April 14, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A Partnership for Peace

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To the Editor:

Re: “Student Assembly Tables Resolution to Divest from Pro-Israeli Companies,” News, April 11.

On Thursday, the Student Assembly voted to table indefinitely Resolution 72, which called on Cornell University to divest from companies that allegedly profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Following this decision, members of Students for Justice in Palestine, the group that brought the resolution before the S.A., stormed out of the Memorial Room, cursing and offering strong disapproval.

Members of Cornell Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus; J Street U Cornell, a pro-Israel, pro-peace group; as well as the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee all stood in solidarity opposing Resolution 72. We did not oppose this resolution because we believed it to be anti-Semitic, racist, or beyond the pale of acceptable speech. We did so because the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — whose language was mirrored in Resolution 72 — circumvents U.S. diplomatic efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution, and too often delegitimizes the Jewish state.

At a time when Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for the creation of a “great constituency for peace,” we as Americans — Jews and non-Jews alike — need to take a stand in support of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. While we do not question the motives behind Resolution 72, we do know that its effect — dividing communities across campus, shutting down productive dialogue — did not bring us closer to peace.

We, as the leaders of Cornell Hillel, CIPAC and J Street U Cornell are deeply committed to securing Israel’s future, and our partnership can be seen across the country. Over the past two months, Hillel has provided financial support for students to attend both the J Street U national town hall in Baltimore, as well as the AIPAC conference in Washington. Students heard from a broad array of speakers, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, to Secretary Kerry, all highlighting the importance of a two-state solution.

This commitment to two states can be seen on Cornell’s campus, as well. A few months ago, Cornell Hillel sponsored a screening of the PBS documentary “Shattered Dreams of Peace,” which highlights the collapse of the peace process following the Oslo Accords. Similarly, J Street U Cornell has run discussion programs based on the film series “Is Peace Possible?” which explores the core parameters of a negotiated peace agreement: border disputes, refugee concerns, security arrangements, and control of Jerusalem.

In the years ahead, the leadership of J Street U Cornell, CIPAC and Cornell Hillel will stand firmly together as we fight divisive speech on the Cornell campus and work to further our message of peace. We will stand up for Israel and the Jewish community just as we tackle the most challenging questions facing the Jewish world today. In doing so, we hope to bring together students from all walks of life, because we believe strongly that a peaceful campus is the natural predecessor of a peaceful world.

Jess Coleman ’16

co-chair, J Street U Cornell

Katherine Muller ’16

co-chair, J Street U Cornell

Alicia Glick ’17

Israel awareness chair, Cornell Hillel

Rachel Minton ’15

executive vice president, Cornell Hillel

Rachel Medin ’14

co-president, Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee

Claire Blumenthal ’14

co-president, Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee