Sunday, February 24, 2008

On the Concept of the Two State Solution

The concept of the so-called "Two State Solution" is that of two states, one Jewish and one Arab, living peacefully side by side in the Middle East. Although the name itself is a relatively recently contrived political shorthand, Israeli leadership has been proposing solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict predicated on this notion from the early 20s up to the present day. In turn, such proposals are historically always rejected by Arab leadership, which instead then chooses to wage a war of some form or another to "wipe Israel off the map."

Meanwhile, in the middle of the UC Berkeley campus, I was walking along when I came upon the display of a student group called "Students for Justice in Palestine" consisting of an eight-foot-tall board of wood cut into the shape of Israel, but painted completely in the colors of the Palestinian flag. Israel, it appeared, had literally been wiped off the map.

Student opinion is both a reflection of societal opinion at large and an indication of what societal opinion at large will be in the coming generations, since today's students are tomorrow's societal movers and shakers. And today's young representatives of Palestinian nationalism on campus are evidently not truly concerned with acting for "justice in Palestine." This, of course, would entail calling for an end to the Palestinians' corrupt leadership, which steals all foreign aid meant for the people, and an end to Palestinian society's encouragement of child suicide bombing and other forms of violence. Instead, Palestinian student activists call for Israel's destruction, just like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon did on the eve of the founding of the modern state of Israel, just like Hamas, Osama Bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continue to do.

The Jews have always been a hopeful people; after all, they kept the hope alive that they would see a large-scale return to their homeland of Israel for two thousand years. However, as long as the Jews continue to propose a two-state solution while the Arabs continue to believe in a one-state solution-that is, one Arab state (amongst a plethora of other Arab states) and no Jewish state--the Jewish hope for peace may similarly continue for another two thousand years, or, chas v'shalom, until Israel is destroyed by its enemies.

The Forgotten Refugees

Many people have heard of the Palestinian refugees of the Middle East. Few, however, think to reference another group of Middle Eastern refugees whose stories deserve recognition: these are the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Such was the topic of Stanley Urman, director of a group called Justice or Jews from Arab Countries, when he recently came to speak at UC Berkeley. Having suffered terrible human rights violations, including pogroms and other officially sanctioned violence, confiscation of property, beatings and imprisonment, most of these refugees were ultimately forced to flee their countries of origin to the land of Israel. Indeed, statistics show that while there were about 856,000 Jews living in Arab countries as of 1948--up to the founding of the modern state of Israel--in 2001 there were only 7800. As such, Urman's group and others, including JIMENA (Jews Indgenous to the Middle East and North Africa) are undertaking an "International Rights and Redress Campaign" for these immigrants, which seeks to "record the family histories of Jews diplaced from Arab countries and document the loss of individual and communal assets [so as to] compile the legal and factual basis necessary to assert the rights of the Jewish refugees displaced from Arab coutries." In his speech, Urman also advocated two new bills to be voted upon in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Remarkable for their bipartisan nature, having been drafted by politicians from both sides of the political spectrum, the bills urge the President that any "explicit reference to the Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity."
If you are a Jew whose family suffered human rights violations at the hands of an Arab government, click here to register your family's history for the International Rights and Redress Campaign:
To read the House and Senate resolutions, click here:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Some Photos from Israel Peace Rally last Wednesday

The rally for solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel saw an impressive showing of people, Jews and non-Jews alike. The rally opened at Sather Gate with a spirited performance by the UC Men's Octet. Then everyone walked together to the middle of Sproul Plaza, as they sang "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu" ("Peace will Soon be Upon Us"). The rally continued with yells of "Israel Wants Peace!" and the singing of Hebrew songs, even as an anti-Israel rally on the steps of Sproul Hall spewed hatred and lies against Israel. As we continued to celebrate with unbridled positive energy, however, it soon became clear that this other rally was not going to ruin our moods.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Israeli Peace and Diversity Week at UC Berkeley

Am Yisrael Chai! This week marks Tikva SFI's "Israeli Peace and Diversity Week," a celebration of the optimistic and tolerant spirit that Israel has always borne even as terror attacks continue to plague its people on a daily basis. On Wednesday, a mob of Jewish students and other supporters congregated in the middle of Sproul Plaza in a rally to show solidarity with Israel, as they sang Israeli songs and chanted "Israel wants peace!", in the process effectively dwarfing an adjacent anti-Israel rally. Today, the members of Tikva put on a presentation in front of Sproul Hall that dramatized the plight of the inhabitants of the Israeli town of Sderot, into which terrorists from Gaza shoot rockets every day. Other events during the week included movie screenings such as Brooke Goldstein's "The Making of a Martyr, " a documentary which shows how the Palestinian educational system encourages child suicide bombing, thus highlighting the severe need for Palestinian educational reform. The final event, called "The Path to Peace," will take place along Sproul and will highlight the numerous times throughout Israel's history that it has sought to achieve peace with its neighbors. Ultimately, the week is a reminder of how amazing a country Israel is, how diverse are the people that make up its borders, how Israelis hope for peace even as they cope physically and emotionally when another rocket almost destroys another Israeli house. Judging by the sheer numbers of Jews who came to show support for Israel this week, and the passion and energy that pervaded the events, it appears that a strong pro-Israel presence has once again returned to Berkeley. BARUCH HASHEM, BERKELEY NOSHEM!!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ismail Khaldi Speaks to UC Berkeley Students

On Thursday, Ismail Khaldi, the Israeli Consul to San Francisco, spoke to a turnout of about 50 UC Berkeley students concerning the unfair image of Israel portrayed in the media. Khaldi, a Bedouin who grew up as a shepherd in a small village in the Western Galilee of Israel, spoke about the importance of Israel as the only true democracy in the Middle East, unique in the region for the rights, educational opportunities, and religious toleration it affords its minorities. Proudly identifying himself as an Israeli, Khaldi cited personal experience, relating how, growing up with Jewish peers, he was always treated the same as everyone else. UC Berkeley students in attendance included leaders from various student groups on campus.