The pro-Israel community at UNC is committed to open dialogue around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and together creating a space where all students feel respected. We are saddened and frustrated when the campus community turns to one-sided finger pointing.
Israeli Apartheid Week, put on by UNC Students for Justice in Palestine, directly challenges those interested in peace by blaming Israel alone for the conflict and incorrectly labeling Israel as an apartheid state. This week, organized nationally on college campuses, often creates silence between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups; at worst, it creates hostile environments.
Our organizations have different perspectives. Hillel inspires students to build a personal relationship with Israel and is broadly committed to supporting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders. J Street UNC feels that to address disparities in rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank requires acknowledging what J Street understands to be a military occupation — but not apartheid. Heels for Israel is committed to resolving the conflict through direct negotiations without third-party involvement, leading to a two-state solution that assures the Jewish State of Israel’s national security.
Even with these differences, we agree that Israel proper is not an apartheid (racially separated) state. There are Palestinians serving in the Israeli Parliament and Supreme Court, and the declaration of independence affirms equality for all.
SJP seeks to raise awareness of the problems facing Palestinians. However, calling Israel an apartheid state focuses solely on Israel’s faults, ignoring the intersection of the rights and national aspirations of both peoples.
We do not want to shy away from the truths and sadness on both sides. Rather, we should create a space where pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups can work together. We should listen to both the tragedy in the West Bank and the fears of Israeli citizens living with security concerns.
We call on all students to share in educating our campus about what it takes to achieve peace, bringing in speakers with a range of views and following varying news sources. It also means understanding the region’s history and the sensitivities that shut down conversation rather than encourage it.
We desire peace and want to see a bilaterally agreed upon two-state solution resulting in a Palestinian state alongside Israel. We call upon students to come together to discuss steps we can take toward justice and peace.
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