Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Difficult Dialogues: There are two sides to the Palestinian conflict


Rebecca Wilczak

Issue date: 3/11/08 Section: News
The Difficult Dialogues series held at the University of Michigan-Dearborn featured a discussion on peace prospects in the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine last Thursday.

A dialogue was held between Dr. Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, representing each side of the conflict.

Baskin, representing the Israeli side, is founder of the Israel and Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), and has participated in negotiations with Palestinians and has published numerous books and articles on the topic.

Siniora, representing the Palestinian side, is co-CEO of IPCRI, publisher of The Jerusalem Times, and has been a member of the Palestinian National Council since 1990.

The dialogue began with opening comments from both speakers. Baskin emphasized the "Two State Solution," where each side of the conflict would be allowed their own independent state.

"It is no longer an existential, us-or-them issue; now it's how to manage us-and-them," he said.

He also expressed that each side has failed to recognize the humanity of the other side.

"This is a conflict about people."

Siniora agreed with Baskin's "Two State Solution." He reviewed some of the history of the conflict and how today's situation arose. He expressed a need for the two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah, to work together.

"Instead of working together to end the conflict, we are working under two governments with two voices," said Siniora.

Members of the audience then asked questions. Professor Ronald Stockton, who teaches a class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at UM-D, shared the despair he felt over the situation.

"I have always believed that a two-state solution was possible, but that the leaders were not up to the job. The Israeli settlement structure is so extensive and has so compromised the viability of the West Bank as an entity, that even if an agreement were worked out, it could not be implemented," he said.

One group of students in the audience disagreed with some of the speakers' views, favoring the Palestinian side of the conflict and emphasizing the human rights violations that have occurred.

"A competition of suffering will get us nowhere," Baskin responded.

"Does a Palestinian woman who buries her child have more right to justice than an Israeli woman who buries her child?"

Baskin encouraged the students to become peace activists in the situation.

IPCRI, a co-sponsor of the event, is a think tank devoted to the peace process. The organization has influence on many high-level decision makers in Palestine, Israel, the United States and several European countries. They are hosting an event called "Walk the Green Line" in May, where the public is invited on a three-day hike along the Green Line in Israel and Palestine. For more information, or to make a donation to IPCRI, visit www.ipcri.org.