Two Sides, Two Solutions For End to Mid-East Crisis

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Echoing a similar scene earlier this month, Palestinian and Israeli protesters claimed opposite ends of Upper Sproul Plaza yesterday to call for different versions of peace in Israel.

While the students may have different opinions about how peace in the Middle East should be achieved, Glenna Gordon, a member of the Jewish Student Union, said she felt the two groups share an ultimate goal - peace.

"Personally, I don't like the 'us versus them' dichotomy," she said. "I think we have more in common than we have apart."

Students for Justice in Palestine, a coalition of campus groups, rallied with other Palestinian supporters on the Mario Savio Steps to protest what they called "the deliberate Israeli massacre of Palestinians."

Calling for a complete international boycott of all Israeli goods and an end to U.S. financial aid to Israel, Palestinian protesters equated the ethnic conflicts in the Middle East to South Africa's system of apartheid.

"Israeli occupation in the territory that has been occupied since 1967 continues unabetted," said Daniel Boyarin, a UC Berkeley Near Eastern studies professor. "There was no end to the occupation ever. There was no intent to end the occupation ever."

Raised as a Zionist, Boyarin said he reconsidered his views after living in Israel and seeing the oppression of Palestinian citizens living there.

"I asked myself, 'What is going on here? What has happened to the Jewish people?'" he said. "The answer came, 'This is what is needed to protect the Jewish state.' I drew the thought that if this is necessary to protect the Jewish state, the Jewish state must be a fundamentally unjust state."

UC Berkeley graduate student Hatem Bazian said he felt the continuing process of Israeli occupation of Palestinian settlements is being disguised as a peace process.

"The Palestinian is already in a grave six feet deep and an Israeli soldier has his foot on your head, a knife in your back and a gun to your head, and then they turn to you and say we want peace," he said.

At the other end of Sproul Plaza, members of the Jewish Student Union and the Berkeley Hillel carried signs reading "I support Israel."

At the protest earlier this month, the students said they only wanted to show a Jewish presence and educate people about the issues, but after receiving criticism for not being pro-active enough in their tactics, they decided to counterprotest yesterday.

"I think a lot of people were more upset that we didn't have anything than they would have been if we had," Gordon said.

She said, however, that the students were not trying to create antagonism or engage in name-calling, but educate people about Zionism and respond to Palestinian criticism.

"We're trying to show another side of the coin," she said.

Gordon, who is Jewish, said she wanted to rally with the Israeli students, but also feels Palestinians are oppressed and wanted to show her solidarity with the students at the opposite end of Sproul Plaza.

"I am conflicted," she said. "I want to be here and I want to be there. I want to meet in the middle and I hope we can soon."

While the Middle East seems far from Berkeley, events here can closely mirror events half a world away, she added.

"If we can't meet in the middle, how can we expect Barak and Arafat to meet in the middle?" she said.


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