Thursday, May 23

Respectful dialogue should be stepping stone to education about turmoil in Middle East


On Feb. 8, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren was invited to speak at UC Irvine but driven offstage by the shouts of 11 students who interrupted his right to free speech. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, yet where do we stand as universities if we stifle the speech of others? Will a shouting match really help resolve this conflict?

The week of Feb. 22 is Palestine Awareness Week. I would like to stand with the Muslim Student Association here at UCLA in order to raise awareness about Middle Eastern issues without resulting to the tactics mentioned above. It is important that we, as students who will greatly influence the future of this world, stop these atrocities that are being inflicted upon both Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Many believe that the Palestinians have recently regained the Gaza Strip, a section of land to the side of Israel. While it is true that Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, it is also true that Gaza did not go to the Palestinian people; Gaza was seized by Hamas, a terrorist organization that has ruined millions of lives and is the largest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Hamas is responsible for the countless deaths of Palestinians and Israelis alike. Hamas members captured Palestinian civilians in Gaza and tortured them for singing and dancing at a wedding. Hamas beheaded fellow Palestinians that allied themselves with Fatah, an organization that opposed Hamas.

Hamas, unbeknownst to many, is also responsible for framing Israel for the deaths of their own civilians. A tactic cleverly used by Hamas is to bomb Israel from schools and hospitals in Gaza in order to get retaliation attacks from Israel.

While Israel is printing and sending leaflets telling citizens to leave these buildings before Israel bombs them, this gesture is countered by Hamas, who urges civilians into these buildings to increase the civilian death rate and fuel Hamas.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and Israelis alike are affected by the abominable acts of Hamas. They have fired over 12,000 rockets and mortar shells into Israeli civilian areas since 2000.

I have heard about previous Palestine Awareness Weeks here at UCLA, and none of them mentioned Hamas. This is a shame.

Pointing fingers at Israel for Palestinians’ problems will not help resolve this conflict; it will only create a larger dipole between Palestinians and Israelis.

Six years ago this week held, among other demonstrations, a “mock Israeli checkpoint” in which students would dress up as Israeli soldiers and refuse to let fellow students pass as a demonstration of what they believe to be happening in Israel.

I have been to Israel countless times and can honestly say that these students playing dress up abused the students of UCLA, depicting scenes that did not happen in Israel.

I hope that as intelligent students of UCLA, we will not let cheap slogans and empty rhetoric overthrow peace prospects. The pro-Palestinian Students for Justice in Palestine and the pro-Israel student organization Bruins for Israel have not been able to dialogue, though countless attempts have been made.

If we at our university cannot dialogue, what makes us think that the Palestinians and Israelis can?

We are the future’s leaders, and as such have the responsibility to treat each other with respect. As I walk through the grounds of the Bruin Plaza this week, I hope that Palestine Awareness Week brings forth these discussions, rather than blaming Israel and stifling this fragile peace process.

Sadgat is a second-year computer science student.

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