“They worship death.”
That was how a high school friend scathingly described Palestinians as we discussed the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis over lunch several years ago. At the time, I did not know how to react, as I could not possibly understand what engendered such hatred. Last autumn, I witnessed a group of protesters call for the eradication of the state of Israel. Again, my lack of understanding left me dumbstruck.
These events made me want to understand the conflict in an unbiased way. They propelled me to attend my first J Street U Macalester meeting last year. For those of you who are unfamiliar with J Street U, we are the campus branch of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace advocacy organization working towards United States diplomatic leadership for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.
At my first meeting, I met students who shared my desire to understand the complex conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. I met students who dared to be optimistic despite decades of pessimism over the political feasibility of peace. And I met students who cared deeply about the human rights dilemmas bred by the conflict. I came to know J Street U Macalester as the long-sought, even-handed forum to discuss and understand the conflict.
Earlier this fall fourteen Mac students—myself included—traveled to Washington D.C. to attend J Street’s 4th National Conference. There, we joined nearly 3,000 supporters and listened to principal American, Palestinian and Israeli dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden. They called for a commitment to peace and to a two-state solution despite past inabilities to make necessary compromises. They also called for the support of Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently guiding peace talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
At the conference, we launched The 2 Campaign, an effort to build a great constituency for peace that is supportive of a two-state solution. The first step of the campaign was meeting with members of Congress and asking them to co-sponsor resolutions supporting Kerry’s peace initiative. J Street members met with hundreds of members of Congress, resulting in over 60 co-sponsorships of the House and Senate resolutions.
The next step in The 2 Campaign involves growing the constituency for peace. We’re doing so by running educational series on the four main issues relevant to a peace deal: Jerusalem, Security, Borders and Refugees. We began this series earlier this week and all are welcome to our upcoming events. We will also launch a campus-wide petition calling for increased support for Secretary Kerry and the ongoing peace talks.
I believe that J Street U embodies some of the best qualities of Macalester: curiosity about both global problems and cultures, as well as a desire to improve the world. If you’re like me and want to know more about this conflict, I ask you to partake in our series. If you’re appalled by violations of human rights, I urge you to come. If you believe in the dignity and equality of all citizens of this planet, I implore you to join us.
The time for a two-state solution is now. The time for peace is now. We cannot ignore the fierce urgency of now and let Secretary Kerry’s negotiations fail. I invite each and every one of you to be a part of J Street U Macalester and to help end this conflict today.