Georgetown students and faculty have once again bogged themselves down in a fruitless debate over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this time as the result of a recent speaker on campus. Norman Finkelstein, a controversial pro-Palestine professor of political science at DePaul University, came to Georgetown on Nov. 15 to speak on misinformation in academia regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, among other topics. His speech and mere presence at Georgetown have sparked intense argument and debate between administrators from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Program for Jewish Civilization, as evidenced on these pages in past weeks.

This debate never seems to get old – at least in the eyes of CCAS or PJC. But it starts to become redundant and ridiculous when students engage in argument so furiously every time a controversial figure comes to speak on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Pressure groups constantly spar with one another over the qualifications of speakers, questioning their familiarity and history with the Middle East. Hurtful comments only inflame the argument even more.

Faculty members are no less guilty than students in the constant bickering that consumes our campus over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In both CCAS and PJC, administrators have not shied away from accusatory remarks, claiming that they have been treated badly by the other group and demanding that others behave more “maturely.”

In reality, both sides’ maturity remains in question.

Healthy, scholarly debate should take place in a university environment. Indeed, it is the responsibility of scholars to research and come up with possible solutions to a quandary that has plagued the Middle East for the last half-century and isn’t likely to go away in the near future. But the university should be a place where different scholarly groups can begin to reach some type of understanding or respectfully disagree on issues – not constantly bicker every time an opinionated speaker comes to Georgetown.

Students and faculty need to rise above the defaming and offensive comments that often plague our campus and only add fuel to the intense arguments that seem to occur almost as frequently here in the United States as they do in the Middle East.

Both CCAS and PJC should recognize the right of any qualified speaker to come to campus and speak on the issue for the purpose of educating others and allowing them to form their own opinions on the conflict. CCAS and PJC should work to collaborate on future speaker events and panels with the goal of reaching mutual understanding.

It may be a very long time until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is resolved, but if student groups treat one another with respect and CCAS and PJC work to foster understanding on campus, then perhaps we can begin to address this important issue in a more mature and scholarly way.

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