Students for Justice in Palestine sponsored a panel discussion Tuesday as part of Palestine Awareness Week.
In response to the Palestine Awareness Week speakers, Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative interest group on campus led by John Kennedy ’08, invited controversial historian Srdja Trifkovic.
Members of the SJP, which was started this semester, stated that they did not feel the YAF speaker detracted from the Palestine lecture at all.
“I’d prefer not to put the religion issue into Israel/Palestine,” Tala Karadsheh ’10 said. “[Kennedy’s lecture] is not about our issue.”
The panel, titled “Israel-Palestine: The Way Forward for Peace and Justice,” brought in four experts from various regional universities as an attempt to inform the public about the complexities of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
“We tried to bring in a variety of voices,” said SJP Co-founder Jasmine Lief ’09. “Even we [SJP co-founders] didn’t all agree on everything they said.”
Panelists included professor Tina Reuter, a professor of international law at Christopher Newport University, Palestinian advocate and Georgetown University philosophy professor Mark Lance, Regent University international affairs professor Joseph Kickasola and Stephen Rosenthal, an international studies professor from Hampton University.
Reuter stressed the importance of including smaller groups such as Hamas. One difficulty, Reuter said, has been Hamas’ labeling as a “terrorist group.”
“If you do not include these kinds of groups, international settlement will not be possible,” she said.
With 20 years of activist work against the South African apartheid under his belt, Lance drew similarities between the two struggles and condemned current public policy.
“We are paying for the cost of the [Gaza] wall, for the bulldozers,” he said. “We are supporting every aspect of this painfully illegal occupation.”
With his religious background, Kicasola warned against the tendency of both media and policy-makers to generalize the conflict to strictly a clash of theologies.
Trifkovic noted that the War on Terror was a misnomer that confuses the method used by terrorists with terrorists themselves.
“We need to know if terrorism is an ideologic consequence of jihad,” Trifkovic said. “Attacking Islam is disastrous without first understanding culture.”
Trifkovic said that although some say the Qur’an calls for peace, historical references and studies of the Qur’an showed that there were several references to Muhammad committing violence and “jihad” as a means of keeping stability in the status quo.
He noted that even tolerant sects of Islam were bound to commit jihad at least once a year.
During the question session for Trifkovic, College religious studies professor Tamara Sonn said that the opinions of actual Muslim people were more important than historic facts when investigating Islamic religious studies.