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 sentimentexpressed
by a member of a student study group becomes all the more
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. Thats 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."