On the eve of a heated protest by the Muslim Student Union against the College Republicans, two academics from Bethlehem University and Hebrew University engaged in a dialogue to impart an understanding of the conflict in the Middle East as part of a joint effort between the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, the Society of Arab Students and Anteaters for Israel, to name a few.
Professor Manuel Hassassian, executive vice president of Bethlehem University in the West Bank, and Professor Edward Kaufman, a former executive director of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University, sat side by side to discuss the hardships of Israelis and Palestinians.
‘I always admire intellectuals who have the commitment to participate in civic engagement about the vital issues of our day,’ said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez about the two professors. ‘Certainly they demonstrate that day in and day out.’
With the Middle East in turmoil for over a decade, Kaufman claimed that the ‘violent nature of the conflict makes the conflict of government versus government, but a conflict of people versus people.’
That countries attempt to make peace with each other does not make a conflict dissolve, according to Kaufman.
‘The chances of a peace treaty being fully implemented after five years are about 50 percent,’ Kaufman said.
While assessing the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kaufman brought up the trend in the casualties of war.
In World War I, 90 percent of casualties were military, whereas in World War II the number was split between military and civilians.
In the last decade, in wars in the Israeli-Palestinian region, 80 percent of casualties were civilian.
These statistics, Kaufman claimed, call for a higher involvement of civilians in civil society in a conflict that is now coming back to them in their everyday lives.
‘The younger you are, in particular the youth, the more extreme you are,’ Kaufman said. ‘But you are also the most victimized.’
Hassassian then commented on the nature of Israel and Palestine today, in particular the rendering of the two-state solution.
‘That appears to be slipping away today as Israel strengthens its grip over the occupied territories,’ Hassassian said.
Hassassian called for two possible solutions for Palestine and Israel should the two-state solution fail: a binational federation where Palestine could even join Israel, or a democratic state encompassing both Palestine and Israel.
‘Israel itself desperately needs a Palestinian state since it can[not] bestow citizenship on the Palestinians,’ Hassassian said. ‘In order to regain the Jewish capital or regain the entire country, Israel must somehow relieve itself from the Palestinian population.’
Hassassian criticized the security wall around Jerusalem, claiming that it was not only a violation of international law but that it ‘severely impedes the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.’
Hassassian, who is also the Palestinian ambassador to Great Britain, aligned with Kaufman to encourage grass-roots efforts and awareness to help build sustainable efforts for a polarized Middle East.
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