March 8, 2004

S.A. Backs Center on Israel-Jordan Border

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In an effort to endorse the University’s most recent Middle Eastern peace initiative, the Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution last week supporting Cornell’s efforts to establish a large Israeli-Jordanian research center.

Led by the Cornell-Israel Political Action Committee, representatives from the Cornell Democrats, the College Republicans, the Jewish Student Union, Cornell’s United States India Political Action Committee and the Asian Pacific Americans for Action rallied behind a resolution that they feel will publicly demonstrate campus support for the University’s co-sponsorship of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Arabs.

Specifically, the statement expressed its support for Cornell’s involvement in founding the Bridging the Rift research center, an institution that, when completed, will be one of the largest research establishments in the Middle East. In conjunction with Stanford University, Cornell has financially and academically committed resources to developing the research center, which will be located on 150 acres of desert between Israel and Jordan. President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77, is expected to take part in the groundbreaking ceremonies.

Cornell and Stanford accepted invitations to participate in this project from the Bridge the Rift Foundation, a non-profit organization that, according to its mission statement, intends to “build an effective bridge between people in conflict areas by demonstrating the benefits of peace in measurable, sustainable ways and collaborative programs involving economic development, cutting-edge research and advanced educational opportunities.”

Specializing in the area of life sciences, the center’s main project will be creating the “Library of Life,” a catalogue of the world’s DNA.

Recognizing the University’s peace-promoting endeavor, the resolution read, “Be it resolved that the Assembly applauds Cornell for doing its part in helping foster an environment of peace in a troubled region of the world. Be it finally resolved that the Assembly takes immense pride in knowing that Bridging the Rift research center is just another example of how Cornell University is actively making a difference in all parts of the world every day.”

Sponsors of the S.A. resolution asserted that the establishment of such a foundation is a pro-active means to establishing a precedent of peaceful cooperation in an area that is perpetually troubled by violence.

“… We should be incredibly proud of the bold step that our university has taken in its recent project with Stanford to sponsor a joint Israeli-Jordanian research facility that will be built along the border between the two countries,” said Jennie Berger ’04, president of CIPAC, as she addressed the S.A. on Thursday.

Underscoring the foundation’s ultimate objective, she added, “It is not about any single country; rather, it is about taking steps toward reconciliation in a troubled region. The Bridging the Rift research center will quench the thirst for peace of Israelis and Jordanians whose mouths are parched by war.”

In addition to applauding the University’s activism, advocates of the resolution believe that the S.A.’s support will positively publicize the University’s global efforts.

“In passing this resolution, we hope to educate the campus and the public as to how Cornell is affecting world affairs,” said Tim Lim ’06, president of the Cornell Democrats and a co-sponsor of the resolution.

“It helps that the Cornell community is aware of this initiative so that people can react,” said Raj Shah ’06, president of Cornell’s USINPAC, and another co-sponsor of the resolution. “We are often isolated from the rest of the world at Cornell, and [this statement] is a good way of transcending that boundary.”

In addition to notifying the campus and the greater community of Cornell’s efforts, resolution co-sponsors hoped to articulate their conviction that reconciliation between conflicting Middle Eastern nations is possible.

“We want to show that there can be peace in the Middle East,” said Mike Lepage ’05, president of the Cornell College Republicans, another co-sponsor of the resolution. “[This joint effort between] Israel and Jordan is the first step.”

“[The center] is a good model for peace in troubled regions,” Shah said. “[The effort] is bigger than this particular conflict.”

Groundbreaking for the center will take place tomorrow at the designated Israeli-Jordanian border.

Archived article by Ellen Miller