On Civic Engagement

On Civic Engagement

Three months ago, if you told me I would become an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during my time here in D.C., I probably would have looked at you like this. But part of the TWC experience is participating in some form of civic engagement experience by either creating a project on your own or choosing one of the options that TWC offers.

Before the recent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I had heard about the war tearing these two areas apart, but I had never made an effort to understand both sides of the issue. One day back at my home university, after a particularly heinous terrorist attack on Israel, I heard my Israeli friend peacefully and patriotically defending her nation at a "University of Florida stands with Israel" rally. After that day, I became personally connected to this issue, and when I saw that it was an available civic engagement opportunity, I took it. I realized that both sides of this conflict have reasons for fighting that are understandable and that the only way to resolve this conflict is through peaceful actions, not through one side ultimately winning the war and leaving the other completely desolated in more ways than one. My hope in joining this project was to not have to see any more fingers being pointed at the other side, or hear any more information about death tolls, riots, bombings, or terrorist attacks in these two Middle Eastern areas. I believe that peace should always be thought of as an alternative to war, and it should always be advocated, especially by young, educated, motivated individuals who may actually be able to move our own country to intervene and raise awareness for a peaceful conclusion to this terrible, ongoing conflict.

During the almost-weekly meetings we attended for the Israeli-Palestinian peace project, we mostly learned about the history of this conflict. The first day, we learned about Political Zionism: the idea that there should be a Jewish state in what was once ancient Israel. The land that King David and King Solomon ruled over in 1000 B.C. Jerusalem is important to the Jewish people; it’s the center of everyone’s existence and they make pilgrimages to the site of the Temple Mount. It is also the home of the Wailing Wall, the last bit left of the destroyed temple. But it’s also important to Muslims because the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the Dome of the Rock, also in Jerusalem. Our meetings mostly consisted of history lessons similar to this about the entire conflict and the history of the two groups.

Ori Nir from Americans for Peace Now and Hussein Ibish and Ghaith al-Omari from the American Task Force on Palestine presented each of their organizations’ standpoints. We were led to the conclusion that the Palestinian people should have their own state because this conflict has caused too much bloodshed, war and violence, and there is no viable reason that the Palestinian people should not have their own state. Israel has a vested interest in the Palestinian Authority because if it falls apart, Israel will find itself responsible for its own people and the Palestinians that live on their land.

I led a Congressional meeting as the most important part of this project. I am a constituent of Representative Joe Garcia of Miami-Dade County in Miami, FL. Congressman Garcia is part of the Democratic Party, and he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The legislative aid that my group and I met with is Anna Gonzalez, the Senior Policy Advisor. There were three other Florida students in my group.

When we stepped into the office, I introduced myself and everyone in my group, as well as the topic of why we believe a two-state solution is the only viable solution to this conflict. I said that this solution is an international consensus and the current situation is a violation of human rights and a great injustice in our modern world.

Being in this kind of advocacy program for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is definitely a step in the right direction if there is any hope of this solution becoming a reality. Talking to Representatives and Senators about this topic will hopefully have the effect of informing the powerful people in our government that this is an issue that Americans care about and want to see resolved. Maybe next time, instead of 27 Senators signing a letter to President Obama encouraging a two-state solution, we can get 30 or 40, or 50. I believe that we can cause this change, or at least a similar change in our country by having more and more students lobby in the way I lobbied on April 4th.

 

Another reason these advocacy activities will contribute to the resolution of this conflict is because the world already knows that there is an international consensus for this solution. By reaffirming our continued interest in this solution and our willingness to advocate for it, we remind the international community that this conflict is still ongoing and put more pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to come to an agreement. Also, now that I am well-informed on this topic, I can go back home to Florida and educate my friends, who will hopefully become as passionate about this issue as I have become, and maybe even join an advocacy group on our campus to spread awareness and support for a two-state solution.

By ensuring that I was going to be lobbying to my representative about this topic and by educating me during the meetings, TWC helped me become an informed citizen about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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