Trump is bulldozing hope for two states

Ben Reiff

Just when you think he couldn’t possibly get any more arrogant, ignorant, careless, mindless, insolent, deluded, self-righteous, moronic, reckless, imprudent…

Does he actively try to seek out the most provocative actions? Those with the most people telling him not to do? Just to prove that he doesn’t take orders from anybody?

It’s simply impossible to attribute any rationality to the man, after the leaders of the world have warned him against using Jerusalem as a political chess piece. A city of such historic and legendary significance to Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians. A city so volatile and fiercely contested that throughout the last hundred years the tiniest developments have sparked almighty violence and bloodshed. A city that people have died for, and a city that certainly hasn’t seen the last drop of spilled blood.

But for Donaldo it’s just another campaign pledge ticked off the list. Words on a page, not real people who face the very real consequences of his actions 6,000 miles away.

The days following Trump’s announcement have seen clashes erupt across Israel and the Palestinian territories, from Hebron to Ramallah, from Bethlehem to Khan Younis, and from Nazareth to Damascus Gate. Israel has mobilised its troops across the region, and security at American sites has been intensified for fear of targeted retaliatory attacks. There have been rocket attacks from Gaza, and Israeli counter-strikes. Hamas called for an intifada in defence of the freedom of Palestine and Jerusalem, and at the time of writing the Palestinian health ministry is already reporting 300 injuries and three deaths: Mohammed al-Masri, killed on Friday near Khan Younis, and two Hamas members reported killed on Saturday. If anything is inevitable in this Trump-induced crisis, it’s that there will be many more injuries and probably more deaths.

Maybe the embassy will stay where it is. Trump only told the press that he’s instructed the State Department to begin preparations for moving the embassy, which is not to say that the move will actually materialise. But the damage has already been done, and the repercussions will long outlive his presidency.

Israelis know their capital is in Jerusalem, and so does most of the world. The parliament is there, the government offices are there, and international diplomacy takes place there. But the world is happy to comply with the internationally agreed, UN-sanctioned position that Jerusalem is to be negotiated in final status talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The rest of the world has deemed this sensible and appropriate, and so has maintained this status by keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv and reasserting that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and continued expansion of settlements in that side of the city, is illegitimate and illegal under international law.

But to hell with the world, says Donaldo. To hell with the UN. To hell with 70 years of UN resolutions, and 50 years of US policy.

If he’s so eager to make the ultimate deal, to advance the cause of peace, there are plenty of other things he could have done, and statements he could have made. How about condemning violence by Israel and the Palestinians? How about condemning settlement construction and incitement? How about reaffirming America’s commitment to achieving a just and lasting peace in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194, and UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 2334? How about acknowledging that, as well as the true capital of Israel, Jerusalem is also the true capital of Palestine?

He told the media that the US still supports a two-state solution if this is what the Israelis and the Palestinians desire, but his unilateral declaration does nothing to advance a two-state solution. What Trump fails to understand, and what all supporters of two states must understand, is that we have reached a point, with the complete absence of any peace process, whereby any action against a two-state solution serves to advance the wrongheaded cause of one state between the river and the sea. And that is exactly what this has done.

If the state that has assumed the role of peace-maker between Israel and Palestine is making unilateral, partisan moves, then Israelis on the right will take this as a green light to advance their expansionist agenda, which the world will reject and call instead for one democratic state. Palestinians, meanwhile, will read it as the final nail in the coffin of the peace process, and the trigger for the PLO to abandon its two-state position in favour of one state once again. After all, this is what the Palestinians have wanted for the last hundred years; they only gave up on it pragmatically in the hope of achieving their own state and an end to the conflict (and many, indeed, never gave up on it).

The UN Security Council convened an emergency meeting on Friday evening to discuss the situation and how to deal with the aftermath of Trump’s recklessness. I’m all ears as to their suggestions

Meet the Candidate: Hannah Rose

There are three candidates vying to be the next President of the Union of Jewish Students. Zionish sent them each ten questions on the key – and not so key – political issues they may face. In the last of our profiles, here are the responses from Bristol student Hannah Rose:

Zionism: the national liberation movement of the Jewish people or racist settler-colonialism?

Zionism is our national liberation movement, it is our right to self-determination fulfilled, and the expression of 2000 years of yearning for our return to the Jewish homeland. In the diaspora, our Zionism means we should be invested in Israel’s values and its future, and to me, that means we should fight for the State of Israel to live up to its founders’ ideals as a Jewish and democratic state, and we should support all those in Israel campaigning for peace and a two-state solution.

How would your views on the Israel-Palestine conflict translate into policy as UJS President?

