Israeli, Palestinian Groups Partner
Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 01:10
Students for Justice in Palestine and the Georgetown Israel Alliance, two groups usually at odds, are coming together with J Street U Georgetown to co-sponsor a film screening Nov. 6 about issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The screening of “The Other Son,” a fictional film about a Palestinian and an Israeli who are switched at birth, marks the first time the GIA and SJP have collaborated.
“We’re often seated next to each other at the SAC fair, and it’s just awkward,” SJP President Albert Doumar (SFS ’15) said. “They throw an Israel independence celebration, and we protest it. For SJP, Independence Day in Israel is also the displacement of our students. There are basic facts that create a barrier in terms of cooperation. ... There were attempts to reach out to co-sponsor an event, but nothing ever came together, and it was very negative and not constructive.”
GIA President Nitzan Gabai (SFS 16) said that the two groups have mainly ignored each other, and that GIA invited SJP to cosponsor an event earlier this year but received no reply.
“There had not been any contact,” Gabai said. “On my part, there’s kind of a lack of knowledge of past events. I think each side had their own take on these relations, and we agreed to disagree.”
J Street U Georgetown, a group which aims for a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, initiated the collaboration.
“It occurred to me it would be really powerful if at a place like Georgetown … we could have one evening where we brought together everyone who is interested in this conflict for a dialogue about the conflict,” J Street Treasurer Elijah Jatovsky (SFS ’16), who planned the event, said. “Georgetown students have more of a desire to understand the nuances of the conflict.”
Despite this tension, Jatovsky said that both groups’ leadership were enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate.
“I give a lot of credit to both sides as being interested in doing this,” he said. “There’s so much pressure from both extremes to not want to collaborate, and it’s a testament to Georgetown’s students’ desire to see a peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
Doumar was cautiously optimistic about the event.
“There was no reason to say no,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what to expect, but it’s a good foundation for possible future operation. We’re hoping to foster a basis for communication on an issue where it’s easy for emotions to get in the way of constructive debate.”
“On other campuses, I’ve heard of these collaborative events going wrong,” he added. “We’ve had that in mind putting it together: How do we keep this safe?”
Jatovsky said that he hopes this event sets an example for other groups.
“So often on college campuses, the dialogue is so polarized to the extent that people won’t even talk to one another,” he said. “As a movement, we believe that’s a huge problem. We believe the only way is with respectful dialogue on both sides.”
Gabai and Doumar both said they hope GIA and SJP will collaborate again in the future.
“For us it’s a chance to put out some feelers out, to see what’s out there and see what comes from this,” said Doumar. “I don’t know how much I’m expecting.”