For the second week in a row, issues surrounding the situation in Gaza dominated a majority of the Michigan Student Assembly’s weekly meeting in the Michigan Union.

Max Collins/Daily
LSA junior Andrew Dalack speaks about the Gaza conflict during an assembly meeting on January 20, 2009.

Amended versions of two resolutions discussed at last week’s meeting concerning the conflict were brought up for a vote at last night’s meeting. The debate and subsequent consideration of the proposals attracted numerous speakers from the community, including several students and a multitude of opinions on the topic.

The first resolution brought before the assembly, “Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza,” authored by Rackham Rep. Kate Stenvig, called for a letter to be sent to The Michigan Daily and The Ann Arbor News demonstrating MSA’s support for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Stenvig adamantly defended the resolution, though it eventually failed to pass.

“I think that we need to be taking a stand and saying that we support a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, including allowing the passage of humanitarian aid to the thousands and thousands that are homeless and without running water,” she said at the meeting.

The second proposal considered was “Resolution to Call for Peace in Gaza and Israel,” authored by LSA Reps. Gibran Baydoun, Andrew Chinsky, Ian Margolis and Cassie Feldman, MSA Chief of Staff Ashley Schwedt and Business Rep. Jason Raymond.

At around 12:15 a.m. last night, after five hours of community input and discussion, the amendment passed.

“The Michigan Student Assembly mourns all death and deeply wants the violence to stop for the sake of the residents of Gaza, Israel and the world and supports humanitarian efforts and peace,” the resolution stated.

The resolution called for the resolution’s authors and MSA executives to work with the American Movement for Israel and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality to plan a screening of a documentary about the sisterhood of six Arab and six Jewish women entitled “Refusing to be Enemies: the Zeitouna Story.”

It also called for a copy of the resolution and a letter including the details of the screening to be sent to The Michigan Daily, The Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Free Press.

The decision to still consider a resolution concerning an international conflict that is currently in the midst of a cease-fire was addressed by several members of MSA last night. They said that since they believe the situation continues to be a humanitarian crisis, the proposal is still relevant. Additionally, they said that the Middle East conflict in general is a controversial issue that many students care about and thus should be taken up by the assembly.

Much of the sentiment from the previous week’s meeting was echoed last night, including passionate discourse on both sides of the issue.
Several people present at the meeting argued that the proposal was a means of helping those in need during a time of humanitarian crisis.

“I’m a Palestinian, I’m a Jew, I’m a Christian, I’m a person, I’m a human,” community member Husan Ahmad said. “The thing here is we have a matter that touched not only Palestinian, but it touched Christian, Jew, Hispanic; it touched everybody in the world. The problem here we are facing is not Jewish, it is Zionist.”

Others argued that the resolution was one-sided and did not present enough information about the attacks on Israel leading up to its campaign in Gaza.
“It makes no mention of Hamas or what’s going on in southern Israel or that over a million Israelis are living within range of rocket fire,” Chinsky said. “If we want to get a more balanced resolution, that’s something we can talk about in the future, you don’t have to be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli to do that.”

The issue of whether or not it is appropriate for MSA to pass a resolution about an international conflict was also a point of much debate last night.

LSA-SG Rep. Adam London, who is not a member of MSA, said that as a student government representative himself, he does not think it is within the assembly’s parameters to pass an amendment on such a global issue.

“We have a large view, and it’s important that what you say and the actions you take should represent those who voted for you,” he said. “Know when it’s right not to get involved in something that is really more of an international concern.”

Stenvig disagreed with London, arguing that a student government has the responsibility to take stances on issues that many University students are concerned with regardless of their locality.

“To take a position as a group of leaders that is elected is a tangible thing that has an impact,” Stenvig said. “We’re not future leaders; we’re leaders today already, and we have a responsibility to take positions like this.”

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