By Simone Holzer
As an American Jew who cares for the safety of Israel and feels deep outrage about the ongoing occupation, I often feel the need to take action to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I also often feel inhibited. In our isolation on the Hill, it is easy to feel unable to affect change to end the conflict. But this weekend, I went to J Street U’s Midwest Regional workshop in Chicago — there, I was reminded that those of us who care about these issues can connect to a larger student movement working to end the occupation, establish two autonomous states and ensure the self-determination Israelis and Palestinians.
One of the themes of this weekend was responsibility to act. This responsibility exists on many levels. American leaders are responsible for ensuring Israeli security and Palestinian sovereignty, and because of America’s political and economic connections to both parties, we have the ability to ensure productive action on both sides. Those of us who care about Israel, particularly American Jews, have a critical responsibility to speak against actions Israel takes that work against Israel’s long term best interests, such as expanding settlement growth. And, further, the occupation inhibits fundamental Palestinian human rights, which includes lack of access to clean water, military violence and trials in military rather than civilian court. I feel responsible for these things. As an American, as a college student and as an American Jew, I understand and am motivated by these many levels of responsibility I must take on.
This sense of responsibility led me to J Street U, a student movement dedicated to reaching a two-state solution through American leadership. J Street U has allowed me to collaborate with students from Kenyon and campuses around the country to not only educate myself about the conflict, but also take action to move closer to two states. This obligation to act is why J Street U Kenyon held a fundraiser earlier this semester for Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization addressing the current water crisis in Gaza, and Other Voice, a grassroots organization bringing Israelis and Palestinians together.
Right now, a peace agreement seems inhibited by escalating tension in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the events of this summer. Increasing settlement expansion and violence exacerbate these tensions. Yet, it is precisely these tensions that demonstrate our need to act. A two-state solution and lasting peace are possible, but this requires our work. As college students, we have a choice to either bask in our isolation or to be proactive and take action to end to this conflict. We have extraordinary resources available to us including social media, political influence and a network of students across the country who are also working to end the occupation and ensure the long-term security of both parties.
Many of us are connected to, pained and outraged by this conflict — because we are Jewish or Palestinian, because we have friends and family affected by this conflict or simply because we are motivated by human suffering. Just as both parties are responsible for their actions in this conflict, we are also responsible for choosing action over apathy. Those of us in J Street U are taking on this responsibility and we want the Kenyon community to join us.
Simone Holzer ’16 is a sociology major from Chevy Chase, Md. She is also a co-chair of J Street U Kenyon. J Street U Kenyon meets Wednesdays at 5 p.m. in Peirce Pub. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.