The clear thrust of events is that the Israeli plan for annexation, accepted by the Trump administration, is no crisis for Israel, which would have gone forward happily, but a true crisis for the Israel lobby, and that’s why it’s been delayed. Large segments of the Israel lobby know that they cannot support Israel if this goes through, with even Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL saying, People will say this is apartheid. And you will lose the Democratic Party if you do this.
That’s why Israel has gotten cold feet. Because the lobby is churning in rage and warning that U.S. political support is threatened.
Yousef Munayyer made this point on WNYC radio two days ago. It’s stunning testimony to annexation’s disruptive effect that Munayyer was even on New York public radio. I can’t remember the last time I heard Brian Lehrer, whose show is reliably pro-Israel, interview an anti-Zionist. But Lehrer hosted Munayyer, the former director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, to “get a Palestinian view.”
And as usual Munayyer made concise observations that I find inarguable.
Annexation “really is largely a formality that would codify in Israeli law a reality that Palstinians have been living in the West Bank for several generations now,” Munayyer said. And Israel has done it before, illegally annexed the Golan and East Jerusalem.
Munayyer got to why this is a crisis for the lobby. There is no real debate about Palestinians in Israel, he said; almost all the Jewish leaders are for this annexation. But it is a moment for Americans to wake up. And the lobby is shaken:
“[It is] a step that I think will make it very difficult for many of even Israel’s friends and allies to continue to support this situation of perpetual occupation which increasingly looks to everyone like apartheid.”
Lehrer jumped in to correct him on apartheid: “Not to everyone, but yes to a lot of people.”
Munayyer went on to say that Israel is a right wing, settler colonial society, and the question of how to deal with the Palestinians is not very divisive there. It’s like U.S. policy on Native Americans in the 19th century.
Israelis do continue to elect Benjamin Netanyahu, and the reason for that is that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, Netanyahu is not radically different than other Israeli leaders. This policy of continuing to expand control over Palestinian territory is one that Israeli leaders across the Israeli political spectrum, whether they’re from the left or from the right, have done throughout the 70 year existence of the modern Israeli state. This is like Republican or Democratic presidents’ policy towards the Native American population in the 19th century. They’re all pretty much the same. And it’s a policy of continuing to expand and take territory from an indigenous poulation whose rights are consistently being denied.
Munayyer then dispatched Lehrer’s quibble. It is “apartheid” when 13 million people, half Jewish, half Palestinian live in “a territory controlled by a Jewish state, in which the vast majority of the non-Jewish population has no right to vote for the government that dictates their lives.”
Annexation thus poses a clear choice to Americans.
The pressing question… is whether or not we as Americans and our government that proclaims to stand for values of democracy and liberty and equality are going to continue supporting this situation which has very much been the status quo for half a century. Or are we going to change our position on that? I think this moment in which Israel takes further and further steps deepening its control over Palestinian territory is a clarifying moment and a moment of genuine reflection in which all of us should be asking that very question.
The moment of truth is that our country is finally seeing a one-state reality that our government has enabled, in which there are not equal rights, and facing a difficult question.
Can we accept a one state reality, which is what this is, where people are denied a right to self-determination because of their religion? Is that what we as Americans want to be supporting? And I think the answer is No and increasingly people will come to that realization and we will have to shift our policy accordingly as we did far far too late but we did nonetheless when it came to ending apartheid in South Africa.
Munayyer called for democracy in a single country.
I see a situation of equal rights for all people within that single country as the only possible solution to this. As far off as it seems in this moment, it’s hard to reconcile any other possible solution.
Lehrer pushed back somewhat, but again, I’ve never heard an anti-Zionist holding forth on his show. This is a real crisis for the Israel lobby, and as Munayyer says, a great opening in the U.S.
P.S. You may have noticed that some segments of the lobby are now blaming the Annexation crisis on Trump. David Harris of the AJC said yesterday this only came about because of the Trump “peace plan” released in January. The Jewish Federations have taken a similar copout. As if Israeli leaders haven’t been pushing this for years, and Netanyahu began endorsing it in his run for reelection a year ago.