President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Jerusalem means the U.S. is back in the two-state solution game. Now we must do our part.
In a striking display of leadership, Obama’s speech on Thursday laid out the path to a lasting end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
In the speech, the president acknowledged the importance of decisive leadership on the part of America, Israel and Palestine. He asserted that “peace is possible,” affirming that there is a “true partner in President (Mahmoud) Abbas and Prime Minister (Salam) Fayyad” of the Palestinian Authority.
But most importantly, he called on all of us to help end the conflict. “I can promise you this: Political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.”
Now more than ever, we must all work together to be that change. On campus, this means working together to educate, discuss and build power, and to avoid creating an atmosphere of division.
It means resisting wantonly antagonistic politics while searching for common ground, alliance and action. Yet too often, we all get distracted by campus-level disagreements, and we miss possibilities for cooperation.
This week, UNC Students for Justice in Palestine hosted Israeli Apartheid Week, a global initiative aiming “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”
We deeply sympathize with efforts to explicate the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. But the events of apartheid week blaming Israel alone for perpetuating an unjust system ignored the true nature of the conflict: Israel proper is not an apartheid (racially separated) state, as Arab members of the elected Israeli parliament and Supreme Court demonstrate.
And while the Israeli occupation of Palestine is unjust on many levels and involves segregation and separation that should trouble us all, it is just that: a military occupation, not apartheid.
Eyeing the occupation only through the lens of apartheid does not provide students with viable steps toward peace. It divides us, leaving us arguing over who holds responsibility and whose narrative is true, rather than working together.
Most importantly, it obscures a crucial fact: The two-state solution is the most preferred solution by the majority of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.
We must come together for a secure Israel and a future state of Palestine. Only united as a campus and a nation-wide pro-peace movement can we achieve our goals: an end to the occupation, a secure, democratic Jewish homeland and the fulfillment of national self-determination for the Palestinians.
We call on every student with a commitment to peace and human rights to help focus the campus climate on the rights, dignity and security needs of both peoples.
J Street UNC will be hosting open, dialogue-based educational events on a bimonthly basis for the rest of this semester.
We invite everyone into thoughtful action with us behind President Obama.
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