I have often been frustrated with both the lack of discourse and the absence of genuine action at Kenyon surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and have felt that efforts to bring about these changes have received a meager response. I am thrilled that this discussion has risen to the surface over the last few weeks, and a challenging yet (mostly) respectful dialogue has begun to emerge.
That said, I still feel that a major perspective on the conflict has yet to be widely acknowledged and supported at Kenyon: that which favors a two-state solution.
While any version of a two-state solution (or any solution for that matter) will undoubtedly be complicated, and an ideal situation for neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis — two peoples who share equally legitimate claims to this holy and cherished land — it is not only realistic, but completely necessary if peace is going to be achieved.
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis share the fundamental need for basic human rights: to be free from occupation by another nation and free from the perpetual fear of terrorism, among other things. If the disputed land is divided into two sovereign states, these fundamental needs can begin to be met, and over time will become increasingly realized.
Most versions of a two-state solution divide the land across the Green Line — the line between Israel proper and the territories gained by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. This solution would be accompanied by additional land swaps to incorporate the majority of Jewish/Israeli citizens living in settlements into Israel, as well as the vast majority of Palestinians into the state of Palestine.
It would incorporate most of the West Bank and Gaza (which would be connected) into a cohesive Palestinian state. Both states would have their capital in Jerusalem — a reflection of the mutual validity of both peoples’ claim to the sacred city.
The future state of Palestine would offer a homeland and citizenship to Palestinian refugees, perhaps in conjunction with some Israeli monetary compensation for those who choose not to live there. But Palestinian refugees and their descendants would have to renounce their “right of return” to their former homes in Israel proper. One state would be a Palestinian homeland and the other a Jewish one.
It is essential that everyone engaged in this discussion cultivate empathy and an understanding of others’ national narratives and histories. However, the “who has suffered more” game needs to end. Both sides must understand those whom we deem as “other,” and this understanding needs to translate into real action.
We must focus our energy primarily on the present and the future by advocating for what is the most feasible and peaceful solution, both in the short- and long-term. At J Street U Kenyon, an organization of which I am a part, advocacy for a two-state solution is at the heart of the work we do.
It is vital that we, as students, acknowledge the only feasible solution on the horizon, and voice our opinions in support. We must fight against the Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements, but also against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement targeting Israel and “Israel apartheid” language. These only foster more hostility between the two peoples whose survival depends on their cooperation.
Many of us have witnessed and experienced to varying degrees the damage of this deeply rooted conflict on both sides. And frankly, its solution will be messy and complicated under any plan. But the reality is that a two-state solution is the only realistic way to bring about true peace.
The current negotiations will only be successful if backed by a broad and diverse constituency in favor of human rights, peace, and two people’s right to security, mutual recognition and self-determination.
Simone Holzer ’16 is a sociology major from Chevy Chase, Md. She can be contacted at email@example.com
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