American Jews will “pay a special price” for Israeli annexation of occupied lands because we “are held responsible” for Israel’s actions, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, warned on Tuesday.
Greenblatt spoke in a forum opposing annexation because it forecloses negotiations for a Palestinian state. He said that annexation “will absolutely create challenges and tensions as it relates to the different segments of the Jewish population here in the United States and I think across the diaspora.” He went on:
Jewish communities around the world in diaspora, in Europe, in South America in South Africa, and here in the United States– I think we will pay a special price as we are often held responsible for Israeli actions and policies.
Greenblatt did not elaborate, but he appeared to echo the view of Tony Klug that Israel’s neverending occupation was bringing “infamy” to Jews in other countries and making their lives “precarious”. Or Nathan Glazer’s view that the occupation would increase “hostility” toward American Jewish groups that support Israel. Or Bruce Shipman’s view that anti-semitism was fostered by Israel’s “carnage in Gaza.” Such views have sometimes been condemned (by the likes of Greenblatt) as blaming the victims of antisemitism.
Greenblatt spoke as a leader of an “organization that is proudly and unapologetically Zionist,” and said annexation would make convincing young Jews to stick up for Israel a lot harder. Because these days an “ethnonationalist country” is not a good thing.
If Israel appears to abandon the two-state solution it will likely exacerbate the dynamic we’ve been seeing play out for some period of time with US Jews particularly younger Jews distancing themselves from Israel and it will become that much harder to defend Israel in centrist and progressive spaces, including on college campuses…
But annexation will be used by Israel’s detractors to delegitimize it, especially again in these progressive spaces where we’ve been working so hard.
And I worry a great deal not just with the UN and the ICC– I don’t really– I mean those are concerns. But I’m particularly concerned about not the International Criminal Court but the court of public opinion, especially as it relates to young people in this country and in the United States and in this moment when we’re collectively going through this moment of sort of racial reckoning– Israel will be painted as akin to an ethnonationalist country which continues to oppress and subjugate the Palestinians.
He also warned that annexation would become a “wedge issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.”
You can fully expect that Israel’s detractors as well as people just committed to justice are going to raise it and Democratic hopeful Joe Biden has cautioned against such action as have numerous Democratic members of Congress.. It could serve to undermine the bipartisan consensus on the Hill around Israel and pit Democrats who are largely opposed to annexation against Republicans who have been passive or supportive.
I must note that Greenblatt barely mentioned Palestinian human rights as an issue here. His whole argument was how difficult annexation would make his position as a Zionist promoter, in Jewish, American, and global fora.
Greenblatt anticipated “a very awful” public discussion in the organized American Jewish community if annexation goes through, with leaders differing on how to defend official apartheid. So he said those leaders must try to head off annexation now.
It is incumbent upon the leaders of the community to speak honestly and openly about what’s very obvious…. Our young people are going to need support, and everyone in the pro-Israel community is going to need support. This is going to put us in a position that is so contrary to 70 plus years of the state itself….
The notion that there would be two legal systems in place– one for Israeli citizens and one for the other people under Israeli jurisdiction. I mean, do I need to tell you what that sounds like?….
We as American Jewish leaders have to be accountable to our constituency here and to Eretz Israel which we all treasure. We need to say the danger of going down this road is significant.. Part of being Zionist, which I proudly am… is talking about what is good and bad… what should stay and remain the same and what needs to change. Before we go down that road, I hope cooler heads will prevail so we don’t have to have that very awful conversation in the light of day in public.
And he said that annexation would provide a field day for those who are critical of Israel. And Greenblatt is ready to attack them as antisemites even after annexation.
We have to strategize about what happens the day after. What are we going to do regarding US-Israel relations, Israel issues that will be raised during the campaign? What are we going to do after this happens? Because if annexation should come to pass, we need to both provide a space for folks to express criticism of Israel’s decision without being painted as anti-Israel while at the same time calling out those voices who would use this opportunity to propagate anti-Zionist, anti-semitic accusations
….We are saying this because we love Israel. We need to have a space for real discussion and again even criticism without being painted or marginalized, or somehow try to to characterize us as anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, which is nuts. When there are those who say it, that weakens our ability to call out the real hostility, the real hatred…