When Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren spoke at University of California-Irvine earlier this semester, the night ended with 11 students under arrest.
One of the students stood up in the audience and accused Oren of “propagating murder” before being led off by police. The other students arrested made similar gestures. The students were cited for disturbing a public event.
We don’t bring up this incident to take a side, either on the arrests or on the broader issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We bring up this event to illustrate what we think is one of the foundational obstacles to addressing the conflict — our inability to communicate reasonably with one another.
UPCOMING EVENTSHuman rights activist Anna Baltzer will be speaking at 7 p.m. tonight in Hanes Hall Room 120 on “What Aren’t We Hearing & How is Peace Possible in Israel/Palestine.”
A debrief and discussion session about Baltzer’s talk will occur from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Campus Y Faculty Lounge.
Rabbi John Friedman, chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet of JStreet, and Marty Rosenbluth, a lawyer, documentary film-maker, and Amnesty International’s area specialist for Israel/Occupied Territories in the 1980s, will be sharing their thoughts on the conflict at 8 p.m. April 20 in Caldwell Hall Room 105
Too often, discussions on this issue end with participants less open to hearing what others have to say.
This may be with good reason: the issues underlying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are emotionally charged and often deeply internalized.
In the hopes of beginning to overcome that obstacle, at least on this campus, a group of students with diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds and a shared commitment are taking steps to expand and deepen dialogue on the conflict. We feel that the current campus discussion on Israel and Palestine is underserved.
We’ve organized a series of events that will be our first step toward promoting an open, challenging, discourse. This series of events, by our own admission, gives voice to a relatively narrow range of perspectives on the conflict.
But we hold a serious commitment to bringing divergent perspectives in the future (while all the while refining our understanding of the most effective way to promote the dialogue we seek).
We entitled the series “Depolarizing the Conflict I: Perspectives from the Jewish Left” as a reflection of this long-term commitment — not because we thought that these events themselves will “depolarize” such an intensely divided conflict. Moreover, we do not believe that our speakers, necessarily, share our mission of promoting this kind of depolarized dialogue.
The essential work of moving closer to a rational, nuanced discourse will happen through reasoned challenges to the speakers and by taking part in a conversation after speaking events that continues to engage with points made. We hope that you will be able to join us at our events listed below.
Finally, for those who would like to work to bring a wide range of voices to campus in the future, please send us an e-mail!
Yasmeen Zamamiri is a health policy major from Greensboro. Ben Elkind is a sophomore philosophy major from Silver Spring, Md. Email Ben at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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