Why I am pro-Israel

by Ryan Ariel Simon (Published edited for length in the Laney Tower)

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enters its sixth decade, casual observers may see it as inevitable-a religious quarrel thousands of years old. That is not the case.

Even those who are intimately connected to the conflict are cynical and pessimistic about the outcome. As an American Jew and activist concerned about justice, I refuse to accept pessimism.

I’ve been aware of my connection to Israel since I was young. I even celebrated Israeli Independence Day in a “renewal” synagogue (the least traditional sect of Judaism).

After visiting Israel, I became aware of a dichotomy. I must support a historic homeland for my people, culture and language, though it maintains a bunker mentality often causing it to put short-term security fears ahead of future planning.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, identified the failure to end conflict with the Palestinians as the primary threat to Israel’s future.

The conflict is fundamentally political-two peoples fighting over the same land.

The political solution-a negotiated two-state settlement creating an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel’s 1967 borders, with modifications for current realities is supported by over two-thirds of Israelis and Palestinians.

Extremists on both sides do remain an obstacle. Others include a Palestinian leadership under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that has made strides, but faces significant challenges, continued expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, and Arab East Jerusalem now annexed to Israel.

Additionally a general lack of trust, and frustration on both sides has prevented restarting negotiations.

But for too long many on the American Left have failed to acknowledge the Jewish and Israeli right to self-determination.

Additionally, the Right in Israel, (and the U.S.), ignore a key fact: Israel’s security is tied to that of their neighbors. Israel’s Jewish and democratic future depends on the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

In an unprecedented step, Barack Obama courageously championed the two-state solution since the beginning of his administration. Though ending this conflict will be tough, Israelis and Palestinians cannot make peace by themselves.

The experience of Israelis requires understanding for those with airfare back to the U.S. That is why as an American Jew my criticisms and support come from commitment, and hope for Israel’s future.

That is why I am pro-Israel and pro-Peace today.

The writer is an activist with J Street U, The Campus Address for Middle East Peace, and J Street’s SF Bay Area grassroots organization

[J Street U will be holding an event co-sponsored with the Muslim Student Association. The discussion will be “Fostering respectful, constructive advocacy, and activism on Middle East issues” and held after screening the film: “Solidarity Complex” (Wednesday, April 14 at 12:15p.m. Berkeley City College in the Classroom 057 adjacent to the Basement Atrium. There is no charge)

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