J Street U USC held a discussion Thursday night in Seeley G. Mudd Hall entitled “Groundhog Day in Gaza: What Drives Cycles of Violence Between Israel and Hamas and How It Can End” concerning the future of the Gaza region in light of this past summer’s outbreak of violence.
The event featured Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.
“We are a Washington, D.C.-based office of six people who believe that the focal point of the issue has to be American foreign policy and American national interest,” Ibish said.
J Street U is a national organization that advocates for long-term peaceful solutions to the conflict in the region. The USC chapter is one of more than 50 and began in the spring of last year.
“The reason we brought it [to USC] was because we recognized that there was a vacuum of discussion on campus,” said Yasmeen Serhan, co-founder of USC’s chapter and special projects editor of the Daily Trojan. “There wasn’t a space for us to really discuss the pragmatic steps being taken on the international level, so we felt like bringing this organization would provide students a space to respectfully discuss the issues.”
About 35 students from various demographic backgrounds attended the discussion.
“I came to the discussion because I was interested in hearing both sides,” said Mackenzie Gansert, a senior majoring in political economy. “I think it’s really important that we have a dialogue on campus, and this was the first time I had heard of such dialogue going on. I thought it was really interesting to hear the perspective of someone who has written books on this topic.”
Specifically, J Street U supports a two-state solution in which the sovereignties of both Israel and Palestine can be respected separately.
“Our purpose is to support a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an independent, secure state of Israel alongside an independent, secure state of Palestine,” Serhan said. “Ibish has a very solid understanding of this issue. He really does focus on the Middle East region as a whole, which allows for an analytical, philosophical perspective.”
Ibish expressed his concern with both Israel’s and Hamas’ aggression actions throughout history, which have often involved territorial occupation.
“Israel and Palestine both have a right to defend themselves, but occupying an enemy territory is an illegal imposition on a people who deserve, and have every right, to live in freedom,” he said.
Estee Chandler, an organizer for the L.A. Jewish Voice for Peace, expressed concern with Ibish’s stance on U.S. national interest in the region.
“What would happen if [the United States] had an outside entity imposing a solution on us?” Chandler asked.
Chandler also disagreed with the notion that the region must necessarily split into two states.
“Whether two states or one, the outcome should include security, justice and equality for all people,” she added.
Ibish, however, said he felt a two-state solution was necessary to bring stability to the region.
“I’ve becoming disenchanted with the one-state solution,” Ibish said. “We’ve had a single state since 1967, and it’s awful and immoral. The people there are non-citizens. They are living in fear. There’s no way to tweak this reality we have. Something revolutionary needs to happen there, and the only way I can think to do it is by having two states.”
The J Street U USC will be having its next discussion at Ground Zero on Oct. 27 at 6:00 p.m.