Students here and across the Jewish world are fighting for an honest conversation about the Green Line, the armistice line that serves as the basis for any talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. If we bury our heads in the sand, we become all the more vulnerable to Israel’s real enemies.
In the United Kingdom, a group of Jewish student leaders is asking their communal institutions to mark on their maps the oft-omitted Green Line, which divides Israel proper from the territories administered either by it or by the Palestinian Authority. The campaign is called Sign on the Green Line, and has received press coverage in Haaretz and UK outlets.
Some critics of the campaign claim putting the line of the map would simply be too political. Not so, says Amos Schonfield, one of the campaign’s organizers: “In reality, not using a map with the Green Line is a much bigger political statement.” Leaving the Green Line out means standing against a negotiated two-state solution.
Unfortunately, some of our community’s most common symbols, like the JNF tzedakah box, also omit the Green Line. In response to this, some diaspora students are working to reintroduce the Green Line into our conversation where it matters most: Israel.
Last summer, on what the Palestinians marks as Naksa (“Setback”) Day when the West Bank was first occupied, a group of American diaspora students in Israel painted the Green Line through areas of Jerusalem.
The vast majority of Jewish Jerusalemites never step foot in Palestinian East Jerusalem. The same is true for Palestinian Jerusalemites, who rarely leave for the Western half of the city. Marking the abstract line in reality reminded passerby of the contested nature of where they stood.
As Schonfield says, choosing to ignore the Green Line is a political stance, and a dangerous one. On campus, our ignorance emboldens and strengthens parties that can undermine our commitment to the two-state solution. When we refuse to take ownership of the conversation on ending the occupation, supporters of Israel Apartheid Week and others can take control of the conversation and shift it away from tenable solutions.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is highly antagonistic to Israel and thus unlikely to lead to cooperation at the negotiating table. But trying to shout those efforts down or shut our eyes to uncomfortable facts like the Green Line is not the right strategy.
To win, we must acknowledge people’s frustrations with the situation in Israel and Palestine, on both sides, and build power around the two-state solution.
My generation wants a diverse and representative conversation on Israel that reflects our commitment to Israel and commitment to ending the occupation. The latest Pew research shows that we are optimistic about the prospects of peace; we don’t like Israeli settlements in the West Bank and we don’t think that being critical of Israel conflicts with our Judaism.
The facts of the conflict compel us to action. That’s why over 900 students attended J Street’s national conference in September, and why thousands of us are taking action on pro-Israel, pro-peace initiatives like the 2 Campaign.
With the possibility of an imminent American proposal on the negotiations, our informed support grows more important by the day. In the American diaspora, we have a unique responsibility to support our Israeli family and friends in this process. Failure to do so endangers the prospects for peace.
During Oslo, Prime Minister Rabin himself criticized elements of the American Jewish community for failing to support his government’s decision to pursue peace. This time around, we must step up. Facing the facts of the conflict is a critical first step in that process.