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Response to PSM graceful

Jewish and pro-Israeli groups� response to the Palestine Solidarity Movement�s national conference, which will take place at Duke Oct. 15 to 17, has been as classy and positive as possible. By offering educational programming instead of protests, the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and its affiliates will foster dialogue on campus.

When the University agreed to host the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s annual conference Oct. 15 to 17, there were many ways pro-Israeli groups on campus could have responded.

They could have railed against the administration, alleging that the University is anti-Semitic. They could have staged protests that snowballed out of control and led to violence and disarray.

But the way in which the pro-Israeli groups chose to respond—recognizing PSM’s right to exist and advocating the weekend as an opportunity for education rather than as an opportunity for protest—is the classiest move possible and should be applauded.

The pro-Israeli groups have a right to be concerned about the arrival of PSM, which many allege is an anti-Semitic group that supports terrorist activities. Had these groups succumbed to their fears and reacted through protests, however, they would not have accomplished anything.

Instead, the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, the student board of the Freeman Center and Duke Friends of Israel have formed the Joint Israel Initiative, a coalition devoted to presenting pro-Israeli views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They plan to bring in speakers and scholars who will offer a perspective on the conflict distinct from that of PSM. Although PSM does not advocate a particular solution, it does not explicitly condemn violence. Pro-Israeli groups fear that the implicit focus of the conference will be anti-Semitic.

The reasonable, responsible solution that the Jewish and pro-Israeli groups have come up with not only shows maturity and grace, it also provides the University with a rare opportunity to foster discussion and truly inform the campus. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most significant and most misunderstood sagas of this era. The complexity, the history and the sheer amount of information surrounding the conflict, however, mean that many people do not fully understand either the nature of the conflict or the supporting arguments on either side.

Given the conflict’s magnitude, it is a disgrace that students can graduate from college without having at least a basic understanding of it. Duke students, however, have a unique opportunity in the PSM conference. Having the two groups host events will allow students to learn about the conflict and potential solutions.

If the Jewish and pro-Israeli groups had advocated protests instead of academic forums, few students would have gained understanding and the potential for the weekend’s events to escalate into violence would be much higher.

As plans for the conference and the pro-Israeli response solidify, the Jewish groups should schedule their events so they do not conflict with the conference events. Thus, students—both those who are invested in the conference and those who are on the fence—can attend as many events as possible.

Also, the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes it impossible to condense the entire discussion into a single weekend. It is an ongoing debate, and student groups, both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, should begin the debate today.


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