I want to open up our Israel conversations to a wide range of Zionist perspectives. The Jewish community can often be an echo chamber, but no two Zionist identities are the same, and we need to be making space for a range of opinions on left and right in order to all work together for peace.

How should Jewish students in the UK react to the rise of the nationalist right?

Nowhere has racism and antisemitism been more devastating than on the nationalist right. We should be unequivocal in our stance that racism and any form of discrimination are unwelcome in our society and against our values. As a Jewish community, and a student community, we need to do more to stand by other minority identities against discrimination, not just in the spirit of Martin Niemoller’s poem ‘First they came for the Communists’, but because fighting racism is simply the right thing to do.

Which Jewish political figure – dead or alive – best represents your politics?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a strong Jewish woman who stands up for her liberal values and who is a trailblazer for women in the legal world.

Should JSocs do Israel events?

I think JSocs should be careful not to take polarising stances on Israeli politics so as not to isolate Jewish students, but it is important to remember that 93% of British Jews feel that their belief in the State of Israel is central to their Jewish identity. Given this, it would be wrong to completely cut Israel out of JSocs as for so many Jewish students their Jewish and Zionist identities are inseparable. We should be able to discuss Zionism and Israel in UJS without enforcing a narrow  point of view. Having said that, no two J-Socs are the same, so what may work in Bristol, for example, may not work in London.

How should UJS engage with the BDS movement?

Jewish students have re-affirmed the same two motions with overwhelming majorities year after year at UJS Conference. One is to support two states for two people, and the other is to combat BDS on campus, as Jewish students see BDS as trojan horse for antisemitism and as a threat to their Jewish identity. I fully believe in both of these motions and support UJS democracy too, and so I will stand strong with Jewish students on these issues.

Does the Labour left, and its student equivalent, have an antisemitism problem?

Unequivocally, the Labour Party does have a problem with antisemitism that hasn’t yet been solved. I’m proud to have been a part of UJS’ response to far-left antisemitism over the past few years, and together we have fought hard against some incredibly problematic figures in the student movement and won. However, there is always more work to be done, and we must continue to stand strong and call out antisemitism wherever we find it, on the left or on the right.

Who would you have voted for in the 2016 US election? Primary candidates allowed.

Hillary Clinton. She was the most qualified candidate, with the most realistic vision for a progressive America.

Let’s say you become UJS President, and are given £10,000 for a political project or campaign. What would you do?

I believe meaningful and effective Holocaust education is one of the most important issues of our time. With the rise of the far-right across the world and deepening refugee crises in both Europe and Myanmar, we have a collective responsibility to take action and ensure our message is heard by all. I worked this summer with the Holocaust Educational Trust, and I’ve seen what we can achieve, but also how much there is left to be done. I look forward to seeing the success of UJS’ campaign Our Living Memory and building on it next year if elected.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Theresa May, Donald Trump. Shag, marry, kill?

Kill Donald Trump, marry Theresa May, and leave Bibi at home with his wife.

Meet the Candidate: Annie Cohen

There are three candidates vying to be the next President of the Union of Jewish Students. Zionish sent them each ten questions on the key – and not so key – political issues they may face. In the second of this series, here are the responses from History and Yiddish student Annie Cohen:

Zionism: the national liberation movement of the Jewish people or racist settler-colonialism?

 Zionism means different things to different people. Historically, Zionism was conceived by some of its founders as a racist settler-colonial project, however there were also left wing Zionists who didn’t seek to build a state in Palestine, but believed Jews would be forced to move there by antisemitism in Europe. Today, a lot of Jews understand Zionism as a belief in a Jewish right to national self-determination, but we have to understand that Zionism has, at least in the eyes of Palestinians now become inseparable from the racist nationalist state of Israel. To me, the fact that all the earlier ideas of diasporism and autonomism have been abandoned in favour of a nationalist oppressive state is a tragedy for Jews as well as Palestinians.

How would your views on the Israel-Palestine conflict translate into policy as UJS President?

UJS policy is created by UJS conference, and I would respect that. However, I would make changes with my remit. I would initiate a review of UJS spending on Israel programmes – which from the current website seem to be a main part of UJS activity, to see if funding could be diverted to student welfare, to support more students in the UK. I would seek to cut ties with birthright, as stated in my manifesto.

I would also take action to reduce the ostracization of non-Zionist Jewish students from JSocs, and make sure their views are represented centrally, on panel discussions and in our partner organisations.

How should Jewish students in the UK react to the rise of the nationalist right

Oppose it by any means necessary. I am an experienced antifascist campaigner, have helped to organise demonstrations with and fundraisers for groups within the antifascist network, and I would make resisting the far right a priority. To me to be Jewish is to be an antifascist.

