This week Columbia students will once again be subjected to the uninvited—yet ever-present and monotonous—propaganda of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This week, the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine will promote its Right to Education Week, the focus of which will not be education, but the distortion and mischaracterization of Israeli security against terrorism as a system of oppression against Palestinians. Those of you familiar with the back-and-forth swinging of the pendulum between the two sides on campus may be surprised to find that, this time, one of the sides will be taking a different approach to the debate.
The discussion on campus has fundamentally shifted in the last two years—in that it simply no longer exists. The two sides cannot be aptly described as pro-Israel vis-à-vis pro-Palestine. Rather, the dichotomy has become pro-Israel versus anti-Israel. When one side promotes dialogue, conversation, and mutual recognition, and the other side preaches occupation, oppression, and apartheid, there is a clear disparity of issues and a break in the direction of the discussion. The two sides are no longer parallel in path. I could bore you with a lengthy diatribe of facts and figures, but I propose a different way of determining this new dichotomy: Ask members of C-SJP a series of questions.
Ask them if they support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with two states for two peoples, living in peace and security and full mutual recognition. Ask them if they support the establishment of a Palestinian state, a Palestine as an independent, democratic state side-by-side with Israel. Ask them if they accept the legitimacy of systematic historic resolutions and declarations calling for the creation of two states for two peoples, such as the 1937 British Peel Commission, the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan, and the 1993 Oslo Accords. Ask them if the majority of Palestinians living in Israel, some who identify as Israeli-Arab, would prefer to live in a State of Palestine over the State of Israel. Ask them if Jews would be permitted to live in a State of Palestine. Ask them if they are referring to 1948 or 1967 when they say “occupation.” Ask them if they denounce Hamas and Hezbollah, two internationally recognized terrorist organizations—both have American, Israeli, and even Palestinian blood on their hands, both have stated unequivocally their wish to obliterate Israel, and both have threatened Jews around the world. Ask them if they will recognize the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, as the land where Jews the world over have a shared history, language, culture, and religion. Ask them why the Palestinian Authority continuously rejects engaging in direct negotiations with Israel to reach peace. Ask them.
As a pro-Israel student leader on campus, I have tried to advance peace, dialogue, and discussion on issues relating to the conflict in the Middle East. I have tried to engage those involved in C-SJP during their “mock checkpoints” or “Apartheid Weeks” even in the face of growing cynicism. But what can you do when the people you are supposed to be in dialogue with refuse to recognize your legitimacy? Instead they promote a culture of hatred, and they speak not about a world with a Palestine, but about a world without an Israel. In contrast, LionPAC and the greater pro-Israel community seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict that recognizes the humanity of both sides, and the legitimacy of the two sides’ narratives. I want to believe that there are level-headed and open-minded individuals who will take an objective look at the issues when presented with contrary opinions. I seek partners who share my vision of a campus free of internal division and strife, and who, like me, long to see both peoples live in peace and dignity. Therefore, this is an open call to anyone who no longer wishes to hear the hostile rhetoric of the Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine. If you want to have a conversation about the tough issues, about truth and facts, about narratives, about anything relating to this conflict, I invite you to come forward. Ask.
The author is a senior in List College. He is the president of LionPAC.