Panel sheds light on Middle East conflict

Monday, March 31, 2003 Updated: 04.02.03

Panel sheds light on Middle East conflict

by Eileen Lofrese / staff writer
The Breeze News 

RACHELLE LACROIX / photo editor
Joshua Ruebner, left, president and co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, speaks to a group of students during a panel discussion on Israeli-Palestinian relations in the Middle East in ISAT 236 last Thursday. Richard M. Fawal, the national political director at the Arab-American Institute in Washington, D.C. also discussed his opinions on the issue.

The International Student Association hosted a discussion panel addressing the current conflicts between the Palestinians and Israelis Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in ISAT 236.

The two speakers — Joshua Ruebner, co-founder of Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, and Richard M. Fawal, the national political director at the Arab-American Institute in Washington, D.C., shed light on issues surrounding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from the core of the problem to the present state of affairs.

Ruebner provided a brief history, giving students insight into the conflict’s origin.

Ruebner said, “This is not a conflict that has been going on for centuries. It’s a conflict because of British colonization and the driving out of Palestinians with the use of brutal military force.”

Fawal, a columnist for Via Dolorosa magazine and commentator on Middle East issues and politics, focused his half of the discussion on the United States’ relationship with Israel and how it affects the people of Palestine.

“The occupation is killing us all — Americans, Israelis [and] Arabs,” Fawal said.

According to an “End the Occupation” handout given at the panel discussion, some 2,000 Palestinians and 600 Israelis have been killed since September 2000.

According to Ruebner and Fawal, the killing will stop when the U.S. foreign policy is changed.

“Israel is the single biggest recipient of U.S. foreign military and financial aid,” Fawal said. “It gets more than the continent of Africa.” Approximately $1,500 per citizen per year is given by the United States, Fawal said.

According to www.endtheoccupation.org, the United States funds Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land with over $3 billion a year. Now America is being asked for $14 billion more.

According to the handout, due to Israeli occupation, the Palestinians live under 24-hour curfews, with their access to land and water curtailed and their human rights to life, liberty, shelter, education and health violated.

Fawal said funding Israel with taxpayers’ dollars is what “enables Israel to build more settlements, check points, barricades and mistreat Palestinians. This is what our tax dollars pay for.”

According to both Fawal and Ruebner, discord between the United States and the Arab world would decrease if the United States would alter its foreign policy toward Israel.

“Arabs do not hate the [United States] … they hate the U.S. foreign policy for providing unconditional and unwavering support for the occupation of Palestine,” Fawal said.

Both speakers said the media is part of the reason some Americans support Israel. The handout stated that the United States considers Israel an important ally in maintaining control over the strategic Middle East even though its record of ignoring U.N. resolutions, 46 at the last count, is worse than Iraq’s.

Fawal said, “We hear in the media that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle Eastern world, but it’s not true. ”

Some students stressed the importance of taking action regarding this issue.

Junior Arjun Sharma said, “Due to current events and those following the past few years, there has been a surge of interest in issues surrounding the Middle East, especially in the United States. As technology continues to grow at a breathtaking pace and the world seems to shrink, we realize that we can no longer isolate ourselves from events happening around us, even if they take place several continents away.

“Some of us may choose to ignore them, but sooner or later this reality is forced upon us in harsh ways.”

For information on changing U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict you can join “The Campaign,” an organization based on human rights and freedom from occupation at www.endtheoccupation.org.

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