967 war, my grandmother’s land was stolen — yes, stolen — by Israeli settlers who saw her land outside of Bethlehem on a hill as the ideal place to build a settlement.

Was she compensated? Of course not. To these settlers, often backed by the Israeli government, my grandmother and others like her were not viewed as having rights. My grandmother’s only “sin” was simply being the wrong religion in the wrong place. And now Netanyahu is on the verge of permanently stealing 30% of what would have been a Palestinian state, making a contiguous nation impossible.

If the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is seen by some as anti-Semitic because in their view it will destroy the state of Israel, what should we call Netanyahu unilaterally ending the possibility of Palestinian self-determination?

Some are calling it “apartheid.” AOC’s letter, which Senator Bernie Sanders has signed on to among others, discusses how unilateral annexation “would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.”

AOC is right, and even Op-Eds by Israelis warn as much; indeed, late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin himself warned that annexing the Arab population of the West Bank would lead to Israel becoming an apartheid.

But not everyone is carefully analyzing the situation. Too many loosely throw around the word “apartheid” to describe Israel, and they are no different than those who broadly label anyone who supports BDS anti-Semitic: It’s not a battle for the truth so much as a battle for public opinion in America.

The battle is fierce. Polls show that younger Americans’ support of Israel sliding, even among Republicans. While the majority of Democrats have supported a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a 2019 Pew poll found that among Republicans under 30, just 27% view Israel’s government favorably. And when it comes to the people, nearly 50% of young Republicans view Palestinians favorably. (Overall, among younger Americans, 58% hold a favorable view of the Palestinian people, while 63% say same about the Israeli people.)


Israel’s Consul General Dani Dayan is leaving after four years. What has he learned? He talks to editors-in-chief Jodi Rudoren and Andrew Silow-Carroll, of the Forward and the Jewish Week, about American Jewry’s relationship with Israel. Register here to listen in on July 8 at 12 p.m. ET.


Interestingly, despite the fact that the issue of Palestinian statehood has not received much media coverage in the United States during the Trump regime, a February Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans support the establishment of a Palestinian state, the highest number since 2003 when support peaked at 58%.

American pubic opinion tends to evolve on issues. We are currently going through a reckoning on issues of racial justice right before our eyes. Much of this is led by a younger generation not shackled to traditional views on political issues simply because that is the way things have always been. And nothing about this younger generation says they will make exceptions to their views on justice based on labels, or being called names by their opponents.

The same goes for efforts to value Palestinian lives and Palestinian self-determination as equal to those of Israelis. AOC explicitly tied the current BLM protests to this issue. “At a time when the American people are taking to the streets to demand justice for all in our own country, there is no question but that such an action would alienate many US lawmakers and citizens,” she wrote about the Netanyahu annexation plan.

Smearing those involved in BLM, BDS or other non-violent movements calling for change won’t stop them. In fact, one thing is certain: If Netanyahu does annex wide swaths of the West Bank ending any hope for Palestinian self-determination and relegating my family and all other Palestinians there to a life of in essence unconnected reservations, you will see the ranks of BDS and groups like it swell.

Where that leads to is anyone’s guess. But given the more progressive and justice-oriented nature of the younger generation of Americans, together with their older allies, common sense would say it will lead to an Israel that finds itself increasingly losing support in the one nation it desperately needs.

Dean Obeidallah is the host of SiriusXM Progress’ The Dean Obeidallah Show. He co-created the stand up comedy show “Stand up for Peace” to foster understanding between Jews, Muslims and Christians. And he’s a frequent contributor to CNN and The Daily Beast.

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