The Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Foundation Endowed Symposia in Jewish Studies will host a visit by leading Middle East relations experts David Makovsky and Ghaith al-Omari today through Wednesday to foster constructive discussion among students on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Makovsky and al-Omari will lend their expertise as students from American Students for Israel, Muslim Students Association, Olive Tree Initiative, Nur Project, Santa Barbara Hillel and Students for Justice in Palestine draft resolutions on the conflict and discuss how the groups can collaborate in midst of larger diasporic divisions. Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force in Palestine, will also deliver a lecture on Wednesday entitled “Report from Jerusalem” at 5 p.m. in Campbell Hall.
Santa Barbara Hillel Board Member Hanna Beckman, a fourth-year history and political science major, said the dialogue calls on students to actively participate in the Middle Eastern peace-making process.
“These negotiations aren’t just going to be Makovsky and al-Omari lecturing students,” Beckman said. “It’s an opportunity for students to compose their own idea of what should be happening and develop a sense of activism — that something can be done versus the passivity of saying that it’s too big of a problem and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Leonard Wallock, program coordinator at the Taubman Foundation Endowed Symposia, said the scholars’ work with a broad range of campus groups will help students productively discuss the issues typically pushing their larger communities apart.
“During the ‘Peace Negotiations’ conducted by Makovsky and al-Omari, students will be asked to assume a viewpoint regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is different from their own and, in concert with others, attempt to reach the best ‘settlement’ that is possible given current political realities,” Wallock said in an email. “By putting themselves in the position of those who they normally regard as their ‘enemies,’ students may come away with a deeper appreciation for the legitimacy of the ‘others’’ demands.”
According to Beckman, the workshops will offer a more informed perspective on the complex issues surrounding the region’s political relations.
“[Makovsky and al-Omari] have such a depth of knowledge and they’ve had much experience in this field,” Beckman said. “Not only are they policy experts, but they’re also familiar with working with students and campus climates.”