Anuraug Chaudhary and Madeline St. John
Can something be both necessary and needless, systematic and disorganized, familiar and distant? If you are talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the many views associated with it, then yes.
Historically, there has been a lack of conversation about the conflict on campus. Last semester, A student who was born and raised in Israel, worked with a pro-Palestinian student on two events in an effort to promote conversation about the conflict. What they found, the student said, was that there are three types of people, all of who were scared of each other: the pro-Israeli, the pro-Palestinian, and the person who doesn’t know anything, who is scared to ask because s/he is afraid of both sides.
A new club, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), started out the year making waves, simply by having a table at club rush. Also this year, Gabrielle Spear ‘15, executive board member of SJP, has come together with Israel-born Nadav Marcus ‘17 to lead a discussion on the conflict. Held in the Batza Room of the Athenaeum, “It’s Time to Talk: An Israel and Palestine Discussion” is open to all students and all points of view. The leaders of the new Israel and Palestine book discussion hope bring these groups of people together in conversation in a safe and open space.
The group will be reading “One Land, Two Stories,” a book co-authored by an Israeli professor and a Palestinian professor. In weekly meetings, the group will discuss the topics presented in chapters of the book. “We wanted it to be a discussion by and for the students. We are hoping that by doing it in this way the discussion as a whole can be a model for what is possible at Goucher,” Spear said.
Monday, October 6th was the first meeting of the “It’s Time to Talk” discussion group. Marcus and Spear, who are leading the discussion, laid out their ground rules: listen to others and really think about what they are saying before responding. Also, let each other know if you are offended. The two of them are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to views on the Israeli-Palestine Conflict. “If we could come together, everyone could…There is no option to ignore other people any longer…There are many truths. Just because something is not true for you, that does not mean it isn’t a truth,” Marcus said.
Goucher Hillel is also involved in the conversation. Hillel supports Israel’s right to defend itself as a Jewish state, but also welcomes multiple viewpoints. Karin Hassin, Hillel’s full-time Israel fellow, has the job of connecting students to Israel. On October 30th, Gil Hoffman, an Israel expert, will be coming to speak.
Meanwhile, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hopes to give a voice to students who sympathize with Palestine. Prior to the creation of SJP, there was no place for students to express solidarity with Palestine. SJP leaders wanted to challenge this status quo. “After meetings, students have come up to me and said, ‘before, I was afraid to say something that wasn’t pro-Israel, or anything that was critical of Israel. I don’t feel so alone now, I know it’s not just me.’ That’s why I started SJP,” executive board member Ashley Begley ‘16 said.
SJP leaders made it clear that they will not stand for racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc. They are aware that in other parts of the nation there have been altercations between SJP members and other students, and they want to make it clear that that they are not associated with that. Goucher’s SJP club is completely nonviolent. Club leaders view their club as a reflection of the Palestinian people and they do not want to reflect them in a negative way. As of now, SJP will be focusing on education and teachings, advocacy and awareness. “The biggest thing [Americans] should do is educate themselves. Have the audacity to look at International, at Arab news sources. It’s all readily available online,” SJP member Jason Wright ‘14 said.
Overall, students of varying perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are very hopeful about the continuing conversation on campus. “I have been astounded by, and regained some hope for humanity, in interacting with Goucher’s students, in their capacity for openness,” Wright said.