Baltimore students call on representatives to oppose Palestinian home demolitions

As current college students, we were born in the shadow of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. We grew up amidst the violence and total breakdown of trust between Israelis and Palestinians that followed, as the diplomatic breakthroughs of the early ‘90s failed to give way to a final, lasting peace agreement. Yet despite this, we have never given up on our commitment to a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, and our belief that a peaceful two-state solution is just, necessary and possible.

As student leaders representing large groups of our peers at Baltimore’s colleges and universities (Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, MICA, and Goucher College), we are calling on our elected representatives to oppose the Israeli government’s policy of demolishing unrecognized Palestinian communities in the West Bank — a policy which represents one of the most urgent threats to the prospects for a two-state solution. We encourage Representatives Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes, and Dutch Ruppersberger to sign on to Representatives Jan Schakowsky and John Yarmuth’s letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu. The letter opposes these demolitions and supports the two-state solution as the only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy.

Demolitions of unrecognized Palestinian communities in the West Bank have both serious human rights and political implications. Demolitions of all or parts of many villages have already left hundreds of Palestinian families homeless, and the currently proposed demolitions will subject many more to this fate. Home demolitions are also the foundation of the far-right Israeli settlement movement’s political strategy to entrench a “one-state” reality. By demolishing these communities, the movement can expand and entrench settlements on territory that should form part of a future Palestinian state. They hope to pave the way for ultimate Israeli annexation of the West Bank, and to prevent a two-state resolution to the conflict.

These dynamics can be seen clearly in Susya, a Palestinian community located in the South Hebron Hills. Representatives of the Israeli government have announced their intention to destroy and remove approximately 40 percent of the structures in Susya, including homes, a school, and the solar panels that are the village’s sole source of electricity.  Doing so would displace many Palestinians from their homes, and leave others without the resources that they need to survive. The destruction of Susya would also facilitate the establishment of a new settlement bloc in the South Hebron hills and move Israel closer to annexing this area.

There is a growing consensus among pro-Israel, pro-peace students that supporting a two-state solution means opposing demolitions and the entrenchment of occupation in the West Bank. We care deeply about Israel, and we seek to secure its future as a democratic, homeland for the Jewish people, and a state that lives up to its founding values.

That is why J Street U launched our “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace” (SDBP) campaign earlier this year. The campaign has been garnering support from progressive progressive groups on college campuses across the country, including multiple state chapters of the College Democrats. At Johns Hopkins, Students for Environmental Action and Refuel Our Future (the fossil fuel divestment group) have publicly endorsed our campaign. These organizations, which represent a base of several hundred progressive students, support the campaign because they know that preventing home demolitions and preserving chances for peace is essential to protecting the rights and safety of both peoples.

As Baltimore residents, we are proud to be members of a community with close ties to Israel, that is deeply committed to its future. Baltimore has a flourishing Jewish community, and even a partner city in Israel, Ashkelon. And, as students at four major Baltimore universities, we are committed to ensuring that our city’s Jewish communal and political leadership will not look away from threats to a two-state solution. We hope that the Schakowsky-Yarmuth letter will help to demonstrate to the Israeli government pro-Israel, pro-peace members of Congress will not stand idly by as the two-state solution is undermined and conflict is exacerbated.

Our representatives’ records show that they care about the two-state solution and about a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians. We hope that Congressman Cummings, Congressman Sarbanes, and Congressman Ruppersberger will continue to support the two-state solution by signing on to this urgent letter.

Hannah Fajer, Johns Hopkins University 2020, J Street U at JHU Co-Chair

Emily Rosenthal, Maryland Institute College of Art 2019, Oy! At MICA Co-President

Dylan Blanc, Towson University 2019

Neve Levinson, Goucher College 2021

– To submit your own letter to the editor, email [email protected].

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