Ask-Me-Anything on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


courtesy of Mohammed Gadrab


Last December, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sparking an outrage among Palestinians. This was a major shift in U.S. foreign policy in the region, as past administrations have avoided acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to avoid provoking age old tensions between the Palestinians and Israelites. As conflict at the Gaza border has continued to rise since the event , two students, junior James Wei and junior Mohammed Gadrab, have been inspired to do something about the conflict. On April 2nd, the two students hosted an ask me anything event in the courtyard in which they invited pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students to have an informative discussion which aimed for peace. Furthermore, they distributed fact sheets and answered students’ questions about the conflict from the perspectives of both sides.

Gadrab, president of the Muslim Student Association, was especially passionate about the event. Gadrab, believes that spreading awareness is the best way to find a peaceful solution.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going  on for decades with wars and uprisings,” Gadrab said. “Unfortunately, this is usually with little knowledge from people regarding the history of the conflict and the perspectives from the two sides. The U.S. is now publicly supporting Israel, while the Arab world actively supports Palestine. The United Nations is supposed to serve as an intermediary, but the United Nations is hardly trying to bring peace between the two sides. The solution to peace won’t be found in our current governments, it has to start from the people. That is why I am a fervent believer in awareness and education on the issue.”

Despite the event going well, the two students ran into several problems in organizing the event. Wei, an intern with the StandWithUs organization and also President of Cardinals for Israel, explained some of these struggles they faced with hostile students.

“Last year, our club, Cardinals for Israel, actually attempted to work with several different pro-Palestine activists to create a similar event, but unfortunately, it fell apart,” Wei said. “However, I realized the importance of an unlikely alliance between the pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian community; I couldn’t let this opportunity to find common ground slip away. At the start of the new year, I reached out directly to the Muslim Student Association, looking for another attempt at a collaborative effort with pro-Palestinian students. Thankfully, I met Mohamed who has been an extremely welcoming and hard-working student. For over three months, my team of Cardinals for Israel officers met on a weekly basis with several pro-Palestinian students to create a fact sheet, coordinate our event, and build a friendship.”

Wei explained the actions he took in order to help an event occur. While there were obstacles that had to be passed, both sides worked to accomplish their shared goal.

“Whenever we met we still had major disagreements, but our fundamental bond over compromise allowed us to pull through,” Wei said. “There were plenty of concerns our event wasn’t going to pull through, but I was able to solve and negotiate issues with Mohamed. For example, the Muslim Student Association didn’t want to be politically associated as a religious club. I not only agreed, but I also made sure to introduce the pro-Palestinian activists to school administration, removing the possibility of our team from being targeted for their political views.”

Wei continued on why he believed it was important for students to get involved. Though the issues brought up may not seem to play a role in the lives of students, Wei argued that the opposite was true.

“As an Asian-American student, I completely understand the lack of interest from most students on this topic,” Wei said. “However, this conflict can relate with almost everyone. Interested in politics? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict encompasses various Middle East difficulties such as religion, economic resources, land, and violence. Interested in the environment? Peace can allow Israel to continue developing its ecological technology and allow Palestine to build a more developed economy with a less impact on the environment in an effort to survive. Interested in volunteer work? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has brought the most painful global difficulties on both sides for over 60 years with tons of opportunities to help Israeli and Palestinian victims. Whatever the case may be, the complicated issues from the conflict are applicable to nearly everyone’s life.”

Wei encourages everyone to get involved in some way. He listed a few organizations  and ways students can be apart of the solution for peace.

“There are so many incredible opportunities to get involved surrounding Israel-related work,” Wei said. “StandWithUs has amazing and free internships and work opportunities to create Israel-related events in your local community. AIPAC holds several awesome, free conventions where you can learn more about Israel and also network with other pro-Israel activists. Cardinals for Israel is also a great club with numerous future events planned for the 2018-2019 year. You can be pro-Israel and pro-Palestine!”

Although the event is now over, Gadrab and Wei still have bigger plans on their mission for peace. Our schoolyard was just the beginning for them.

“We plan on expanding our campaign in the coming months,” said Gadrab. “We want to start presenting in churches and temples across Houston to reach a much larger audience.”

Students who want to get in contact with Wei or Gadrab can do so by emailing [email protected]