UMD’s J Street U hosts peace panel

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By Adam Barry

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains in the news, J Street U, one of several Israel advocacy groups on campus, hosted an event yesterday featuring perspectives from both sides.

The “Peace Partners” event at Hillel featured a moderated discussion on the approach to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, along with a question-and-answer session with the discussion leaders, Ghaith Al-Omari and Ori Nir.

Al-Omari is the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), an advocacy group that wants an independent Palestinian state to exist peacefully alongside Israel. Al-Omari has held multiple roles in the Palestinian Authority, including being an adviser to former President Mahmoud Abbas and participating in the Camp David Peace Summit in 2000.

Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now (APN), led the other half of the discussion. Nir worked as Washington bureau chief for Haaretz and The Jewish Daily Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper, before moving to APN.

APN and its Israeli sister organization, Shalom Achsav, lobby for a two-state solution along with assisting Israel’s continued existence and prosperity.

Every year, J Street U and representatives of ATFP and APN sponsor peace panels on college campuses across America to increase awareness of their goals.

“We do this because we believe the two-state solution is the only way for Israel to maintain its status as a Jewish and democratic state,” said Mordy Labaton, Maryland J Street president.

Labaton said this goal runs side-by-side with helping Palestinian people “fulfill their right for self-determination.”

“It’s a nice statement that the event is in the Hillel building, it shows Hillel’s commitment to serious dialogue on this issue,” said Jacob Magid, a member of the Maryland chapter of J Street U. Magid said he sees a “misconception” in the Jewish community, and he hopes the inclusion of an Arab proponent for peace could change this.

The long-running and highly publicized conflict between Israel and Palestine made the issue particularly notable for Jewish students at Maryland.

“It’s one of the most talked about conflicts right now,” senior physiology and neurobiology major Matt Margolis, said.

Margolis said while he’s seen a lot of media coverage of the conflict, this event’s approach from the Palestinian perspective interested him.

“Any solution that involves peace should be the goal,” he said.

Senior government and politics major Walt Bonné said that seeing representation from an Israeli and a Palestinian could change people’s attitudes about the conflict.


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