An ideologically diverse group of educators and an Israeli diplomat gave their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a debate last Thursday.
The debaters included Nimrod Barkan, a strategic adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry; Mahmoud Ayoub, a Lebanese member of Temple’s Religion department; Rebecca Alpert, a Women’s Studies professor; and Joseph Schwartz, Chair of the Political Science department and member of Americans for Peace Now.
The debate, which became heated at times, was structured as a history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shown from four different perspectives.
Barkan had an outright pro-Israel stance, and said that the tactics used by Palestinian suicide bombers was doing much more to prevent peace than was Israel’s military operations.
“We shall not agree to return to a situation in which the Palestinians are allowed to send suicide bombers to Israel,” he said.
Barkan referred to an incident in 1996 in which Israel learned of plans for an attack by Palestinian terrorists. Israel decided to kill the person responsible for planning and building the bombs. In response, Yassir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, authorized Hamas, the terrorist wing of the PLO, to carry out suicide attacks on Israelis.
This, Barkan said, was the beginning of the current era of terrorist attacks on Israel.
Ayoub viewed the situation differently, saying that Israel’s military operations against Palestinians were not justified.
“The situation in the Middle East is not a situation of who is a terrorist and who is not,” he said.
Unlike many on the Palestinian side who believe Palestinians should have a state separate from Israel, Ayoub said he is not for a two-state solution, though “that may be the only possibility right now.”
Alpert, who has lived in Israel, said both sides should reach a peace agreement without worrying about the details of history.
“If we start arguing over details, we will never find common ground,” she said. “Neither party in this situation can claim a moral high ground, nor can the United States.”
Schwartz, whose father was an Israeli political adviser, took a more realistic view of the situation.
“There could be perfect, ideal solutions, but they don’t exist in the real world,” he said. “There will have to be civil wars I hope peaceful ones.”
Schwartz said Israel must move out of the West Bank, and that there will not be peace and justice until that happens.
He also called on the United States and European countries to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Aaron Bycoffe can be reached at email@example.com