Israeli-Palestinian discussion ends in conflict between student groups

    Side by Side, an event hosted by J Street U Northwestern to discuss the differing narratives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ended in a tense conversation Tuesday night.

    Members of Students for Justice in Palestine came to the event and criticized its publicity and content for misrepresenting the Palestinian perspective.

    The event, which ran just over an hour in University Hall, included several videos, including some about the history of the founding of Israel, the Israeli Declaration of Independence, interviews with volunteers and soldiers, local Palestinians' memories of the fighting and an Israeli soldier's experience. Students discussed how they interpreted the videos in small groups throughout the presentation.

    "We want to try to understand people from each side and how they think," said Medill junior Tal Axelrod, co-chair of J Street, at the beginning of the event. "We want to think about the ways both sides can acknowledge each other."

    The event was inspired by "Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine," a book written by Israeli and Palestinian academics comparing how the history between the two nations has been respresented on either side in textbooks.

    Some SJP members said that the Palestinian perspective was not well-represented in the presentation's materials.

    "Don't advertise this as being the Palestinian narrative," said Marcel Hanna, a Weinberg sophomore. "I do not allow you to speak on behalf of me. I am Palestinian and this is my narrative."

    "You guys advertised this event as telling two narratives," Hanna said. "We are SJP. We were not approached for this event."

    The J Street organizers emphasized that the event was intended to focus on conflicting narrrative.

    "We did try and think as intentionally as possible about this event," said Weinberg Senior Josh Boxerman, a former co-chair of J Street. "The purpose was not to speak for Palestinians but to think about the idea of narrative."

    Boxerman said that there are critiques to be made about the videos chosen, but, "We spent a long time looking for videos and one constraint is that there's a limited selection of English-subtitled [Palestinian] Nakba narratives online."


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