Searching For Answers
Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, at U-M Israel conference,
calls for "getting rid of territories."
Illinois, dialogue between Muslim and Jewish groups
brought the two together to respond to attacks on
When an anti-Semitic editorial ran in the campus
paper, the campus Hillel's head; Alison Siegel, came
home to find phone messages and e-mails of sympa-
thy from her Muslim friends, who wanted to know
what they could do to help. When a Jewish activist
ran an anti-Arab ad campaign in the campus paper,
Siegel tried to reassure the Arab community.
Warmer relations haven't curtailed political demon-
strations on both sides but have lessened the verbal
intimidation that used to be associated with them,
At Georgetown University, five grass-roots discus-
sion groups have sprung up for Jews, Christians and
Muslims, according to Rabbi Harold White, the uni-
versity's senior Jewish chaplain. "It's been very, very
successful, and there has been very little contentious-
ness on this campus as a result," White said.
Georgetown's Students for Middle East Peace, a dia-
logue group created during the rocky spring semester
last year, hosted a conference on campus two weeks
ago that drew 60 students from East Coast colleges,
The Hoya newspaper reported.
The university also has hosted several 'Abraham
Salons," an interfaith dialogue based on the recent
book Abraham, which presents the figure of the
Hebrew patriarch as a potential facilitator for inter-
But the ADL's Ross said the impact of dialogue
groups depends on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Dialogue groups flourished during the Oslo
period, Ross said, yet "when violence broke out in the
Middle East, you went from dialogue to confronta-
tion" very quickly.
Shira Levine, a University of Michigan sophomore
who founded a pro-Israel outreach and education
group on campus, agrees that students react to events
on the ground. But "what it means to build peace on
campus, in the world, is to start building your bridge,
even if you don't know if it will take you to the other
side," she said.
Levine's group, the Progressive Israel Alliance, invit-
ed members of Students Allied for Freedom and
Equality, sponsors of last October's national confer-
ence at the University of Michigan for divestment
from Israel, to Hillel to discuss the origins of the
When Levine stopped by a recent campus rally, a
pro-Palestinian activist invited her over for a potluck
dinner. "I feel like that matters. I feel like there's
someone to listen to on the other side," she said.
For both Levine and Siegel, the goal is an improved,
educated atmosphere on campus. "I can't dictate
Middle East policy," Siegel said. "I don't even know
what I would say if I could, but I can work to make
this a better community and this a better learning
Special to the Jewish News
University Professor Dr. Muhammad Muslih and
Dr. Todd Endelman, director of U-M's Frankel
Center for Judaic Studies. Both speakers presented
the seemingly conflicting ideologies without either
side negating the legitimacy of the other — and
with a hearty dose of self-analysis.
Muslih, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, argued
that most Palestinians support a two-state solution
including modifications to the 1967 borders.
He credited the 1987 intifizda (uprising) with
forcing the Palestinian leadership to focus on the
West Bank and Gaza instead of "the total liberation
of Palestine." This led to the Oslo Accords, which
he said worked for roughly six years. But now, that
both sides have moved drastically toward the right,
he says, he sees the need for new Palestinian and
t was a cold day for hot issues, yet everyone
kept his cool.
That's a quick overview of the daylong sec-
ond annual Academic Conference on Israel
held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on
Planned and organized by stullepts with support
from the U-M Hillel and community and national
groups and foundations, the conference attracted
between 100-250 people to its various sessions.
Rather than trying to defend or sell the idea of
Israel, the conference took Israel as a given — a
rather novel idea on college campuses these days.
"All too often, programs are based on rhetoric,"
event co-chair David Post, a senior from Okemos,
told the opening session on behalf of his co-chair,
senior Samantha Rollinger of West Bloomfield, and
the planning committee. "We hope to set a national
precedent for constructive academic dialogue."
Though the day was dominated by academics,
the biggest audience came for the closing session
featuring Avraham Burg, Labor Party member and
former speaker of the Knesset.
Israeli leadership as well active support for peace by
Burg suggested that Israelis needed to be selective
the Arab nations.
in their ultimate demands for a settlement with the
Endelman explained that Zionism and Palestinian
Palestinians -- calling it "the pita-falafel problem."
did not come into being at the same
Israelis, he said, want three falafel balls in their pita
different time frames worked against
— all the land, democracy and a Jewish majority —
peace. "The two nationalisms fed off of each other
but can only get two.
and helped to define each other," he said.
"Getting rid of the territories is an amputation
To end the conflict, he says, "the Israeli right must
that will allow the rest of the body to survive," he
accept that they can not destroy Palestinian nation-
said. "The first compromise is between Palestinians
alism and the Palestinians must accept a sovereign
and the Palestinians' dream and the Israelis and the
Jewish dream. Only then can we compromise
Ahuvua, a marketing professor at U-M
between us. Only then will the solution come."
Dearborn who attended the conference, felt the
He then explained that the most important thing
panel was beneficial. "It gave the Jewish community
in Jewish life is the sanctity of life, and most impor-
the chance to hear an authentic Palestinian voice
tant to Muslims is pride.
that is reasonable and that you can build a future
"What they've done in the two years is to chal-
he said. "[Muslih] is much more willing to
lenge us where it hurts us the most, and we've done
what other Palestinians say privately."
our utmost to insult them," he said. "They should
There were several breakout sessions led by aca-
stop the terrorism and the suicide bombers, and we
demics that dealt with the psychological effects of
should show understanding for their national
terror on Israeli civilians, Israel's cultural roots, U.S.-
Israel relations, the recent Israeli elections, regional
Earlier, Moshe Ram, Israel's Counsel General to
cooperation on water resource issues and the history
the Midwest based in Chicago, highlighted the need
of the conflict.
for a Palestinian partner, referring to the previous
One of the most lively breakout sessions was with
week's attack on a Haifa bus that killed 17, mostly
U-M Professor Raymond Tanter, now of the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Tanter
"I care about the Palestinians — they suffer and
was emphatic that "rogue regime" change and dem-
they should not suffer," Ram said. "As much as we
ocratic reform, rather than Israeli concessions, were
regret the loss of life, I am not here to offer any
the necessary prerequisites to peace in the region.
apology for being able to defend ourselves."
"Dry up the swamp, and the snakes die — the sui-
An enlightening keynote panel on Palestinian
snakes die," he insisted.
nationalism and Zionism was held with Columbia