College campuses are the ideal place to learn from each other. We, the University of Michigan Israel Cohort, define this type of dialogue as an opportunity for individuals to come together, with equal opportunity for everyone’s voices to be heard. Dialogue rests on the basic notion that everyone acknowledges the other party’s rights and legitimacy to its own opinions. This form of dialogue makes room for multiple voices to be heard, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One must not assume that all individuals interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only care for one side. On campus, we see how different groups are concerned with the future of the region as a whole. One such group that exemplifies this holistic concern for the region — for both the future of the Jewish people and for the Palestinian people — is J Street UMich. J Street UMich puts on its agenda the idea to lobby and educate for the rights of both the Israelis and Palestinians. There is clearly a large community that seeks to raise awareness and educate about the large number of issues that affect both Palestinians and Israelis in the region. With this kind of diverse activism prevalent on campus, it is unfair for one single group to claim to be “the voice” for either the “Israeli cause” or the “Palestinian cause.”
Students Allied for Freedom and Equality’s recent article written in support of Boycott Divestment Sanctions directly negates our efforts for such dialogue. BDS — the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of all Israeli products — is detrimental to the objective of exchanging ideas in an environment where we can put forth our concerns and to listen to others in order to achieve a better future. The boycott itself perpetuates the conflict by ignoring both sides of the equation. It must be established that the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians is not a zero-sum game. By advocating for BDS, SAFE simplifies the situation into one that is black and white, claiming to be the only possible way, which directly contradicts Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas’s recent claims that the BDS movement is more harmful than helpful for the Palestinian people. Abbas recently stated: “We do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel. We have mutual recognition of Israel.” With the president officially recognizing that BDS is an inefficient means of achieving peace, he insists that Israel must be part of the solution. We encourage groups on campus to do the same, and it is for this reason that we see dialogue as imperative to finding a way to involve all the individuals affected.
This is precisely why we join Abbas in condemning SAFE’s argument that “opening a platform for discussion on the boycott … would normalize these people’s marginalization in society.” Plain and clear, the rejection of dialogue and the lack of willingness to bring people together to exchange ideas and implement change — is precisely what allows conflict to continue, both on our campus and in the Middle East. SAFE claims that dialogue would not do anything for the Palestinian people, but we believe — with proof embedded in recent history — that the opposite is true. In fact, the 1993 Oslo Accords attest to the strength of dialogue; direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Liberation Organization resulted in the acknowledgment of both sides’ rights to exist in peace and security. Dialogue has worked in the past, and continues to be the integral aspect in conflict resolution.
Our desire to have a dialogue and to work towards a two-state solution — the only solution that takes into concern the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians — is sincere. A two-state solution will provide nation states for both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people. The international community, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are working feverishly to move forward with these issues and are on the brink of a breakthrough. BDS directly threatens these efforts, just as the president of the PA affirmed. Why impede the road to peace?
We would like to invite you to take part in these efforts by joining us and I-LEAD at our upcoming event with “OneVoice”, a grassroots organization that brings together Israelis and Palestinians to discuss the burning issues at hand. Please join students, Israelis and Palestinians, who are committed to bettering the lives of both people, at Hillel on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., 1429 Hill St.
We are ready to work towards a sustainable future for both people. Will you be a part of this change?
The University of Michigan Israel Cohort
This article was written by members of the University of Michigan Israel Cohort.