Raising awareness across the spectrum of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

I would like to respond to Robert Perskys op-ed piece published in the Daily on March 6.

Persky writes his piece criticizing Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), claiming that they do not offer a realistic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that they falsely claim to motivate dialogue on this campus. He finishes the piece writing, raising awareness of human rights abusesdoes not lead to a long term, sustainable solution.

With respect for Persky and his opinion, I strongly disagree. Perskys line of reasoningthat raising awareness but not offering concrete solutions is unproductiveis veiled in a cloud of graceful rhetoric but flawed reasoning. Raising awareness (whether Persky approves of what this awareness is saying or not) is an absolutely essential pillar of any kind of political struggle. It is valuable both on its own or accompanied by solution-building. Here is a brief example.

Take, for instance, the conflict currently going on in Syria. Both sides are accused of strong casualties and human rights abuses in some capacity. If an on campus group were advocating for one side of this conflict, it would be ineffective for them to immediately offer a solution. Why? Because if you think this stuff is easy, you havent been a student of politics long enough. We know that UN Security Council members Russia and China are reportedly supporting the former government; we know that weapons are coming in from various countries into the hands of soldiers on both sides; we know that there are refugee and migrations concerns particularly in Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq and the complexity continues. Please forgive the brevity of my comment on the conflict but I think it is necessary in the context of my point.

It would be counter-productive for a group like SJP to tell the student body they have the solution, that they have all the answers, when the issue is so clearly and deeply complex.

Why? Because were here to be educated about the issues, not told. We came to Tufts to be active citizens to be informed, intrigued and included. Raising awareness is integral to involving an entire community in an issue that you care deeply about. In fact, it is an insult to our intelligence as Tufts students to be told a group has solutions before they educate us and provide tools to judge the merit of proposed solutions. Indeed, calling for solutions without awareness is not responsible to your proponents, opponents, or to your fellow students. Dont get me wrong, solutions are important too. But do not spit in the face of awareness. It is, as students, our greatest weapon against the injustices we see in our world.

Persky himself, in fact, offers no solution to what he describes as an SJP problem. He simply raises awareness for the things that he believes in. Just because he does not offer a solution does not mean his thoughts are invalid, ineffective or wrong. What it means is that he poses an argument against raising awareness while his article does just that. This is hypocritical but again, not necessarily wrong. Its awareness and he has the right to raise it even if others strongly disagree with it.

Luckily for the rest of us, we have access to a multitude of groups on campus who are also raising awareness about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have the access to all sides of the spectrumdifferent views, stories and sides of the issue. With these influences and our own opinions and knowledge, we can make a decision for ourselves based on our own moral compass.

And, if I may add two last grievances, I want to comment on Perskys assumption that SJPs solution to the conflict would be to eliminate Israel and have only Palestine. This assumption is fear-mongering, oversimplified and quite obviously silly. I also take issue with his comparison of SJP to the Iranian Revolution, which is so flawed in its assumptions and simplicity that someone else should write an op-ed specifically about this issue.

In conclusion, Persky may hold his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with however much fervor he wants. But I caution him against legitimizing his views by bashing the awareness campaigns of others. So long as that awareness is non-violent and responsible to the goal of peace, it is awareness that belongs on this campus. As students, we deserve the full spectrum of perspectives in order to form our own. Only with an educated student body can we begin to form solutions that are collective, complex and valuable.

Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies who also writes a Features section column for the Daily. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.

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