The youth of the Diaspora play an absolutely critical role in defending the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. For all the important work that AIPAC does in lobbying government officials, or that Israeli diplomats do to guard Israel against vehement criticism at the United Nations in New York, it is American young adults who must stand up for Israel at college campuses, fighting back against BDS supporters and those who portray Israel as a pariah-state. College campuses are where large segments of the American populace will develop their political convictions, and ensuring that they hear the Israeli perspective is imperative, as many young people carry the opinions they form in college through the rest of their lives, affecting who they vote for and whether they too will stand up for Israel. Presenting the viewpoint of Israel to the newest members of the American electorate is often left to young college students and newly minted high school graduates, and the decision to annex the Jordan Valley would be a serious blow to the efforts of these proponents of Israel.
Many of the strongest lines of defense that college students and other Israel advocates can utilize are outlined by Yossi Klein Halevi and others; that Israel has repeatedly extended a hand for peace, only to be met by Intifadas and Palestinian rejectionism; that Israel is not an apartheid state, but rather one where Arab citizens enjoy more democratic freedoms than any other Middle Eastern country and are represented by one of the Knesset’s largest parties; that Israel acts with restraint even in the face of intermittent rocket barrages and a Palestinian leadership that is often openly belligerent towards Israel. But a move to unilaterally annex the Jordan Valley will make the task of defending Israel far more arduous. In a few years, I will be in college, and look forward to being among students who stand up for Israel even in the face of unyielding criticism. Yet I wonder, how will we portray Israel as committed to a peace agreement after it has appropriated a huge portion of Palestinian land without any discussions with the region’s Arab decision makers? When anti-Israel advocates compare the maps of Palestinian enclaves (whose residents will not be afforded Israeli citizenship) to South Africa’s apartheid area Bantustans, how will we defend Israel as the Middle East’s bastion of liberal democracy? I fear that annexation will only strengthen those who seek to delegitimize Israel and contribute to the already growing problem of anti-Semitism linked to hatred of Israel on college campuses. Moreover, it could widen the rift between the Diaspora and Israel and accelerate the rising tide of young American Jews who completely disassociate themselves from the Jewish State, which is a trend I have seen firsthand.
My message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leaders of Blue and White is as follows: Do not underestimate the importance of American public opinion. If we, as young American Jews, are left powerless to defend Israel, it will only be a matter of time before the work of AIPAC and diplomats such as Ron Dermer is rendered useless. Young and rising politicians averse or even hostile to Israel, such as Representatives Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be able to adopt anti-Israel positions not only without pushback, but with the prospect of political gain. And as they enter into the Democratic Party’s mainstream, this would be disastrous for the “special relationship.” American youth are Israel’s first line of defense against its detractors. Please, do not make the task of defending the Jewish homeland even more challenging.