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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

April 12, 2002

Student Group to Host Dialogues on the Middle East

"I always knew it was possible to respect someone on the other side of the fence, but I never knew I could really like them and come to understand why they believe what they believe."

In any area of disagreement, that realization would be remarkable. But when the issue is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the participants include those who have called that part of the world home, the sentiment—expressed by a member of a student study group — becomes all the more extraordinary.

Since November, a group of six students called Integrated Independents has meet each week, providing a forum for respectful and constructive discussion on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Sunday, April 14, the group hopes to be able to expand the circle of dialogue in panel discussions involving a number of college-age students invited from across the Northeast.

The first discussion, addressing the question "How are the existences of Palestine and Israel dealt with, both in the region and in the United States?" takes place from
10 am to noon in Gamble Auditorium. The second, addressing "What drives the current climate of violence? Can peace or solidarity movements be successful?" takes place from 1 to 3 pm. Both discussions will be moderated by Jonathan Lipman, a professor of history and adviser to three of the students, and will be open to the general public. During the lunch break, the Jewish Student Union (JSU) and the Muslim Students Association (UMMA) will operate concessions outside Gamble.

"This has certainly become a project that reflects our group identity, rather than our individual identities," says Hayley Zachary '02, a member of the group. Zachary explained that the group had, from the start, intended to organize some kind of public event as the culmination of its year of study, and by early February had focused on the idea of a forum. In addition to Zachary, who is Jewish, the group includes Dina Jaber '05, a Palestinian raised in the West Bank city of Nablus; Diana Turetsky '02, a Russian Jew raised in Afula, a city about forty minutes southeast of Haifa; Martine Anne Bisagni FP, a former resident of Israel whose background includes Judaism and other faiths; Kelley Cunningham '03; and Katie Summers '02.

Although the recent escalation of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has only increased the challenge of arranging a respectful meeting of the minds among those who hold differing points of view, the group has decided to press ahead, Zachary said.

"This is not going to be easy. This is not easy stuff to talk about," says Lipman, noting that both sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict see the other as "supporting a gang of murderers…. It's very difficult to imagine techniques for successful dialogue, and that's precisely what these women intend to do."

The group will choose the panelists for the discussion during a private meeting on April 13 with the more than fifteen students who were invited to participate based on their experiences and knowledge of the subject.

In conjunction with the public discussions, Bisagni will present Conscious Alternatives, an exhibition of media images, film, and slides, in the student art space in Blanchard Campus Center from April 9 through 18. There will be a reception on April 10 at 6:30 pm. Summers is presenting Q&A: What is the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict?, a primer on the issue, also at Blanchard. Her exhibition will be on display until April 18.

Zachary said group members realize that for there to be a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there must be true dialogue, "opening your eyes to understand the other side. That‘s something we have the opportunity to do at Mount Holyoke, more than in other situations, because dialogue is such a reinforced and valued part of the learning process here."

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