Despite an intent to promote peace and nonviolence, Thursday night's discussion of the conflict in the Middle East left some participants with the same anger felt thousands of miles away by clashing Israelis and Palestinians.
The panel, hosted by the Arab Club, N.C. Peace Action, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment and the United Nations Organization, included faculty, students and representatives from organizations concerned with Israel-Palestine violence. The panelists traced historical background surrounding the conflict and probed media-related issues, but the views expressed were overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian.
Or Mars, director of N.C. Hillel, held the lone Jewish perspective on the panel. "While what is being said is important to hear, this is not, like the alleged goal of the forum, promoting peace and understanding," he said. Mars said he hopes the next session would explore the issue with more diverse viewpoints.
Nadav Davidai, a junior history and political science major from Durham, also said the panel lacked the differences necessary to make it an open discussion. "I'm disappointed because I thought this was going to be a dialogue, but there was no opportunity for those with an Israeli perspective to talk," he said. "I came away very angry."
Palestinian supporters expressed frustration with what they viewed as the injustice of the situation in the Middle East and the media coverage of it at home.
"Every time I go to a discussion such as this and hear my history recounted, I ask myself, `How could this happen?'" said Rania Masri, a member of the Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition.
Majd Aburabia, a Palestinian medical student at UNC, also offered a personal perspective. "I have dual citizenship, but I feel like I don't have a home anywhere," she said. "Palestinians feel like strangers anywhere in the world."
Eva Brantley, a Global Exchange delegate, continued the outpour of Palestinian sentiment, voicing her concerns over the media's often incomplete portrayal of the conflict. "Palestinian people are grossly underrepresented in the media, and the truth is not always made known to the public," she said.
Masri agreed with Brantley's assertions. "We don't hear what is going on, we aren't told what is going on, it is a taboo topic in the U.S. You could get a better understanding by reading an Israeli paper than by reading a paper in the U.S."
Marty Rosenbluth, a representative of Amnesty International, viewed media coverage of trouble in the Middle East in the same way. "There's no easy way to get information other than to read a variety of sources and figure out for yourself where the truth lies," he said. "If you look at the different ways stories are presented, you often think you are hearing completely different stories."
Despite frustrations with the event's presentation, some participants were able to see past the strife. "There is no devil, there is no demon (in the conflict)," said philosophy graduate student Matthew Smith, who is Jewish. "To place that label on one side makes peace an absolute impossibility."
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