Notes from the Union of Progressive Zionists’ 100 Peace Accords Campaign

Notes from the Union of Progressive Zionists’ 100 Peace Accords Campaign

by Mairav Zonszein, Union of Progressive Zionists Director

With Israeli elections just days away, the Palestinian government not yet fully shaped, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still in a coma, the future of Israel and Palestine seems more nebulous than ever. Yet despite all the hoopla about tectonic shifts and proverbial earthquakes, there is still a clear majority of both Israelis and Palestinians who want to see a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict happen soon, as reflected in numerous polls. It, however, is yet to be seen whether a majority of Jewish and Muslim students in North America also support such a solution.

The Union of Progressive Zionists launched a campaign this year to challenge students who care about Israel and Palestine to come out of the woodworks and articulate their call for peace. Jewish and Muslim (and other) students on numerous campuses are currently meeting in order to educate themselves and formulate their vision for a two-state solution, which will be articulated in a written agreement that they will present as a delegation in Washington, D.C. in May.

This campaign has been a challenging endeavor, as both sides often have a hard time taking the initial step toward one another, but we have found overall positive response. In some cases, it is only a few individuals, and in other cases, established groups on campus with distinct principles are publicly dialoguing about their beliefs and concerns regarding a final-status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Regardless of the actual agreements that will be reached, what we are seeing is a concerted effort by Israeli and Palestinian sympathizers on campus to come together and talk to each other, thereby dispelling the animosity, fear and ignorance that too often mars the debate on campus.

Below is a letter written by such a coalition at the University of Arizona that went out in emails and will be published in their campus newspaper.

Dear friends,

The Muslim Student Association and Hillel at the University of Arizona in Tucson are initiating a dialogue concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more specifically the recent dramatic events both in Israel and in Palestine.

We find Tucson to be one of the few safe spaces where we are all on “neutral” territory and on an equal footing as students. How often would we get an opportunity in our respective homes to meet with a diverse group of Palestinians, Israelis and students genuinely interested in the conflict for an open, honest and free discussion without power-politics at play?

Although the end goal is to together write a peace agreement, the discussion along the way is not about reaching a conclusion after each meeting. It’s a learning experience, an opportunity to explore. Regardless of whether or not you believe engaging in this kind of dialogue might lead to something, the opportunity to experience this can only be positive. We’re all here at the UA for an educational experience: this experience should be a process of widening our horizons, of exposure to new ideas and people, of encountering challenges to our perceptions of things.

Part of this process is to engage with ‘the other’, whether ‘the other’ seems alien to us by virtue of contrasting convictions or because of history and identity. Palestinians and Israelis are perhaps each other’s ultimate other.

The first meeting will take place on Monday, March 6th at 7:00 PM at Hillel, the Jewish Student Center, on northwest corner of 2nd street and Mountain. The meeting places will most likely go back and forth from the ICT and Hillel (this is up for discussion). The first meeting will consist of a general introduction and discussion of expectations for this engagement. To this end each participant will be asked to introduce her/himself and relate to the following questions:

If you are Israeli/Jewish, what are your perceptions of Palestinians?

If you are Arab/Muslim, what are your perceptions of Israelis?

Why do you have these perceptions?

How does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict affect your life and convictions?

What value, if any, do you see in this dialogue?

We hope that your contributions will help us understand where we come from as Israelis, Palestinians and students who genuinely care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and perhaps by engaging with each other we will see more clearly where we are headed.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! We can’t wait to meet you all.

Sincerely,

Hillel and MSA members at the University of Arizona

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By | 2006-03-15T22:17:00+00:00 March 15th, 2006|Blog|0 Comments

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