For the first time, two University student groups on opposite sides of a bitterly fought ideological divide are collaborating to sponsor an event promoting peace in Israel.
The event, backed by the University’s chapter of American Movement for Israel and Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, is a speech focusing on peace efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Titled “The Parent’s Circle Family Forum: Overcoming Pain to Work Towards Peace,” the event kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight in the Michigan League Ballroom.
Ross School of Business junior Sasha Gribov, head of AMI, described the collaboration as unprecedented, with the two groups standing on opposite sides of so controversial an issue.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done before,” he said. “It won’t solve our political differences, but we felt it’s something that could make all of us understand what’s at stake.”
SAFE, a group of about 400 student-activists, advocates Israel leaving the Gaza strip and the West Bank. AMI also has about 400 members and advocates maintaining and strengthening the current borders of Israel. Both promote understanding of the Middle East through educational events.
“We are students at one of the best universities in the country,” LSA junior Andrew Dalack, co-chair of SAFE, said. “There’s no reason why we can’t interact with each other in a healthy and beneficial way for the rest of campus just because we disagree about a situation or on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Parent’s Circle Family Forum is made up of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members in the conflict and now focus on peace efforts. Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, members of the forum, will give speeches and take questions from the audience.
The Union of Progressive Zionists also sponsored the event.
The groups formed a committee with representatives that are responsible for coordinating the event. If disagreements arise, they meet and discuss them until they are settled.
Gribov said the groups’ collaboration shows promise for the future.
“It isn’t going to solve major differences that our groups have,” Gribov said. “But it’s a step into a good direction in understanding where each other is coming from and moving this campus further to one where we can talk and understand each other.”
The groups’ officials decided to co-sponsor this event because it doesn’t favor any particular side and demonstrates that both sides are suffering from the conflict.
“We chose to co-sponsor this event because it accommodates both sides and it demonstrates that it’s not a Jewish-versus-Muslim issue,” Dalack said. “It’s a political issue that has claimed the lives of individuals on both sides. It’s important that people can still come together and begin to understand each other in the hope of achieving a just reconciliation. It’s that hope that made us optimistic about this organization and the event.”