Two local chapters of national advocacy organization J Street hosted retired Congressman John Dingell and newly elected Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) on Wednesday evening to recognize the former representative’s commitment to security and peace in the Middle East.
J Street is a national advocacy group that aims to promote peace through a “two-state solution” — the idea of resolving conflict between Israelis and Palestinians by having them live side by side in separate states created from what is now Israel. The group seeks diplomatic help from the U.S. government to mediate between the two sides to create those two states.
Both the Ann Arbor’s chapter and the University’s chapter of J Street hosted Wednesday’s event.
Other groups have advocated for several other options to address the conflict in the region, namely, designating the land as solely a Palestinian or Israeli state.
Former Congressman Dingell has been an active supporter of J Street Ann Arbor since its establishment in 2010, the group said. Public Health Prof. Toby Citrin, co-chair of J Street Ann Arbor, said they have consistently enjoyed a good relationship with the former congressman.
“We could always count on John Dingell to lend his respective voice to the effort,” he said. ”When (we) went to Washington or visited his office in Dearborn, we could always expect a warm welcome and an honest discussion with Representative Dingell and his staff.”
During the event, Dingell said the two-state solution is not only a solution for the conflict in the Middle East, but it benefits both Israel and Palestine.
As a congressman, Dingell expressed his support in several ways, including being one of 74 members of Congress to sign a 2012 letter to President Barack Obama asking him to endorse a two-state solution. Later that year, he also visited campus to speak on the issue.
“It’s peace that (both sides) want,” Dingell said. “It is the cause of peace in the Middle East … and the cause of Israel’s continuing freedom.”
Rebecca Kanner, co-chair of J Street Ann Arbor, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily the organization believes having two separate states would allow Israelis to live in peace and Palestinians to build their own country.
Rep. Dingell, who assumed her husband’s seat in November 2014, also addressed the group.
During her two months in office, no bills regarding the conflict have arisen.
However, speaking to her foreign policy approach in general, she said the United States has to focus on setting aside partisan differences.
“I believe that when it comes to foreign policy, we should never have partisan politics,” Rep. Dingell said. “We got to be united as a country. We are dealing with very difficult and challenging issues.”
She added that introducing partisan politics might distract from the actual issues at stake.
“It will make a very difficult situation already more political,” Rep. Dingell said. “I think there is too much at stake for (the message) to get lost in the political sideshow.”
Rep. Dingell said ongoing discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian politics is critical.
“It is important to have the freedom of dialogues and exchange of ideas,” Dingell said. “We are only going to succeed if people are engaged and allowed to have their voices heard.”
LSA junior Andrew Cohen, a member of the University’s chapter of J Street, said the group organizes various University-wide events to educate and foster conversations and discussions on the issue.
“We seek to be active participants in the conversation on Israel and Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus,” he said. “We participate by advocating for two-state solution through American diplomatic mediation, which could be difficult at times. But it is an important job that we certainly need to work hard to achieve.”