Pressley hits Israel on annexation plan
Joins group of 12 lawmakers opposing the land grab
As Israel was poised to annex a vast swath of the West Bank in violation of international law, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley last week issued a sharply-worded statement on the move, arguing that it would “jeopardize any efforts for long-term peace and equality in the region.”
“Let me be clear, unilateral annexation is a threat to democracy and would create apartheid like conditions and entrench human rights violations against the Palestinian people,” Pressley said in her statement.
Pressley also joined 12 Democratic members of Congress who are protesting Israel’s annexation, which violates a Geneva Convention ban on countries moving civilians into territory during a military occupation. Israel currently has 600,000 of its citizens living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians claim as land for their planned future state.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticizing the land grab and threatening to withhold U.S. foreign aid to Israel.
“Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way,” reads the letter, which Pressley also signed.
Others who signed onto Ocasio-Cortez letter besides Pressley include Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal, Raul Grijalva, André Carson, Nydia Velázquez, Bobby Rush, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Danny Davis and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s July 1 deadline for the annexation has come and gone, and it’s unclear how his government intends to proceed with his annexation plan. While the international community is opposed to the move, the Trump administration has been supportive of annexation.
The protests of the 13 Democrats represents one of the sharpest rebukes of Israel in recent history and drew a swift rebuke from the powerful American-Israeli Political Action Committee. On Twitter, AIPAC tweeted that the letter “explicitly threatens the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that would damage American interests, risk the security of Israel & make a two-state solution less likely.”
In decades past, individual members of Congress have denounced Israel’s military actions, including invasions of Lebanon and the bombardment of the Gaza Strip, but the current group of mostly Black and Latino lawmakers represents the largest group to openly challenge Israeli policy in decades.
In the 1970s, Black elected officials and civil rights activists often expressed solidarity with Palestinians, who then were seen as part of an international anti-colonial movement. Civil Rights icon Jesse Jackson and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young both drew fire for meeting with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s. Jackson, who launched a run for president, faced death threats from Jewish extremist groups. Young was forced to resign from his post.
Palestine was partitioned between its Muslim and Christians on one hand and Jewish nationalists who founded the state of Israel in 1948. During a war that year, Israeli forces seized 78 percent of Palestinian land for their state. During a 1967 war, Israel began a military occupation of the remaining 22 percent of the Palestinian land and, since then, has been expanding illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories.
While previous U.S. presidents have sought a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis and voiced opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, the Trump administration has supported the expansion of settlements and Israel’s expropriation of land, including Syria’s Golan Heights, which Israel has unilaterally annexed.
Netanyahu named an illegal settlement in the Golan Heights “Trump Heights” after the president officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian territory.
Outside of the Trump White House, Israel’s latest annexation plan has drawn widespread condemnation around the world. In Boston, a crowd estimated at 200 demonstrators rallied in front of the State House Tuesday to protest the planned annexation.
Queen-Cheyenne Wade, an organizer with the anti-police violence group For The People (FTP), expressed solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination.
“We at FTP see our mission, struggle and liberation intrinsically linked to the people of Palestine as they continue their fight for liberation and self-determination,” she said during the demonstration.