MSA considers Gaza conflict

BY BY MATT AARONSON AND JENNA SKOLLER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 14, 2009

In the Michigan Student Assembly’s first meeting of the semester, a resolution regarding the ongoing conflict in Gaza monopolized the meeting’s time, as more than a half dozen members of the University community weighed in on the issue.

Max Collins/Daily
MSA President Shingwani (white shirt) argues with one of the protesters.

The resolution, titled “Peace in Gaza and Israel,” was authored by LSA Representative Gibran Baydoun and MSA Chief of Staff Ashley Schwedt. It cited, among other things the death count so far in the conflict, which now stands at more than 940 Palestinian deaths and 13 Israeli deaths as of last night, according to the Associated Press. The proposal also referenced the fact that nearby Dearborn, which is home to a University satellite campus, has one of the largest concentrations of Arabs outside of the Middle East.

The resolution called for MSA executives to meet with the student leaders of the American Movement for Israel, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and any other student organizations interested in discussing the conflict.

During the portion of the meeting allotted for public comment, a number of students and Ann Arbor residents offered their take on the events transpiring in Gaza and what the assembly can do about it.

LSA junior Andrew Dalack, co-chair of SAFE, urged the assembly to pass the resolution in the hope of contributing to a “peaceful resolution to the current situation in Gaza.”

He said that the issue was very emotional and contentious for many University students and members of the Ann Arbor community, but that people should continue to learn about the situation.

“At the very least, we can all take the time to take a step back, read a couple books and try to engage each other in meaningful and productive conversation,” Dalack said.

Rep. Andrew Chinsky said that MSA’s actions related to the conflict should be limited to educational purposes, and that it was up to other student groups to take a position on the issue.

Any political decisions, he said, were out of the assembly’s boundaries.
“This is what the United Nations does. This is what the United States State Department does,” he said.

Rachel Goldstein, the chair of AMI, who was present at the meeting but opted not to speak, agreed with Chinsky’s sentiment in an e-mail to the Daily.

“A resolution regarding an international conflict has no place in the policies of our student government,” she said. “A vote in favor of the proposed resolution demonizes one people and state over another in a conflict that is far too complex for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.”

Baydoun defended the premise of the resolution, referencing many times in the history of the assembly, when MSA took bold positions on national and global issues.

“I don’t want us to be scared of what our potential is,” he said. “And I also don’t want us to be reckless.”

When it came time for local residents to give their input on the resolution, some of the speakers implored the assembly to take action against what they depicted as a humanitarian crisis in the region.
Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, who is a research fellow at the University, appealed to the assembly to “boycott” Israel, although she did not elaborate on the details of such a boycott.

“To continue to say ‘peace’ while we throw bombs at people is lunacy,” she said. “Everybody in this world can see that we are lunatics. We are immoral, barbarian lunatics.”

The assembly plans to vote on the resolution at next week’s meeting.