Being the Change You Wish to See in the World at UC Irvine

A big reason why we go to college is to get ready for the real world. There is an academic foundation and expertise built here, but there is a far more important education that happens during your time in college: the education of life. What you learn here is supposed to be applied to the world outside.
Many may argue, and I agree, that college is a watered-down safe version of the real world. For most of us, our parents pay our tuition. Many of us have time to pursue our hobbies and enjoy our free time with our friends, and some of us do not have to worry about taxes or providing for a family. However, while your education and work experience gathered in college can put you on the right track with your career, no further world difference can be made. Wrong.
One of the most heated political rivalries in the world is between Israel and Palestine. Although there are religious beliefs involved, one cannot call it a war between religions. There are Muslims and Christians living in the Jewish state of Israel, and there are Jews and Christians living in Palestine. Despite discussing a fair compromise, almost everyone has chosen a side they favor more and thus support an imbalanced solution.
Each person has had their own stake in the contested land, and the conflict has gone too far for one group of people to come away with all of it. What is more important here is that the extremist factions that are in power on both sides are compromising the lives of their own innocent civilians. Those who support either side support their countries of choice very much like a parent would of his child: through good and bad. Pride, greed and ignorance are triumphing over respect and peace.
It is easier said than done. It may be extremely difficult for those directly involved in the conflict overseas to step down and take the measure I have stated above. However, it is our duty here in college to show the world that peace is possible. It can begin right here at UC Irvine.
Our campus holds one of the most heated Palestinian-Israeli debates among universities in the nation, at least among our student body. Along with the baseball team and the recent controversy of the UCI Law School, the Muslim Student Union/Anteaters for Israel tête-à-têtes are the attention-grabbers for UCI in the national media. Even former President Jimmy Carter passed up UCLA to come speak about the conflict here at our school.
I am not denouncing the way each club supports its cause. I appreciate MSU’s approach with Anti-Zionism Week. They present their arguments with creative materials and invite thought-provoking speakers. I also appreciated iFest last year. Instead of taking a more intense approach, they decided to bring a celebratory mood. Whether or not you agree with what they had to say, you had to respect their engaging and positive approach.
I have realized that a big reason for the hostility and tension on campus between these groups has been a lack of positive interaction. It may just be that their loyalties lie too strongly with their associations in the conflict abroad, or it might be that there is a fear of disaster.
I believe that we have forgotten that we are not overseas. We are in a country where democracy provides diversity and the power to facilitate peace. We are all Americans first. We share that in common. We all are educated by the same professors, are housed under the same roof and root for the same sports teams. We have more commonalities than differences.
The Qu’ran and Torah carry a similar message and goal: peace. They share many of the same prophets and values. The connections are truly endless.
Creating such hostility between the groups not only prevents positive relations between them, it also sheds a negative light in front of those who do not associate themselves with either group. I witnessed this belief first-hand in the classroom when I took Israeli Political Relations last spring quarter. Many students shared sentiments that MSU was out to convert students to Islam, and that this discomforted them. I had never had any interaction with MSU until I decided to see for myself after that class. MSU was far from what they had described it as. In fact, I can say that both the Jewish and Muslim groups on campus are equally as hospitable and courteous to the curious, like I myself once was.
An unfortunate wall has been erected between both groups by both associations. These walls need to be shattered by positive, and hopefully fun, interaction between both groups. The interaction doesn’t have to be a debate or battle; a simple, friendly basketball game between the two might go even further.
If the players overseas cannot bring peace, why don’t we show them that we can achieve peace here and accomplish what they haven’t been able to do there for years? After all, college is a microcosm of life. Someone needs to set the example.