Last week, students across campus awoke to find mock eviction notices taped to their doors, which members of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP) had posted the night before. These notices ordered students to “vacate the premises,” as their dorms were “scheduled for demolition,” a comparison to similar practices used by the Israeli government in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. SPJP notes that these “forced evictions are devastating,” as are many other daily realities for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
J Street U agrees that these practices are violent, immoral, and horrifying, and we agree that the occupation must end. However, we do not believe that mock evictions, or similar antagonistic actions, move us toward this goal. In fact, these actions serve to further polarize students and further entrench an increasingly one-sided and hostile situation. It is vitally important to confront and think deeply about these controversial issues, but not in such a way that inhibits critical thinking. Now more than ever, dialogue and constructive, meaningful action are absolutely crucial.
J Street U at Bates seeks to move beyond the typically polarized discourse that so often plagues conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are a group of students from all walks of life who are as equally committed to ending Israeli occupation as we are to ensuring Israel’s existence as a Jewish and Democratic state. We believe that the only just way to ensure dignity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians is the creation of an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel. As one of over sixty J Street U campus chapters across the country, a national student movement actively working for American support for a negotiated two-state solution, we educate, advocate, and take action for freedom, justice, and peace.
Unfortunately, conversations at Bates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are rarely two-sided. Op-eds are written, flyers are posted, and people yell back and forth, forcing students to choose sides. The lack of nuance surrounding this issue is astonishing, especially at Bates, an institution that claims to value diversity of thought and intellectualism. It’s about time this campus moved past the status quo of two sides volleying back and forth with one another. It’s about time we all reminded ourselves that we don’t want to just talk about the conflict, we want to end it. J Street U students recognize this, and stand firmly as pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and most importantly, pro-peace.
Tired of so much antagonistic rhetoric, we are choosing to take concrete action and support activism of individuals on the ground in the region. Starting this Short Term and continuing into next fall, J Street U at Bates will be collaborating with EcoPeace Middle East, a grassroots organization jointly run by Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian environmental activists. We hope to raise at least $1,000 to benefit communities in the Gaza Strip, desperately in need of clean water in the wake of last summer’s war.
Working closely with BEAM and the Environmental Coalition, we also hope to educate ourselves and the broader Bates community about the complex interaction between environmental issues and political conflict.
Now, we recognize that this small initiative will not end the conflict, but we see it as an important way to support everyday people whose lives and homes have been destroyed by this conflict. Rather than polarize a campus with inflammatory actions that have no clear impact on the ground, J Street U is taking a concrete step toward cleaner water, increased dialogue and communication across borders, and ultimately a safer and more peaceful future. Join us.