Middle East tensions inflamed by intolerance

Since the long flare-up in the Middle East began last year, a similar escalation of tension between Muslim and Jewish students has begun on college campuses across the country, including the University. However, the intolerance that has made regular appearances in the Twin Cities lately does nothing to promote understanding, the only possible route to a resolution of the long-lasting enmity.

Koby Nahmias, a member of the Friends of Israel, unintentionally summed the problem from both sides of the argument when he said of the Anti-War Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine, “these people are not willing to listen to what the other side has to say.” But both sides seem to be a bit hard of hearing recently, so much so that two events last spring became shouting matches on Northrop mall.

The University is an institute of learning. Higher learning, in fact, but the petulant actions of both Muslim and Jewish students are taking the level of discourse right back to the preschool playground.

Harry Boyte, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute, said, “There’s a deeper problem, which is seeing politics in terms of winners and losers.” In politics, there are never clear winners or losers, so that no amount of intolerant shouting will contribute to a resolution.

In order to solve a worldwide problem such as Middle East tensions, everyone has to win. This is what diplomacy is all about, as opposed to war. Death threats such as those circulating at the University of Michigan solve nothing.

More than 300 university and college presidents recently signed a statement calling for “intimidation-free” campuses. For Jewish students, that is. No mention is made in the document about violence against and harassment of Arab students, a one-sidedness that prompted the majority of the 1,900 presidents that have seen the document, including most of those in the Ivy League, to refuse to sign.

Contributing to the problem is the nature of the issues under discussion, which all strike close to the heart of those concerned. Pro-Palestine students at a conference at the University of Michigan sold a book calling the Holocaust a myth, and students have organized a divestment campaign against Israel at approximately 40 campuses.

On the other hand, pro-Israel students are quick to throw anti-Semite labels at all pro-Palestine causes. Groups such as the Friends of Israel, despite their protestations of good intentions, have forced their way into pro-Palestine events to disrupt and harass.

In the end, none of these methods accomplish anything. Pro-Israel factions must realize that to support the Palestinians is not conclusive evidence of anti-Semitism. Pro-Palestine factions must realize not every Jew is automatically an enemy. Both sides should take a step back from their own selfish perspective to realize that people on both sides are, ultimately, human.