Students for Justice in Palestine in collaboration with Janis Club hosted an event to open a dialogue on the current situation between Palestine and Israel. The event, entitled “Peace in the Middle East: Palestine, Israel, and You,” featured guest speaker Mark Sniderman, a Jewish-American civil rights attorney.
Sniderman began his speech giving a brief description of the current climate in between Palestinians and Israelites. The land that they occupy is home to a number of important religious sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mount of the Rock and The Western Wall. Both states are deeply religious, but there are more factors that are causing tension. Israel has a clear militarily and organizationally stronghold over the Palestinians.
Sniderman covered many points within his presentation. One of the biggest points he focused on was generating a solution. One solution proposed by many is the “one-state solution.” It advocates a single state in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Within this would also include citizenship and equal rights for everyone in these territories, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Another popular solution is the “two-state solution.” Essentially, this calls for one state for Palestine and one for Israel. One of the biggest barriers to the two-state solution is the dispute as to where the borders should be draw. Palestinian and Arab leadership insist on the use of “1967 borders,” but Israel does not agree on the matter.
Another important point that Sniderman touched on was the United States’ role in the situation. United States tax dollars fund foreign affairs, whether citizens believe in the actions or not. Israel is one of the top recipients of United States foreign aid. They receive around $3 billion annually. This being said, according to Sniderman, much of the world views the United States as one of the most viable and logical entities to step in and help the situation. But, one of the biggest questions raised during the presentation was the United States’ ability to be a “fair and honest broker” between the two countries.
University of Indianapolis student Fidaa Abuassi, a Palestinian student studying to receive her Masters in International Affairs and member of SJP, has experienced the situation firsthand. During the presentation, she recounted her own and acquaintances’ experiences at Israeli border checks, where Palestinians can be held for hours.
“The purpose of SJP is to be informed about the situation, because in the media, you only hear one side of the story,” Abuassi said. “The most important thing that I want for people here is to be more open-minded and to hear both sides.”
Another point she emphasized for American students and citizens was to be well informed. She was well aware of the aid that Israel receives from the United States, but challenged United States citizens to find out what exactly their tax dollars are funding.
“Since the U.S. is so involved in this conflict, I think the American people can have a say on it,” Abuassi said. “Since their taxes are paid [in part] to military aid to Israel, they need to question it. Where does the money go? From my experience, as a Palestinian, this money is used to persecute us, to kill us and massacre us in Gaza, since I’m from Gaza. I’m just hoping Americans are informed on that [where the money goes].”
Senior Nir Posner shared dialogue with Sniderman multiple times throughout the duration of the event. Posner, originally from Israel, stressed the importance of the effect of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic organization, on the situation. Hamas has received criticism for striking and hitting non-military targets in attacks, including women and children.
Posner also defended Israel’s caution during border checks and the stopping of Palestinians. He stated that there is a fear within Israeli soldiers, because they do not know the people who are approaching them and whether or not they mean harm towards them. Posner continued dialogue with members of SJP for over an hour after then end of the event.
“I think it is very important to know both sides,” Posner said. “If you want to make an honest, real discussion, you have to have both sides. Then you can judge for yourself. You have to make up your own mind and not be led by someone else.”