The American community interested in solving the problems in the Israeli and Palestinian territories is key to an eventual solution, said Boston University professor Charles Dunbar.
“I think it’s very important,” he said. “This is somewhat controversial, but I think that the Palestine problem will be solved and a state created physically, as well as politically as soon as the American community decides that it’s time.”
Among the many cultural groups on campus, BU Students for Israel and BU’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine have been very vocal as issues in the Middle East continue.
In light of the recent conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, SJP organized a die-in to display the idea that there are not two equal parties fighting against each other in this conflict, said Zena Ozeir, SJP president.
“People are dying so the die-in was a peaceful way of protesting and bringing attention to the situation in Gaza,” Ozeir, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said.
Rachel DuShey, co-president of BUSI, said the war has been difficult for a lot of members of BUSI who had family and friends in the region.
“It’s hard for us to deal with emotionally,” DuShey, a College of Communication junior, said. “While we’re dealing with that and trying to think of a proactive way to confront that on campus, SJP is doing everything they could to demonize Israel and their attempt to protect themselves.”
Despite the political issues these groups are often associated with, both groups consider their goals to be more focused on the culture and history of their respective represented peoples.
BUSI, a pro-Israel voice on campus, is a resource for the students on campus who are connected to Israel as well as the students who are interested in Israel culturally and politically, DuShey said.
BU’s chapter of SJP was created to change the discourse on campus about Palestinian issues as well as humanize the Palestinian population, said Kareem Chehayeb, an SJP member.
“The goal of our group is to raise awareness about the plight of the Palestinian people,” Ozeir said.
Ozeir said SJP, which opened its chapter at BU four years ago, does not aim to act as a counterweight to BUSI.
“We work not to combat any other group, but we work from our own position that the Palestinian people have their own rights that we hope to raise awareness about,” Ozeir said.
Leora Kaufman, co-president of BUSI, said there has not been much dialogue between BUSI and SJP.
“How are we supposed to accomplish anything in the real world if people won’t sit down together and talk about things,” Kaufman, a COM junior, said.
But Chehayeb, a CAS senior, said SJP does not have much interest in opening dialogues with BUSI.
“For me, I don’t care so much about whether we talk or not, because I care about talking to people who are suffering,” Chehayeb said. “Our issue is not that they disagree with us or that we disagree with them, it’s to help people abroad.”
Though Dunbar has not had much interaction with BUSI or BU’s chapter of SJP, he said he remembers in 2004 a Palestine Israel Peace Alliance group.
“They were trying very hard to understand one another’s point of view, but it became eventually that the Palestinian woman quit with the view that the programming of things that they do was not balanced, there was too many pro-Israel events,” Dunbar said.
In recent years, the Arab-Israel Peace Alliance, with a similar goal as PIPA, formed on campus to create a dialogue about topics concerning peace in the region. However, the group closed discussion in 2011 because students grew disinterested, said Gabriel Begun, a College of Engineering junior who joined AIPA in 2009.
In light of the violence and ensuing ceasefire in Gaza, Begun organized a dialogue on Nov. 29. Begun said there was a reason now to have an open forum for discussion of these topics and welcomed both the BUSI and SJP students, from which students of both groups came.
“I definitely agree that having this discussion is essential,” he said. “No one can take a stance on anything until hearing about the other side.”
Begun said they are talking about starting the group again next semester, to have a forum for open discussion when issues like this come up, rather than having weekly meetings.
“Compared to SJP and BUSI, AIPA is not an active group,” he said. “It’s a form of discussion. It separates us because we don’t take a stance. We’re not going to bring a speaker to talk and we’re not going to build a wall on Marsh Plaza.”