Which Jewish political figure – dead or alive – best represents your politics?

Moshiah

Should JSocs do Israel events?

I think Israel advocacy should be done by Israel societies, not JSocs. However, Israel, as a land, people and scriptural concept is a core part of Judaism. Many Jewish students have a strong connection, whether it be positive or negative, with the State of Israel, and I think that JSocs should provide a space for students to engage with and discuss that connection when wanted.

I would also encourage Jsocs to run events and programmes that celebrate the diaspora, and increase education about other political ideas that used to dominate Jewish political thought alongside Zionism. As a non-zionist community organiser, I have a lot of experience and ideas for creating these types of events.

How should UJS engage with the BDS movement?

If it were up to me entirely I would want UJS to support BDS, and at the same time consistently advocate for Jewish students for whom BDS is obviously a lot more difficult, and can feel very hostile (and have you ever tried to find non Israeli kosher houmous?!). However, I am not running on a pro-BDS platform, and I can see that a U-turn in policy would be too difficult to bring about. What I would want to do, as a priority, is to end UJS blanket opposition to BDS, which is being used to shut down the work of Palestine societies and to silence Palestinian voices on campus, and at the same time preventing real instances of antisemitism from being address.

Does the Labour left, and its student equivalent, have an antisemitism problem?

Yep it does, and I’m in a good place to fight this and have experience doing so. Part of the problem is that when antisemitism is used as a political tool against the left, it confuses things and actual antisemitic incidents are not addressed. Antisemitism is present across the entire political spectrum, left, right and centre, and we should be ready to fight it wherever we see it.

Who would you have voted for in the 2016 US election? Primary candidates allowed.

Bernie

Let’s say you become UJS President, and are given £10,000 for a political project or campaign. What would you do?

Invest that money in student welfare and grants, help struggling JSocs, and importantly, ask students to tell me where that money is needed.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Theresa May, Donald Trump. Shag, marry, kill?

I’d kill all of them 🙂

Meet the Candidate: Lawrence Rosenberg

There are three candidates vying to be the next President of the Union of Jewish Students. Zionish sent them each ten questions on the key – and not so key – political issues they may face. In the first of this series, here are the responses from University of Manchester student Lawrence Rosenberg:

Zionism: the national liberation movement of the Jewish people or racist settler-colonialism?

National liberation movement of the Jewish people, simple as.

How would your views on the Israel-Palestine conflict translate into policy as UJS President?

I am a proud Zionist and my message is clear. As UJS President, I will work with any group which helps students to engage with their identity. As an estimated 93% of students identify with Israel, I will be supporting policy which ensures we keep students both safe and engaged in relation to Israel based activities.

How should Jewish students in the UK react to the rise of the nationalist right?

However they want to. UJS isn’t here to dictate how Jewish students politically affiliate themselves and indeed some students’ may identify with the nationalist right.

Which Jewish political figure – dead or alive – best represents your politics?

Golda Meir, she was a patriot who loved her country and generally the gift of life.

Should JSocs do Israel events?

Each Jsoc is autonomous and should cater to the needs and wants of their specific society. Some JSocs are Jewish and Israel societies, and some are just Jewish Societies, so that is up to committees to decide – but UJS will support any and all Israel events that JSocs put on however it can.

How should UJS engage with the BDS movement?

The BDS movement is not nationally organised and I would not endorse national cooperation if they did. I think this has to be left to individual JSocs to decide what course of action to take. UJS should support them in whatever path they choose to take, like they did when I met with the BDS leader in Manchester. Sometimes on a more localised level creating an understanding can help Jewish students to feel more safe, so if that’s what works for them then it works for me. Giving support to localised committees and ensuring constant lines of communication is key to helping ensure Jewish students feel safe whatever action they wish to take.

Does the Labour left, and its student equivalent, have an antisemitism problem?

I don’t think Labour is antisemitic. I think there are though people within the Labour left which are antisemitic and they do seem to keep cropping up more and more frequently. Whether their antisemitism is linked to their politics, their race or their background seems to vary with each individual case.

Who would you have voted for in the 2016 US election? Primary candidates allowed.

I followed the election a lot and I hopped around. Probably most likely Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.

Let’s say you become UJS President, and you are given £10,000 for a political project or campaign. What would you do?

Give it to students to run localised campaigns which are appropriate for their campuses. Go and speak to students who want to create greater engagement in the discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and work with them to create a campaign which works for them.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Theresa May, Donald Trump. Shag, marry, kill?

Bibi- Shag.

Donald- Marry (for the big old inheritance which I can donate partly to UJS).

Theresa- Kill.