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PSM need not sign statements

Last Thursday, the Joint Israel Initiative issued an open letter to the organizers of the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference, calling for PSM and Hiwar to sign the statements they claim form �the necessary foundation of any meaningful dialogue.� By challenging PSM to sign statements that contradict the organization�s principles, the Joint Israel Initiative is sending a message that it is open to debate, but only if that debate is on its terms.

Last Thursday, the Joint Israel Initiative issued an open letter to the organizers of the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. The Jewish and pro-Israeli groups challenged PSM to answer a series of questions and set forth three statements they believe to be fundamental to fostering debate. The Joint Israel Initiative called for PSM and Hiwar, the student group sponsoring the conference, to sign the statements they claim form “the necessary foundation of any meaningful dialogue.”

PSM will not support the statements, as two of them conflict with the guiding principles of the group. PSM has the right to not sign the statements. The national organization designed its policies to include members with a wide range of beliefs and ideas. There are individual affiliates of PSM who would support the Joint Israel Initiative’s statements. PSM as a whole, however, cannot take that position.

PSM’s policy does not allow it to condemn any particular action. Thus, the first statement, “We condemn the murder of innocent civilians, whether by individuals, groups, or nations, anywhere in the world” is inconsistent with PSM’s philosophy. Although the merit of this philosophy is debatable, PSM’s refusal to sign the statement is reasonable. The words “murder,” “innocent” and “civilian” are difficult to define in the context of this conflict, which has broad political and social implications for both sides.

PSM also will not support any particular resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus, the second statement, “We support a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that guarantees safe and secure borders,” also contradicts PSM’s guiding principles. Calling for a “two-state solution” is vague and excludes a number of other solutions. The policy not to endorse a resolution exists, in part, to allow PSM to include a variety of sponsoring groups with both moderate and extremist views. Signing the second statement would undermine this policy.

The organization has legitimate reasons for objecting to the statements, and its refusal to sign is very clearly in line with positions PSM has taken in the past. PSM’s refusal to support the Joint Israel Initiative’s statements does not necessarily make PSM a supporter of violent activities, and it does not mean PSM is incapable of hosting meaningful discussions at Duke in October.

The Joint Israel Initiative likely issued these statements with the knowledge that PSM would not support them, while trying to take the moral high ground. By challenging PSM to sign statements that contradict the organization’s principles, the Joint Israel Initiative is sending a message that it is open to debate, but only if that debate is on its terms.

Both the Joint Israel Initiative and PSM knew before the statements were issued that PSM would not support them. Because Hiwar, like the Joint Israel Initiative, is a campus organization, it is in a more appropriate position than PSM to respond to the statements. Hiwar supports the first and third statements but will not support the second statement because the terms of a two-state solution are not specified. Hiwar’s support gives us confidence in the possibility for meaningful campus dialogue and should bring some level of common understanding to the conference.

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