The Middle East came to Goldwin Smith last night, as students representing Israelis and Palestinians debated Israel’s latest disengagement from the Gaza strip. The discussion, entitled “Debate over Disengagement: Whether It Represents Progress or Not in the Region?” was sponsored by the Cornell-Israel Public Affairs Committee (CIPAC), Student Advocates of Palestine and the Islamic Alliance for Justice.
Israel advocates Jaime Weinstein ’06, a Sun columnist and president of CIPAC, and Justin Weitz ’07 participated in a formal debate with Palestinian activists Chris Tozzi ’08 and Ahmad Maaty ’06 over the virtues of Israel’s recent withdrawal from the Gaza strip. Taken by Israel during the 1967 war, Gaza has been a constant flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Up until the recent disengagement, Israel had insisted that the strip was crucial to maintaining its security, while Palestinians have insisted that the land was being occupied illegally.
“Israel wants you to think it was a big sacrifice to leave Gaza,” Tozzi said in his opening remarks. “But they are simply interested in consolidating their position and preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Weinstein responded, “Israel’s disengagement from Gaza is only the first step of many [that] Israel is prepared to offer in exchange for peace. Up until now, Israel has failed in finding a partner for peace on the Palestinian side.”
Throughout the debate, each side accused the other of skirting questions related to disengagement; this was especially true towards the end, when much of the attention focused on whether or not terrorism and disengagement were related.
“Stop talking about terrorism. We are talking about disengagement. I don’t feel that they have proven anything by continuously talking about Palestinian inability to stop terrorism,” Tozzi said in response to accusations that bombings were the reason Israel had not yet disengaged from other territories.
Weinstein, shaking his head, rebutted, “How can we separate the two? Terrorist groups from the territories systematically target innocent Israeli men, women and children for death nearly every day.”
Before closing remarks were made, the room was opened up to questions from the audience.
One Cornell student asked, “You [Tozzi] say that the Palestinians are too poor to have a proper infrastructure for fighting terrorism. How much more is needed to create this infrastructure?”
Both sides immediately blamed each other. The Israel advocates said the money was there, but the Palestinian government was too corrupt to spend it properly. The Palestinian advocates said that the Israeli blockade of ports as well as discriminatory hiring practices kept Palestinians from economic well-being.
While the debate did a great deal to foster an exchange of ideas between the two sides, some left still with a bitter taste in their mouths.
“I suppose the only positive thing accomplished as a result of this disengagement is that the Palestinians in Gaza no longer have the Jews sitting in their backyard,” Maaty concluded.
In the Nov. 11 news article entitled “C.U. Debates Disengagement,” student Palestinian activist Ahmad Maaty ’06 was misquoted. His correct quotation should read “I mentioned already that it’s a positive step at one point signaling that Arabs no longer have Jews sitting on their front lawns – IDF soldiers sitting on their front lawns – with guns.” The Sun regrets this error.
Archived article by Josh Harris