The Davis International House hosted a forum last Thursday to discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The forum, entitled “Peace in the Middle East, Options and Obstacles,“ was meant “to help somebody get one new piece of info that might help them think about this long conflict differently,“ said executive director of Davis International House Elisabeth Sherwin.
The forum was organized in the wake of the December invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army in response to rocket attacks on Israel.
The event began with readings from the Bible, the Torah and the Quran, that focused on peace and community.
The three speakers were each given the opportunity to explain their perspective on the conflict and answer questions from the audience.
“There are only two groups of people [in this conflict] … victims and villains, and the victims and villains are on both sides of the fence,“ said Ze‘ev Maoz, Israeli American and director of the international relations program at UC Davis.
Maoz said the victims were citizens of Palestine and Israel and the villains were the two country‘s leaders.
“Each decision was the wrong decision,“ he said.
Maoz said it‘s up to the U.S. and newly elected President Barack Obama to use American influence and diplomacy to guide the conflict in Israel and Palestine to a resolution.
Hatem Bazian, Palestinian American and lecturer in the Department of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley, said that in order for this to be possible the United States must stop representing the best interests of Israel.
Amongst the myriad solutions that have been proposed to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, Bazian chose the two he thought could most realistically bring peace to the region.
One would be a “full“ two state solution, with both states being completely sovereign, and the second being a one state solution in which every member of the state is considered equal.
Bazian said that in as little as 27 years Israel may have to deal with the reality of having a 50 percent Arab population.
As a hopeful lesson from history, Bazian pointed to the struggle of South Africa, which was able to create one state with rights given to all of its diverse and often conflicted people.
Reverend Timothy Malone, pastor of Multicultural Christian Church in Davis, recently visited both Israel and Palestine.
“The tension is horrible,“ Malone said, reflecting on his trip, which included a stop at a Palestinian refugee camp.
“Everybody knows a two state solution is the only viable solution,“ Malone said, but neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are willing to be the first to accept this.
Despite this, Malone was hopeful for a resolution to the long-standing tensions.
“Change is going to occur,“ he said. “We simply have to love one another…. We simply have to do what‘s right. That‘s the simple answer to a complex problem.“
The forum was organized in the hopes of bridging the local divide over the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“We just wanted to bring the community along and have a chance for dialogue,“ said Hamza El-Nakhal, member of the International House board of directors. “The whole idea was just to have people explain their ideas… and just come together instead of being a divided community.“
JON GJERDE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.