Activist breaks down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On Monday afternoon, USC’s Students for Justice in Palestine and the Political Student Assembly co-sponsored an event featuring author and activist Josh Ruebner.

Speak out · Josh Ruebner discusses his book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace Monday at the Campus Center. - Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan

Speak out · Josh Ruebner discusses his book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace Monday at the Campus Center. – Ralf Cheung | Daily Trojan


Ruebner, a former Middle East analyst for the Congressional Research Service and the current national advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, discussed his book, Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which analyzes the Obama administration’s current policies on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ruebner began the discussion by exploring the recent history of conflict resolution, from the French colonization of Algeria to the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland.

“Why do I raise these historical conflicts at the outset of my talk?” Ruebner asked the crowd of approximately 20 students. “I raise them because we hear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intrinsically and inherently more complex and difficult to resolve than other conflicts.”

Ruebner, however, said he disagreed with this sentiment.


“I don’t believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inherently more difficult to understand or resolve than decolonizing Algeria or ending apartheid in South Africa or arranging for power-sharing in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Though the discussion began by recounting the history of the conflict to the presence of more than 5 million Palestinian refugees around the world today, Ruebner ultimately focused on the numerous attempts made by the United States to broker peace in the contested region. He also frequently likened the laws governing the area to apartheid in South Africa.

“The reason why this peace process fails, and will continue to fail, is because the peace process has not been about ending Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinians,” Ruebner said. “Rather, it has been about enforcing them.”

In comparing the Obama administration’s approach to brokering peace negotiations to those of past administrations, Ruebner highlighted instances in which Obama broke from the United States’ traditional stance on the conflict, including his opposition to Israeli settlement expansion.

“There is no doubt that President Barack Obama has had more understanding of and empathy with Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans,” Ruebner said. “Hands down.”

Ruebner also noted instances in which Obama’s administration aligned with past administrations, including his decision to increase the amount of military aid to Israel from $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion and pursuing peace negotiations in light of recent Israeli settlement expansion. To Ruebner, however, such policies continue to make the United States a “dishonest broker” in peace negotiations.

“Under international law, when you provide weapons to one side of a conflict, you have broken the laws of neutrality,” Ruebner said.

In closing, Ruebner compared the United States’ continued policies toward Israel and Palestine to a definition of insanity.

“It brings to mind Einstein’s definition of insanity — which is to do the same thing over and over again and expect that somehow you’re going to get a different result,” Ruebner said. “You’re not. That’s why we will have failure this time around as well.”

Despite the less than optimistic conclusion to the talk, many students said they appreciated the clear presentation of the contested issue.

“I thought it was very informative,” said Sean McGuire, a senior majoring in international relations and economics. “He did a really good job of laying out the policies that each of these administrations have pursued and juxtaposing them with the Obama administration’s policies.”

To Students for Justice in Palestine President Ifrah Sheikh, the presentation allowed students to examine the Obama administration from a variety of viewpoints.

“I really liked how he broke down in very clear, concise and specific points what Obama has done in the region, both positive and negative,” Sheikh said. “It’s very easy to focus on the negatives and not always look at the positives of what they’ve done.”


Follow Yasmeen on Twitter @YasmeenSerhan 

5 replies
  1. Arafat
    Arafat says:

    • There is no “Palestine”. There might have been, but they chose war instead- time and again:
    The would-have-been “Palestinians” would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.
    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).
    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).
    They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).
    They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:
    A. No peace with Israel
    B. No recognition of Israel
    C. No negotiations with Israel
    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.
    And as soon as Israel pulled every single Israeli out of Gaza, what did the would-have-been “Palestinians” do? They immediately started shooting thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers, they elected Hamas (whose official platform calls for jihad with no negotiations until Israel is destroyed) to rule them, and they have dug tunnels crossing into the Negev to kill and kidnap Israelis.
    And even afterwards, Ehud Olmert made his subsequent generous offer that went far beyond even that of Barak. The would-have-been “Palestinians” rejected it.
    They had many chances.
    They threw them all away because destroying Israel was higher on their priority list. It still is.
    Oh well. That’s their choice.

  2. Arafat
    Arafat says:

    Given that you support the Palestinians who openly advocate Jewish genocide (see their duly elected leaders clear-cut party covenants), you correspondingly do as well. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would openly advocate the liquidation of Jews, but you clearly do and it doesn’t seem to bother you a whit.
    Moreover, it would be hard to believe that anyone would support second class status for women, the honor murder of teenage girls, the brutalization of gays and the suppression of dissenters. But you, as supporters of the Palestinians who regularly practice all of the above, are therefore complicit in these sexist, racist and fascist beliefs as well.
    Why are you so bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay and such hater of Jews? Please tell us pray tell.
    And if to be opposed to such garbage practiced by so many Muslims world-wide makes one an Islamophobe, count me and all who believe in freedom and hate sexism and bigotry vs Jews as a proud Islamophobe.

  3. Arafat
    Arafat says:

    • Apartheid = “apart” + “hood”. This is, and has been the Arabs’ policy; a Jew-free land. This is also why they ethnically cleansed Judea, Samaria, and Gaza of ALL Jews in 1948. It hasn’t been, nor is it, the Jewish policy, and over a million Arab citizens of Israel (and growing) are proof.
    Yes children: Jews did live in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza- ALWAYS.
    Well, obviously Jews lived here during Biblical times. We all know that.
    If you look at the documents from the Cairo Geniza, dating back to the 9th century, you’ll find that there were Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
    If you look at travelers’ accounts from the Early Middle Ages, such as Nahmanides, Benjamin of Tudela, and a host of others, you’ll find that there were Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
    Rabbi Jechiel Ashkenazi, who was actually Sepharadi, purchased the Karite synagogue of Hebron in 1540 on behalf of the Sepharadi congregants.
    If you read about Shabtai Tzvi, the false messiah of the 16th century, you’ll find that his “prophet” was Nathan of Gaza, where the center of his movement was located for a period.
    In 1845, Dr. Ernst-Gustav Schultz, the Prussian Consul in Jerusalem, discussed the Jews living in Shechem (Nablus) and Hebron in his book, “Jerusalem, Eine Vorlesung”.
    In fact, except for the periods of 1929-1931 and 1936-1968, there has been a significant Jewish presence in Hebron SINCE BIBLICAL TIMES.
    The ONLY period of time where there were no Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza was between 1948-1967, when the Arabs ethnically-cleansed ALL Jews from here.
    And insisting that Judea be Jew-free again IS apartheid.

  4. Joan
    Joan says:

    Bravo USC for allowing someone besides the Israelis to explain the Aparteid of the Occupied Territories. Sooner or later Israel with have to acknowledge these people exist along side themselves and that they are good honest people who deserve respect and kindness and above all humanity.

    Now, don’t come back and talk about the few psychos that “Ruin It” for you. Israel has it fair share of psychos running the government. These are two sides equal in character and morals–time to accept it.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Why was there no quote or opinion of someone who disagreed with the speaker? I can appreciate that people agree with him, but I’m sure there’s opposition to what he said. The article shows a very one-sided recap of the event and I would hope that the Daily Trojan would be more conscious of that when publishing their content.

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