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J Street U event sparks debate on role of borders in the Middle East

By John Durovsik | February 21, 2013

Hopkins’s J Street U hosted the first discussion of its “Is Peace Possible?” four-part series concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday, Feb. 19 in Shaffer.

This event centered on the theme of borders and the resulting controversies.

It featured an informational video produced by The Atlantic and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and was followed by an open discussion among all those present.

J Street U is a nationwide student organization that endorses the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means to promote peace, democracy and human rights.

The event concentrated on the issue of establishing borders for both independent Israeli and Palestinian states.

The act of drawing borders is complicated by historical land claims. In addition, various unaligned demands from both sides and the difficulty in determining an equitable system that accounts for swapping territory play a major role.

The film provided numerous perspectives on the possibility of establishing borders that satisfy the demands outlined by each side.

Citing model agreements published by the Geneva Initiative and the Baker Institute, the film analyzed the strengths and shortcomings of various proposed comprehensive solutions.

The film underscores the unaligned goals of both Israel and Palestine, determining that Palestine’s push for contiguous territory and Israel’s movement to include, within a new state, the majority of Israelis living within Palestinian territory inhibit conclusive peace talks.

“Having a forum where we can watch a video that is from an unbiased point of view that is really informational and coming together and sitting together is really important and that is what we seek to do as J Street U, ” J Street U President sophomore Jenny Ferentz said.

Following the film, students discussed the controversy surrounding the establishment of borders and swapping territory along with the possibility of alternative options for seeking peace.

According to many J Street U members, fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue is really crucial to understanding the intricacies of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

They believe that events of this nature allow for just that.

Topics debated included the question of citizenship in the new nations, the necessity of US involvement in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, financial constraints on establishing borders and the possibility of mass-exodus following altered state lines.

Participants in the discussion also expressed a general sentiment that the conflict is more nuanced that the average person can imagine.

Extending beyond merely a superficial border dispute, the conflict necessitates ongoing debates.

They agree that it is not so simple to achieve a solution to the conflict that afflicts both Israelis and Palestinians.

“We are really excited to bring these conversations to campus because I think that this is an issue where there is a lot to learn and a lot to talk about,” Ferentz said. “I think that having an open space like this is really important, especially around a conflict that is so entrenched and so heated and hotly debated.”

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