Groups on opposite sides of the issue are working to raise awareness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with events held this week and last aimed at promoting understanding and, ultimately, peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been one of the most enduring and far-reaching of all world conflicts. While many proposals of two-state plans have been suggested over the years, the core issues of recognition, borders, security and control of Jerusalem have yet to be resolved.
The issue has been as divisive around campus as it has throughout the world, and last week ’SC Students for Israel held its first Israel Peace Week at USC. Meanwhile, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) held a two-week event called Palestine Awareness Week. Though both events approach the issue from very different sides, both groups said their main goal is peace.
Israel Peace Week featured events attempting to highlight Israel’s various achievements in hopes of working against anti-Israel sentiment on campus and promoting an optimistic outlook for the future of Middle Eastern relations. Leaders of ’SC Students for Israel said they hoped to offset prejudice toward Israel and create a more positive sentiment.
“We hope to use this event to bring out peace and coexistence for everyone by identifying actual obstacles to that peace,” said Shanel Melamed, president of ’SC Students for Israel. “We need to get together as brothers, not as enemies, in order to fight for the rights of all Middle Easterners, including Palestinians.”
The week’s events began last Monday with a workshop on Krav Maga, an Israeli form of martial arts. ’SC Students for Israel also sponsored other educational programming and will conclude Israel Peace Week with a final event to be held sometime this week. Called “Flags of Humanities,” the event will feature posters and information on Israel’s various attempts to reach out in times of need.
At the same time ’SC Students for Israel held Israel Peace Week, SJP hosted Palestine Awareness Week, aimed at promoting peace in the context of the Palestinian rights movement. The two-week event is part of the nationwide Israel Apartheid Week, a movement to educate people about “the nature of Israel as an apartheid system.”
Last week, SJP screened a film about the conflict and hosted a speaker who discussed the U.S. war in Afghanistan. They will host more events this week, touching on topics including war crimes in Gaza and the boycott of Israeli goods.
SJP leaders said they hope to educate students about the Palestinian side of the conflict.
“We hope to raise awareness about what’s happening in Palestine, voice general perspectives and show how Israeli aggression is contributing to violence in the area. Overall, our main goal is peace,” said Alex Shams, SJP president and a Daily Trojan staff member.
Melamed said ’SC Students for Israel decided to hold Israel Peace Week last week as a response to Israel Apartheid Week.
Many students said they are glad work is being done to raise awareness on both sides of the issue.
“Already at my time at USC, I’ve witnessed anti-Israel activities on campus and encountered ignorant comments from students and administration regarding Middle Eastern politics, so it’s reassuring to see efforts being made to counteract these beliefs and support true peace and cooperation,” said Daniella Fischel, a freshman majoring in business administration and cinema-television.
Mariel Levine, a freshman majoring in communication, said she hopes the two groups’ events will help in the quest for peace.
“I hope this week helps USC students come together despite their different backgrounds, religions and belief systems in order to rally for a common cause of coexistence and harmony in the Middle East,” Levine said.
Shams noted, however, that the goal of peace and common ground might be better achieved if Palestine Awareness Week and Israel Peace Week were not held at the same time.
“We should plan in ways that allow both of us to come to events,” he said.
Still, leaders of both groups said they want to work toward a peaceful resolution.
“We want to encourage a positive response to the conflict going on and look towards a brighter future instead of blaming others or pointing fingers,” Melamed said.