On Oct. 14, UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development hosted an event called “At the Negotiation Table: What are the options? Israel, Palestine and the US Role – A Discussion with Ambassador Oded Eran.”
Eran, the head of the Israeli negotiation team with the Palestinians in 1999, deputy director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the former Israeli ambassador to the European Union and NATO, spoke about the history of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. He commented on each of the attempts to resolve the conflict, beginning with the Oslo Accord in 1993. Noting the failure of each summit to reach a comprehensive solution acceptable to both parties has led Eran to advocate for a paradigm shift. Peace, he argues, can be achieved by building mutual respect, understanding and trust through smaller, yet substantive, agreements. In the simplest terms, Eran argues small steps can lead to big changes.
UCLA also needs a paradigm shift.
We must move away from what has become the status quo – rash resolutions, spiteful rhetoric and marginalizing demonstrations. These things hurt our campus by exacerbating the divide between different communities and creating a hostile environment for students to express their opinions. Actions, and sometimes inaction, taken by the Undergraduate Students Association Council regarding the conflict have left students, on both sides, feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned. As councilmembers are urged to take one side or the other, they struggle to understand the nuances and complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And this summer, I realized why.
I traveled to Israel with the Anti-Defamation League. In the interest of full disclosure, the Anti-Defamation League, whose mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” is a pro-Jewish, pro-Israel organization. In Israel and the West Bank, I learned about the history of the region and the conflict. I met with Arab Muslims living in Israel and Jews living in the West Bank, and every combination in between. Through lectures, but mostly through conversation and dialogue, I gained an appreciation for the histories on all sides of the conflict.
A forthcoming resolution notes the inherent complexity and comments on it, saying that each side has the right to respect, self-determination, and most importantly, peace. What that peace looks like, weeks or years from now, is something that we cannot decide. But what we can decide to do is support all of our peers and their diverse thoughts, opinions and experiences.
We can do that by passing “A Resolution In Support of Positive Steps Towards an Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” The resolution acknowledges the numerous perspectives and narratives that surround the conflict. It also recognizes the hardships that different communities face because of the conflict. Perhaps most importantly, the resolution heeds Ambassador Oded Eran’s advice to change the paradigm.
It moves this campus toward fostering an environment conducive to respectful dialogue and meaningful discourse. The resolution creates an inclusive campus climate that does not demonize, vilify or threaten significant portions of our community, as previous resolutions both here and around the University of California system have done. It seeks to create new relationships and redefine old ones by building rapport rather than animosity, consensus rather than division, and respect rather than hatred.
This resolution is not the solution to our campus climate issues, and it is certainly not a framework for peace, but it is a positive step toward both, and I am proud to be a sponsor.
Singh is a third-year economics and history student and the Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 2.