The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.” For one club on campus, this fact is acknowledged and discussed often.
Still a young club, Students for Justice and Peace in the Middle East developed just last year in an effort to discuss the current conflict faced in the Middle Eastern region and break down frequent stereotypes.
“A majority of Americans have the wrong idea about Middle Eastern people, and we thought if people on campus saw that they are familiar and dress like them and act like them, they’d understand that those in the Middle East are not just militants or terrorists, but people they can relate to,” said Nadeen Qaru, co-founder and current member of the club, and construction management senior.
With about 15 active participants, the club holds weekly meetings that usually begin with a 15-minute presentation and discussion on the latest in the Middle East. They are then devoted to event planning, said Marya Mikati, club president and architectural engineering senior.
According to Mikati, the group is currently working on a Palestine awareness week that is planned for May 12 to 15, and will include speakers and documentary showings. The event will be similar to Arab awareness week, which the club put on last year.
As part of the activities, the club plans to build a scaled-down version of the wall currently being built between Israel and Palestine on Dexter Lawn, that will include facts and a place for people to write opinions. This will be followed by a free documentary showing that will discuss the history of the region and its people.
They are also attempting to get speakers from both Israel and Palestine to debate in front of the school with a moderator on May 15.
“We want people to see both sides of the issue and not be able to say that we’re being biased,” Qaru said.
Despite attempts to be unbiased, the club is no stranger to controversy, and has become accustomed to religious protesters and debaters being present at its events.
“There has been some opposition every now and then when we have events, especially on Palestine and Israel,” Mikati said. “We get opposing views, but it’s nice because this is what the club is here for – to start discussions in order to find a compromise.”
According to Qaru, people generally fall on one of two sides of the issue. They either support the Israelis who feel the region is rightfully theirs, or they are behind the Palestinians who feel angered by Israeli occupation and find it to be unjust.
Despite the opposition, the club’s leaders insist they are not pushing an agenda, but simply looking toward an end to the Israeli-Palestinian violence.
“People often don’t realize that there were good times between the two groups,” Qaru said.
“They think of it as a long historical fight between Israel and Palestine, but they were actually once friends and neighbors. It reminds us that it really isn’t a hopeless situation there.”
“Peace in the Middle East” serves as more than a simple hippie slogan or a clever rhyme for this group of students; it is a goal they wholeheartedly promote and pursue.
“I think that what’s going on in the Middle East affects us directly as students and as Americans in general,” Mikati said.
“The more aware we are, the more we can be involved and help directly and indirectly toward establishing peace in the Middle East.”