Resolve, Don't Repeat

Campus Issues: SJP and Tikvah incident was overblown, but extremists shouldn't be allowed to stand in the way of real dialogue.

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A world away, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis has inflamed the Middle East with conflict for several decades. Here in Berkeley, however, extremist and immature members of the student groups Tikvah: Students for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) continue to bicker and get into physical scuffs, rather than conduct a serious and productive discussion about their ideological disagreements. And while this campus-based conflict has only been going on for a few years, we're already beyond sick of it.

To be clear, it's a small minority of both groups that cause the stupid, headline-grabbing conflicts the student body has become familiar with. Husam Zakharia's name is already recognizable because of his involvement in the fight with former Senator John Moghtader (among others) on the second floor balcony of Eshleman Hall in November 2008. Zakharia, an SJP member, was arrested Friday for allegedly shoving a cart full of toys into the back of Tikvah co-president Jessica Felber on Sproul.

Though we don't condone physical violence of any kind, this fight was blatantly and unnecessarily overblown by both sides. It's time for the leadership of the respective pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian sides of debate on campus to isolate these individuals from the serious members, and clearly differentiate themselves from these childish punks. Just as they should not be allowed to set the agenda for these groups, these troublemakers shouldn't be allowed to let their personal conflicts reflect poorly on the serious issues both Tikvah and SJP tackle regularly.

Even beyond these individuals, the prevailing perception on campus is that SJP and Tikvah are in conflict. As students at an elite university, we are broadly committed to the value of open discussion and debate on all imaginable issues-yet the same members of these groups continually undermine opportunities for dialogue and prevent people from hearing both sides of this contentious conflict.

These individuals are doing a disservice to themselves and the campus by allowing childish fights to subsume the true purpose of their student groups; they detract from the seriousness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by turning Sproul into a turf war in and of itself. If we can't have an open discussion of this crisis at UC Berkeley, of all places, then the prospects for peace must really be slim. It's true, these students don't have the means to solve the Middle East conflict. But they certainly can't even consider a larger issue until they can solve their own conflict.






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