400 Jewish studies scholars denounce annexation as a ‘crime against humanity’

Academics sign letter saying Israel’s extension of sovereignty over parts of West Bank lands would create ‘apartheid conditions’

An Israeli flag is seen in the E1 area of the West Bank on January 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Israeli flag is seen in the E1 area of the West Bank on January 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JTA — More than 400 Jewish and Israel studies academics have signed a statement denouncing potential Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank as “apartheid” and saying it would be a “crime against humanity” according to international statutes.

“Representing a spectrum of viewpoints, we write in opposition to the continuation of the occupation and the stated intention of the current elected government in Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, thereby formally (de jure) creating apartheid conditions in Israel and Palestine,” the statement said.

It continued, “Under these conditions, annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population.”

Israel’s government may begin the process of annexing parts of the West Bank on July 1, an action Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised to take. The Trump administration gave a green light to annexation when it released its Middle East peace plan this year, but figures in the administration are divided about the move.

Palestinian leadership, which views the West Bank as the territory of its state, has decried the move as illegal and a death blow to any future peace process.

The letter was signed by a range of liberal and left-wing Jewish studies scholars across North America, Europe and Israel. They include prominent professors such as New York University’s Hasia Diner, Stanford’s Steven Zipperstein and Dartmouth’s Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most prominent rabbis of the 20th century.

“We want to shape the conversation on campus and in the culture around democracy,” said Zachary Braiterman, a Jewish studies professor at Syracuse and a co-author of the letter. “And if the government in Israel decides to annex territory and develop isolated enclaves of Palestinian territory without giving people the right to vote, as scholars committed to Jewish studies and Israel studies, we want to commit ourselves to democracy.”

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