Some have recently expressed, in the pages of this newspaper, a feeling of marginalization. Specifically, I, and the group that I represent, the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, have been accused of acting to marginalize a Palestinian point of view. However, I firmly believe that this is not the case; instead, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be engaged — both in the microcosm of Cornell and on the world stage — by each party listening to the perspectives, needs and interests of each other.
A resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only happen by developing mutually beneficial agreements, while maintaining an understanding of the interests of both negotiating parties. The other option, which has perpetually failed, is to hold on to rigid ideas and argue until one side gains as much as possible from its opponent. This type of conflict has perpetually stalemated based on a lack of trust, as well as a lack of faith in the true willingness of both parties to reach an agreement. The only avenue to reach lasting peace is communication and co-operation: both sides must work tirelessly to understand one another’s narratives; work against the idea that for one to win the other must lose; and develop security for both parties.
This model requires that both sides address the perspectives and needs of all sides involved in order to find a lasting peace for both. The necessity for economic development for the Palestinians is an integral aspect of this approach, which is something expressed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, most policy makers and CIPAC. Through the development of state infrastructure Palestinians can have the economically viable, transparent state that they would want to live in and with whom negotiations would be most successful. In addition, the Israelis need assurance that the Palestinians understand Israel’s interests in having a secure, recognized, democratic and Jewish state. Asaf Shariv, consul general of Israel in New York, stated this best during his lecture at Cornell, when, as I understood it, he expressed that the Israelis would not want a political reality in which these principles were sacrificed.
Both models for engaging conflict have occurred vis-à-vis Israeli-Arab negotiations. At Cornell, inflammatory and emotional strategies emerged during the back-and-forth demonstrations that occurred during the Gaza conflict last semester. Both the party who placed the black flags and the party who destroyed the display (which should be noted was not CIPAC) abandoned interest-based process and assumed confrontational tactics. While some claimed these demonstrations were expressions of non-violent protest, in reality they are something closer to psychological warfare and intimidation.
While I was in Paris last semester, I saw how this framing of the conflict occurred on the international stage: I saw Molotov cocktails destroy synagogues in France. Having witnessed this, I find it difficult to conceive that any person could believe that this process would elicit any form of moderate opinion or understanding, rather than radicalization.
In contrast, the interest-based approach, which I believe CIPAC and other campus groups have promoted at Cornell, has been incredibly successful on the world stage. Here at Cornell, the Jewish Muslim Dialogue Dinner Initiative, composed of CIPAC, Hillel, the Islamic Alliance for Justice and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, has worked hard in the past to see beyond party lines and look towards the humanity that unites us all. It is my hope that the JMDDI continues to build on these connections into the future at Cornell, which serve as something of a more manageable microcosm of the word stage.
Unlike the massive scale of the rest of the world, Cornell provides access to an incredibly diverse set of ideas, narratives and expertise. Set aside from the “real world,” we are afforded the opportunity to deliberate in a less-selfish, less-political atmosphere, yielding the potential for perpetual brainstorming and engagement. If we really strive to seize the opportunities for engagement available at Cornell, such as panel discussions, visiting speakers and open dialogues, we can become the more thoughtful, deliberative world leaders that we wish represented the parties in recent heated international conflicts.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, once said, “In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” It would be a man-made miracle, but not an unachievable one, if both parties could truly look to the good of the whole over their own personal aspirations. Here at Cornell, we should strive to create a community atmosphere where this type of understanding reigns supreme over a competition of facts, violence and incitement. Just as I hope that one day the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can serve as a light among nations for diplomacy, I hope the environment we create at Cornell — one of understanding and engagement — will do the same amongst other universities.
Jennifer Fishkin ’10, a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, is the president of the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically.