It’s nothing new to hear the phrase: The Middle East is in turmoil. Our generation has been hearing it ever since we began hearing the term Middle East. And we have heard: This time it’s serious! This time it’s for real! And we have learned to ignore such apocalyptic warnings.

But upon reading Thomas Friedman’s piece in The New York Times this past Sunday — summarizing Israel’s growing isolation, the Palestinians’ growing frustration and the United States’ growing irrelevance in the Middle East — many of us were left thinking “Maybe this time, it is for real.”

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, will go before the United Nations and submit a resolution declaring Palestine an internationally recognized independent state. Our entire lives we have worked tirelessly to witness the historic moment when a state of Palestine could finally be created, living side-by-side in peace and security with the state of Israel.

But this isn’t that time.

The morning after any vote at the U.N. — no matter the shape or scope — conditions on the ground will not have changed. Israel will still be in full control of most of the West Bank. Gaza will remain under blockade and in the control of Hamas. Israel will still be restricting the movement of Palestinians with checkpoints. Rockets will likely continue to fall on southern Israel. Israel will continue to build roads for Israeli citizens that crisscross through and surround Palestinian cities. Products will still be unable to leave the Gaza Strip. And Israel’s future — as a Jewish democratic homeland — will remain precarious. After any vote at the U.N., the resolution of the conflict will still require renewed diplomatic efforts, negotiations, American leadership and international support.

J Street — the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby and the parent group to J Street UMich — evaluates any international action on the basis of whether it promotes peace, enhances security and improves conditions on the ground. This resolution unfortunately doesn’t do any of those things. For that reason, J Street supports the U.S. opposition to a Palestinian statehood bid.

But, unlike many in the Jewish community, we view the Palestinian approach to the U.N. as a legal and non-violent effort to achieve self-determination. Rather than respond to this approach in a proactive way, too many have tried to paint the Palestinians’ initiative as the latest evidence of the well-worn narrative that “we have no partner for peace.”

Throughout the United States the organized Jewish community has launched campaigns — including here on campus — that offer the language of peace but present the same story we’ve heard for years.

At a time when we must challenge both parties to come to the table, these campaigns place the entire blame on Palestinians. They fail to mention the unprecedented security cooperation between Israel and the very same Palestinian Authority. They fail to mention the consistent expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise.

Placing the blame solely on the Palestinians is unhelpful and destructive for two reasons: First, it undermines our true partners for peace: Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority President Salaam Fayyad. Israelis, Palestinians and the International community recognize — as we do — that the Palestinian leadership today presents Israel with the greatest opportunity for peace in nearly two decades. And, rather than trying to support them, many in the American-Jewish community and Congress are pushing to cut all funding to the Palestinian Authority. J Street and J Street UMich are vehemently against such counter-productive measures, as shown by our ongoing campaign “Fund Peace,” through which we’re encouraging continued funding of the Palestinian Authority.

Second, these simplistic arguments that place blame on just one side are overused rhetoric that have, for far too long, proven problematic for many students — Jewish and non-Jewish — and alienated many from engaging with an issue and place that is of such importance. We must use this as an opportunity to demand nuance to the conversation. We can start by openly challenging those in Congress who are demanding counter-productive cuts in aid to the Palestinian Authority.

When students are presented with the opportunity to act in a way that truly reflects their values and treats them as intellectually serious citizens, they will respond. Now is the time to prove it once more.

This viewpoint was written on behalf of J Street UMich by Yonah Lieberman. He is the current J Street UMich Chair.

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