Student Organizations on Edge about Palestinian Bid for Statehood

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Author: Clark Scally

Occidental students watched closely as Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, submitted a bid for statehood to the United Nations last Friday. Two student organizations on campus, J Street U Occidental and OneVoice, focus their efforts on this conflict, pushing for cooperation and peace. Both organizations hosted events this past week, including movie screenings and live panel debates, to inform the student body on the current state of affairs and to provide a forum for discussion.

“Both J Street and One Voice want a peaceful two state solution. We both support a bilaterally negotiated resolution to the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict” Vice-President of J Street Jessie Salter (sophomore) said.

J Street U Occidental is a chapter of a larger, national organization – J Street. The organization’s website calls their views “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Democracy, Pro-Two States, Pro-Justice, Pro-Human Rights, Pro-Palestinian Progressive vision for Israel.” J Street officially opposes the Palestinian UN bid.

“Nothing on the ground will be different over night based on the UN resolution,” Salter said. “What we here at J Street are really afraid of is unnegotiated action like the UN bid has the potential of provoking violence from the extremes of both sides, and so we feel that ultimately that this will not move us towards a peaceful two-state solution, but could lead us farther way.”

Members of J Street U Occidental have been calling Congressman for the 31st district Xavier Becerra, asking him to sign on to the Price-Welch Letter, which urges members of the U.S. government to not cut aid to Palestinians. The drafters of the letter, Congressman Price (D-NC) and Congressman Welch (D-VT), believe that doing so would hinder the peace process.

“Supporting the Price-Welch letter is very effective politically. It’s a fight we can actually win,” Salter said.

Meanwhile, One Voice, an international organization advocating for cooperation and a two-state solution, supports the bid.

“A Palestinian State will solidify the viability of a peaceful two state solution,” CEO of OneVoice Howard Sumka said in an official stance essay submitted to every college chapter.

“The granting of statehood in a crucial international body provides an opportunity for Palestine, Israel, and the International community to recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian leadership,” President of Occidental’s chapter of OneVoice Marissa Robbins (junior) said. “Though perhaps simply symbolic on the ground, the action further propels Israeli and international leaders to support Palestinian efforts, hold their politicians accountable for seeking peace efforts, and ultimately moving the peace process forward.”

In order for Palestine to be admitted as a member state, it needs the approval of the 15-member United Nations Security Council. Any Council recommendation for membership would then need a two-thirds majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly for final approval.

Both J Street and OneVoice hope to raise higher campus awareness of this critical international issue in the coming days.

“This is especially important at Oxy, such a small school,” Salter said. “This issue is huge.This is not just a Jewish issue, this is not just an issue for pro-Israelis or pro-Palestinians. It’s so much more than that.”

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