University News

Seeking divided peace in Israel, org joins nat’l mov’t

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Puzzle Peace, a student organization that focuses on education and advocacy about the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is affiliating itself with the national “pro-Israel, pro-peace” movement J-Street, which is connected to Brown through its Rhode Island branch, slated to start up operations this week. The four co-chairs, Sophia Manuel ’11, Noa Nessim ’12, Kara Segal ’10 and Jenna Zeigen ’12, said the group has gone through several changes since its 2008 founding.

Nessim said the motivation to become an affiliate was largely due to the increased access to resources and the ability to bring speakers to campus.

“It’s useful for us and them to be part of this national campaign,” Nessim said.

Puzzle Peace supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, loosely based on Israel’s 1967 boundaries, according to Manuel. They advocate for a divided Jerusalem, placing East Jerusalem in Palestinian territory, and supporting a change in U.S. foreign policy to actively pressure Israel in this direction. Their work primarily brings together speakers from different perspectives to advocate for this position, said Manuel, who is the president of the student board of J-Street U, the college student branch of the J-Street national organization.

The J-Street national organization identifies itself on its Web site as “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement.” It focuses on expressing a progressive Jewish voice to “broaden the debate on these issues nationally and in the Jewish community” and its mission “is to promote meaningful American leadership to achieve peace and security in the Middle East,” according to the organization’s Web site. As an affiliate, Manuel said, Puzzle Peace has maintained its own mission statement.

Puzzle Peace began under the name of “M’kol ha’ Kivunim,” which means “from all directions” in Hebrew, according to Manuel. She and the group’s other founders — Segal and Rosi Greenberg ’10 — shared a common story in wanting to express their voices as members of the Jewish community who disagree with Israel’s actions.

Greenberg said the group was very active but did not address the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the war in Gaza and the conflict over East Jerusalem. “I felt that having dialogue and pretending that you are coming from all directions is hiding from the real issues,” she said.

The group’s other members also realized that this position was contradictory though for different reasons.

“We felt that it was sort of hypocritical to advocate for a specific line and try to be open to all voices,” Manuel said.

At the same time, Segal said, the group was exclusively a space for progressive Jews, it expanded because of a desire to include all of those in support of Puzzle Peace’s position.

The polarizing tendency of dialogue also influenced this change, Segal said, emphasizing the group’s focus on education as aimed at parsing the complexity of the issue.

Puzzle Peace’s education and advocacy approach has yielded change, its members said.

“Even though we can’t influence foreign policy, I think changing the temperature on campus is important,” Nessim said, “I think we have succeeded.”

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