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May 30, 2024

JStreet U holds discussion on security, peace

By ELLIE PENATI | February 28, 2013

JStreet U hosted the second event of its “Is Peace Possible?” speaker series, a four-part symposium addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, centered on the issue of establishing security between Israel and Palestine following a possible two-state peace agreement, on Tuesday Feb. 26.

JStreet U at Hopkins is a new chapter of the national student-lead organization. The mission of JStreet U is to promote a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine through U.S. leadership and open debate.

An informational film produced by The Atlantic and the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace proposed possible solutions for security and prompted the ensuing open conservation. The film is the product of various think tanks, scholars and experts, such as Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt, on the issue of Israel and Palestine.

“For us, it was to get people more educated on the issue,” freshman Carly Greenspan, a member of JStreet U, said. “The video wasn’t all-encompassing, but it did provide a good overview and get people more comfortable about talking about the issue, hearing other people’s opinions and expressing their own in a comfortable environment.”

Following the video, the event’s attendees broke off into smaller groups to respond to questions asked by the club members leading the discussion.

The questions that prompted the conversation were generally focused around the film and its suggested initiatives to address the security issue. Such questions sparked debate about whether such proposed solutions are actually feasible, threats faced by Israel, whether Israel can protect itself and the role of the United States in the matter.

Halfway through the event, the group reconvened as a whole to address the same questions and continue further thoughtful discussion.

Within the group, there seemed to be contention about the relative strengths of Palestine and Israel and whether the United States should actually get involved in the conflict.

Addressing the question of United States involvement, there were those who supported the idea that states are not closed systems, and what happens to Israel and Palestine will affect us in return. Others expressed that the United States has no position in the conflict.

Some felt many of the security solutions introduced in the film were unrealistic and did not get to the heart of the issue.

There seemed to be a general consensus, though, that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not truly about borders but rather is a conflict of identity. Most agreed that achieving real peace is unlikely without addressing this fundamental part of the clash first.

“I think the discussion went really well today, I thought people were very comfortable sharing their opinions and reactions to the video. Our end goal is that we want to have these videos that focus on four very central, sticking points of a peace agreement. And through each week, explore each topic so that we can look concretely at this two-state solution, which JStreet U advocates for, and as a group and campus be able to have a real discussion about what a peace agreement would look like,” junior Jenny Ferentz, president of Hopkins’ chapter of JStreet U, said.

Many participants agreed with the sentiment of Ferentz and felt the event was productive, went well and fostered an open atmosphere and platform for easy discussion.

The event ended on a positive note when many attendees stated they felt hopeful about the future of the conflict.

“One thing that I think is important, is that there are two narratives to this conflict and I think its really important to create a space where we can discuss how distinct those narratives are and then where they come together and converge and if they don’t converge, what the pragmatic interests should be in the future,” Ferentz said.

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