Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Israel-Palestinian Peace Week"

Some call this "Apartheid Week," a notorious reflection of Jimmy Carter's Big Lie about Israel. But the process of delegitimizing Israel has gained traction recently, in large part because of the brilliant shift of strategy by the Palestinians themselves - at least the leadership on the West bank. They have decided to toss aside terrorism and look to isolate Israel through non violent resistance and international pressure. As a supporter of Israel, I'll gladly take that tradeoff. For one thing it forces Israel to redouble its efforts to discover the language of accommodation. Thus far, they haven't been very good at that - as Gary Rosenblatt writes this week:
When Israel Becomes A Source Of Embarrassment.

It's on college campuses where delegitimization has been met most innovatively, not with counter threats, but with an even greater voice of kindness and outreach. At Brown, a group of Israel supporters has dubbed this week "Israel-Palestinian Peace Week." You can't imagine how frustrated that makes Israel's detractors, including this op ed writer in the Brown Daily Herald.

Today, the rebuttal came, from none other than my son Ethan. Take a look at what he wrote:
Hammerman '13: The Mission and Purpose of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Week. It really is a brilliant response (if I must say so myself), and precisely the response that is needed.

The Middle East has changed dramatically over the last month. It's now not enough for Israel to appeal to neighboring governments run by run-down despots, now they must make a direct impression on the streets of Cairo. And with newly empowered voters tuning to Al Jazeera and checking Twitter and Facebook 24/7, an approach of accomodation will be heard - and will translate into policy that will be accomodating in return.

"Israel-Palestinian Peace Week" - maybe that's what Bibi should have up his sleeve as he unveils his long awaited vision for peace in the New Middle East.

It's something I also spoke about last Rosh Hashanah in my sermon, Why Do They Hate Us?" The way to combat hatred is not with more hatred. It's with more love.

Here's Ethan's op-ed column below:

In a recent column ("Shalom-Salaam: dialogue as distraction or dialogue as action?" March 7), Francesca Contreras '11 critiqued two series of events on campus dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — Israeli-Palestinian Peace Week and Israelis and Palestinians: Working Together for a Better Future. Contreras rejects the possibility for compromise by portraying the Israeli-Palestinian issue as black and white, with no room for nuance, complexity or gradation. I respectfully disagree with her polarization of the conflict into a binary of helpless victim and relentless victimizer, and I want to encourage our community to look deeper into the multifaceted set of issues that truly make up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Alongside a number of students organizing the week, I want to allow an entire umbrella of steadfast and committed opinions to be discussed throughout our programs. With a greater breadth of opinions, we wish to encourage more spirited — yet consistently civil — debate and discussion on campus. I both appreciate and admire Contreras' strong stance, and I feel that it is necessary that she be present to share her perspective at our events. Her position is vital to understanding the nature of the conflict and working towards producing a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Throughout the week, we hope to delve into some of the more provocative and emotionally laden questions surrounding Israeli-Palestinian issues. Despite Contreras' assertion otherwise, we had certainly planned to discuss the issue of systematic violations of international law and occupation in all of our events. We do not intend to skirt around any of the main issues — we feel that it is necessary to attack each issue head on and actually cut to the core of the conflict. We will discuss issues of nationalism, political and religious identity and various other misconceptions about both peoples. It is only then that any real change can be implemented.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is incredibly intricate, and Israeli-Palestinian Peace Week hopes to illuminate the nuances and complexities embedded in the situation so that we can reach a place where we can make positive changes and find solutions. Although we will resist simplifying a complex situation into a binary issue, the assertion that the week ignores Palestinian suffering is inaccurate at best and offensive at worst. Though I cannot speak for the Jewish community as a whole, I am personally an advocate for Palestinian nationalism and believe that they, like all peoples, are entitled to self-determination. We wish to show the full breadth of this conflict. People from all over the political, geographical and religious spectrum have lost their lives and livelihoods due to indiscriminate hatred, abominable racism and religious dogma. We will not only depict the conflicts within the region, we wish to inspire students to collaborate with each other and think and improve inter- and intra-community rifts here at Brown.

The week will feature action-based components as well. Even before the discussion aspects of our events, we will be asking students to take action by donating two dollars for two states. One dollar will go to an organization that promotes peace and coexistence within Israel. The other will be donated to an organization that builds infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. By investing in tolerance in Israel and stability in Palestine, we will actively contribute to making the shared the two nations' future viable and sustainable. We will also provide suggested actions for students at the end of each event throughout this week, and brainstorm ideas to try and enact actual change that would benefit all sides.

I, along with the rest of the committee that has spearheaded the week, opt for a true exchange within the marketplace of ideas. We invite and encourage Contreras, along with anyone who wishes to discuss or learn about this complex conflict, to attend our events and engage in civil discussion. Contreras has already been personally asked to take part in a program called "A Walk In Their Shoes," an interactive experience that will give students new insight into the different perspectives that surround this complex conflict. Other events during this week include the Encounter mediation program — hosted by founder Benj Kamm '06 — and an activity where we will analyze YouTube videos that present both sides and examine further the nuances of this conflict. All of these programs will be interactive and educational, and should inspire discussion and action on campus.

If there is one issue on which Contreras and I undoubtedly agree, it is that the status quo in which Israelis and Palestinians live — without true peace and security — is unjust and unsustainable. As students at Brown and members of the Jewish community, we feel that it is our right and duty to bring our communities together to enact real, positive change for all parties. This is not about who is right and who is wrong — this is about the need for reasonable discourse on campus, and we will seek to make that happen.

Ethan Hammerman '13 hails from Stamford, Conn. and considers himself to be a passionate centrist.

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