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Ask-Me-Anything on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

courtesy of Mohammed Gadrab

courtesy of Mohammed Gadrab

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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.

“One of the major obstacles that our event faced was the addition of two new members to our original planning committee for our event,” Wei said. “These two additions seemed to be helpful at first, but we quickly discovered that they weren’t interested in peace. When explicitly asked whether they believed that the other side was intentionally targeting hospitals and babies which was their claim, they openly admitted that was what they believed the other side was about.”

Wei explained why he was quick to take these types of students off of the discussion panel. He also expounded on the actions he took to ensure safety for his board.

“By limiting discussions, those students not only increased the amount of time that we needed to complete our event, but also nearly convinced Mohamed and the others that this event would be a waste of time,” Wei said. “However, seeing that our work was in danger of sabotage, I quickly moved to discuss with Mohamed several negotiations. We removed the Muslim Student Association club name affiliation, revised the fact sheet to include more pro-Palestinian perspectives, and removed the two ill-willed individuals from our discussion board. Also, I made sure to talk to school administration to make sure Mohamed and the other pro-Palestinian students weren’t targeted for their views. Ultimately, this obstacle only strengthened my relationship with Mohammed and now we are great friends.”

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]

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Ask-Me-Anything on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict