Published in the Seattle (Wash.) Times -- Friday, June 07, 2002
Diverse views, one quest: end of Mideast fighting
By Gina Kim
Seattle Times staff reporter
Stop blaming each other and work together to find a solution.
The simple message may not seem feasible in the context of violence in the Middle East, but at least one local group is trying to make it happen.
UDoves, a University of Washington organization of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, held a peace vigil yesterday at the university's Red Square. About 40 people watched their candles flicker as names were read of some of those who have died since September 2000, when the most recent violence was sparked.
"A death on either side is still a death of a human being. And no human being is more or less valuable than any other," said one organizer, Jesse Salomon, 25, a third-year law student at the school. "The deceased on both sides are mourned by everyone, and our value of human life is the only thing that's going to see us through this conflict."
About 2,000 names were on the list, including 1,500 Palestinians and 500 Israelis, said Salomon, who is Jewish and has relatives living in Israel. But during last night's half-hour vigil, organizers got through only the names of those who died during a period of less than three months.
"It's taken this amount of time just to read those few names. And if you think about it, each name is an entire life, with a different set of goals and hopes and dreams," said another organizer Mohammed Abbas Rizvi, 19, a UW sophomore. "I just feel heartache."
The new group has met just four times, but its goal already has been decided: to open dialogue and discussion.
"It's a much-needed voice on campus," said member Maha El-Taji, 44, who is pursuing a doctorate in Near and Middle Eastern studies. "The groups on campus are more polarized. I haven't seen any joint activities."
Salomon was drawn to the group after witnessing tensions escalate among groups during rallies on campus.
"I've seen a couple of times when there's almost been fistfights," he said.
Then, after a speaker sponsored by a pro-Israel group recently gave a lecture on campus, Salomon talked with Palestinian students outside. "I really felt like I connected with them after feeling so much tension between us. I really felt like I broke through and started finding some common ground with them," he said. "So when I found out about this new group, I thought it would be a perfect vehicle to continue building on this progress."
El-Taji, who is a Palestinian and has relatives living in the West Bank and Jerusalem, hopes the group will sponsor speakers who can bring new insights into the conflict instead of simply "fanning fires."
"The goal is to bring in people who can bring understanding to the problems," she said.
"A lot of students don't know what's going on. I see (this group) as having an educational function and a function of just bringing people on campus together to talk to each other."
[back to home]
Page last updated June 19, 2002