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Columbia Spectator Staff

As Israel and Palestine remain locked in conflict, Columbia students are working to keep the issues alive on campus. On Thursday afternoon, a small group of students attended a discussion with Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) on the importance of a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. break The purpose of the event was for students to learn more about current U.S. policy on Israel and the Middle East in general, although it was also regarded as an opportunity for students to express gratitude to Rangel for his ongoing support of positive U.S.-Israel relations. About 15 students met with Rangel, who is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. The discussion was sponsored by LionPAC, Columbia's nonpartisan, pro-Israel political student group. Since the event was limited to a small space, there was no room for press. Students were available for reflection afterward. The goals of the event were "to show our continued support as constituents of Columbia University," Sara Ashman, BC '10 and Political Affairs Director of LionPAC, said. Ashman said she thought it was important "to show that students at this campus care about the U.S.-Israel relationship." Rangel began the discussion by asking students which current political issues are most important to them. He then divulged his own opinion on the direction U.S. policy should take in the Middle East, emphasizing that it is essential to maintain a strong bond with Israel. "He spoke about the benefits of the U.S.-Israel relationship—Israel's democratic ideals and how important that is to the region," Jacob Shapiro, GS/JTS '11 and president of LionPAC, said. In 2006, Rangel released a statement concerning the 58th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, stating that while Israel has become a "bustling country with a strong economy," it is not universally recognized. He ended the statement, saying, "Israel is one of our strongest and most important allies and its friendship is invaluable." Ashman said that Rangel holds a stance shared by other members of Congress: The relationship between the U.S. and Israel should persist in the future. "He really showed that it is very much a bipartisan issue—cared about by Democrats and Republicans and the lefts and the rights," she said. Michael Landes, GS/JTS '11 and co-chair of KOACH, a Conservative Jewish student group within Hillel, stressed Rangel's personable approach to speaking with students. "He was very in touch with the feelings of Americans and individual Israelis," he said. "He was very personal and individual and spoke from experience and familiarity of what people wanted. "The bottom line," Landes said, "is that we need to have peace in the Middle East—if the relationship is strong, then peace is forthcoming." Ultimately, Shapiro said, Rangel emphasized that Congress has to think not only about maintaining a relationship between the U.S. and Israel, but also about what will be beneficial to the United States. "[He] discussed how benefiting the U.S. first and foremost is what our policy needs to surround in the region," he said. "He wants to make sure that the guiding force behind our decisions and strategies is what will be strategically helpful to the United States."

Palestine LionPAC Israel Charles Rangel